Home > Karate, Martial Arts, Self -Defense, Training, Women's Self-Defense > Women And The Martial Arts

Women And The Martial Arts

Recently “7 Time World Karate Champion”, Kym Rock brought her Fight Like A Girl women’s self-defense program to town. The response to the gathering was phenomenal. Over 400 women and girls were in attendance. I was very impressed that so many ladies were concerned for their own safety and had the courage to take the course.

Honestly I have never been a supporter of the program. I have voiced my reasons and my concerns with it publicly and on my blog. Ironically, the very day the training was held here in Canon City the Co-Owner of Fight Like A Girl Inc. responded to my concerns.

One of the things she said, as did Ms Rock to the local newspaper, was that the reason that Fight Like A Girl was created was that women were too small to do many of the techniques that traditional martial arts taught.

This bothered me greatly. I understand that presently when people think of martial arts in general that they usually picture huge muscle-bound fighters such as the guys who fight in MMA. It seems that people have forgotten that the martial arts were created for people to defend themselves against much larger and stronger opponents or attackers.

The martial arts as we know them today originated in China in Buddhist monasteries. The monks by nature were very peaceful people who were generally small in stature. They had developed certain exercises to aid them in building strength and endurance during their long periods of meditation. They traveled to near-by villages to collect offerings and as they were returning to the monastery they were often attacked by robbers and thieves. Over the years the exercises they had created evolved into the martial art we now know as Kung Fu, or Gung Fu.

This system of self-defense traveled to Okinawa and later to Japan and Korea. In Okinawa and Japan several of the founding fathers of modern day karate developed the art further. Kenwa Mabuni, the founder of Shito-Ryu karate was one of those masters. Mabuni began training at an early age because of health problems and frailty. He was a small weak boy. He studied for years under some of the greatest karate masters in Okinawa and in time became a master himself. He became a police officer and taught his style of karate in Okinawa.

In 1929 he moved to Osawa Japan and named his style Shito-Ryu. Mabuni’s reputation was soon known all over Japan. He not only taught his style of karate to the public but was instrumental in incorporating karate into the public schools. In those days schools, especially colleges, were segregated between the sexes. Mabuni was one of the first instructors to teach karate in women’s colleges. He went further than that and created kata (empty hand forms) tailored especially for women. The katas Aoyagi (Weeping Willow) and Myojo were two such forms.

Women have not only learned traditional karate to compete, they have excelled in it. Look at Chloe Bruce and her world-famous Scorpion Kick. Cynthia Rothrock. 5 Time world Karate Champion, who began studying when she was 13. Gena Carano (aka Crush from American Gladiators) is the most famous female mixed martial artist. She she trains at Extreme Couture and works all facets of the game, her background is in Muay Thai. Kathy Long, probably one of the most recognized woman ever in kickboxing. The list goes on and on and these are just the famous ones.

I have taught traditional karate for many years. Presently of the four black belts I have trained, three are women. Once during a Women’s Self-Defense seminar one of these ladies, Theresa Sensei, literally fought her way through two fully grown men who were themselves black belts. They had on protective black suites that we use for this training and there was absolutely no holding back. Not only did Theresa fight her way through them in the exercise, she beat them soundly. The majority of students in my dojo on any given night are women or girls. It is my job to teach them how defend themselves and that is a job I do not take lightly.

If you are a woman and you believe that you can’t defend yourself, you’re wrong. If you think that traditional karate teaches moves that are too tough for you, you haven’t experienced true traditional karate.

  1. April 14, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Through my stay in Cambodia; I’ve got the chance to learn Kung fu; not to show an aggressive side or erase part of my feminism as most believe or even to feel no more a weak creature; only to discover a hidden part of me&the Master was one of those people who taught me to listen to the power of Universe as well as to see the power I carry deep inside knowing how to handle it…a great experience…thanks for bringing on this subject; many have got the wrong idea about karate, kung fu etc…

    • April 15, 2012 at 10:54 am

      That must have been an awesome experience. You are very lucky. Your training was something not many people ever see. You have also touched on the very heart and soul of the martial arts.

  2. April 14, 2012 at 4:54 pm


  3. April 19, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Thank you SO MUCH, J., for properly explaining why traditional karate is very doable by women. I have always understood exactly what you say about how and why karate was developed by Chinese Buddhist monks for successful self-defense as they traveled about on lonely mountain trails inhabited by robbers. Karate enables the smaller and weaker to protect themselves.

  4. Drew
    April 20, 2012 at 5:37 am

    Having been through many dojos across the planet I have to doubt the effectiveness of what’s taught in most “traditional” martial arts programs for people, especially women that dont have years to refine technique. The key point being those who can not dedicate many hours into specific combat behaviours.

    For example almost everywhere one goes theres the “lapel grab” or similar attack and I have yet to see an traditional instructor teach to spit at the person and bite at the closest part of the attacker. Both of these actions have a ton of psychological and medical research backing them, plus video and forensic reports to support the effectiveness. (such as dental imprints found on attackers after they fled)

    What is typically shown is a joint (skeletal lock) manipulation, kick or striking combo etc. all of which require the mental capacity to replace primal behaviours (like biting) with trained ones. Again something that needs lots of time to implement under stress.

    I see the point that Rock’s people are trying to make because many traditional systems dont touch the psychology or “dirty” fighting methods needed to survive when one is weaker, I rarely see that. Unfortunately the FLAG courses dont really get into it either.

    Jim’s defense classes address more than the physical moves and that definitely increases the survivability of those students. Thats part of why I support his programs and steer clear of others.

  5. April 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Sensei Drew,

    You will never know how humbled I am at your last paragraph. I’m simply trying to make a difference in people’s lives and giving ladies some real-time knowledge and techniques they can actually use if attacked.

    It’s funny you mentioned the spitting / biting thing. Friday night I was teaching my students self-defense. We were going over the strangle hold that we practiced in the combined class last week. When I was explaining the chin tuck into the crook of the arm to keep yourself from getting choked out, I made a point to mention that there was absolutely nothing wrong with biting a nice chunk out of the meaty part of the arm while you were doing it.

    I think if you are a student and your instructor is teaching you techniques that you are too weak to use, you need to look at getting a new instructor instead of changing your style or at least asking him or her if there are ways to change the technique so it suites you better

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