I’ve trained with women in the Army, when I was with the department of corrections, and now in taekwondo. Unfortunately there still seems to be a gender stereotype that women are the weaker sex. Indeed, Bill Wallace received a lot of flak for writing an article in Black Belt Magazine that suggested this. Though I’m unable to find a reference to the article online, you can read it in his book titled The Best of Bill Wallace.
The gist of what Wallace was trying to say is this: Given the right circumstances a women trained in certain martial arts could knock the block of an untrained man. However, physiologically, women are designed with less muscle and bone mass. So, they are at a physiological disadvantage. This should be a no-brainer: Why do you think in the sport world there are weight classes and divisions by sex and age? True that in a “real” street situation the female may be up against a 250 lb thug and likely lose. However, so may the 165 lb man. That’s the point that many men miss.
Interestingly, Wallace himself was a harsh critic of women in the martial arts. That is until Kathy Long beat the crap out her opponent. To his credit Wallace later apologized.
Wallace slammed women’s kickboxing as “a novelty,” referred to women’s matches as “not real fights,” and chided five-time champion Long for “not having knockout power.” But after the blond bombshell pummeled Kyoko Kamikaze last year at the World Martial Arts Challenge in Las Vegas, breaking the Japanese fighter’s ribs and bruising her kidneys, Wallace became a believer in Long’s skills. “She went out there and looked really good,” the gallant Wallace wrote in his monthly BlackBelt column before later apologizing to Long in person.
Long also laid out some guy who, after suffering from road rage, made the mistake of getting her to pull her car over on the side of the road. In fact, I myself have had my ribs cracked by a woman. So, don’t rule women out.
I bring this all up because recently one of our newer students joked that he tells his friends he gets beat up by a woman every week. The implication being that “he got beat up by a women.” Newsflash folks: That’s called male chauvinism. Needless to say, my instructor brought it to him during sparring that night. However, I don’t think he’s quite learned the lesson so I may have to talk to him.
Anyhow, based on working with some very smart women and also having trained with women over the years, I thought I’d offer up some personal observations and maybe dispel some of these stereotypes:
- Martial arts training turns you into a Chuck Norris who can take on anyone in any situation and win. Too many women and men believe this one (and some are masters in their particular art). Regardless of how well a technique works in a martial arts class, having worked in prison taught me that no single technique is going to work in every situation. The important thing to remember is to mentally prepare for something to not work. In fact, plan on it. You need to have back up techniques and to be able to execute them without hesitation or thought.
- Second to this is that most martial arts will teach you to avoid confrontation altogether; or, execute a technique and escape. In situations like these you don’t need to be Chuck Liddell and beat the person into the ground. In fact, if you are of lesser size and strength (man or woman!) you probably can’t anyhow. So escape and avoidance are your best options.
- A female martial artist will be able to beat a man of the same weight. A few problems here. First, most in-shape female martial artists are going to weigh less than their male counterparts. Second, genetically males are designed with denser bone and more muscle. That’s not sexism. That’s scientific fact. So if they are of equal skill the woman is still at a disadvantage. Finally, even if the male is the same size or bigger and not trained in fighting, the martial arts woman is still at a disadvantage. The disadvantages are lessened because most good martial artists are taught strategies for dealing with larger and stronger opponents (then there are those exceptional women fighters like the above noted Ms. Long). This one I can relate to because I’m a small guy and I know that in certain situations I can be overpowered. However, I also know that given the right window of opportunity there are strategies that I can use to avoid this problem (or take the person out before they get me in a bad place).
To sum this up: Genetically women have less dense bone and less muscle mass. However, this should not be equated with being inferior to males. All it means is they are different.