Thursday, June 28, 2012

Girl Power: An E Squad Adventure

News flash: I'm female! Not an extreme "girly-girl" female (although I do rock the occasional haute couture - complete with heels, manicured nails and enough sparkly stuff to blind a rabbit), but I do feel naked without toe nail polish. And although I have trained with a few female senseis, my instructors for all things martial (and track-related way back in the day) have mostly been male. I've never been in a training environment where everyone on the mat - the students and the instructors - were female. Sometimes, when the testosterone in the dojo gets to the tipping point, I tend to daydream about how cool it might be to train in an all-female space.

Please don't start the chest-thumping arguments about how realism in self-defense is best attained when the person you are working wrist grabs, locks, strikes, blocks and take-downs against is bigger/stronger than you. I get that - but my desire to experience an all-female training environment has little to do with the physical and technical aspects of the art (heck, it isn't that difficult to learn to hit something/someone HARD using your hips) - it has more to do with the vibe/energy in the training hall. Not that it is any better or worse, but I'm sure it is different, for lack of a better term.

In other words, taking a step off the the strength-based "Do it hard or die!" path that modern - OK, I'll say it: Western - Martial Arts seems to sometimes overly emphasize intrigues me. But don't get it twisted: feminine does not equal weak in my opinion, nor do I think female instructors are automatically nurturing, soft and sweet. The training may not automatically be better, either - just...different. Or so I imagine it might be, as, again, I've never experienced it before.

Last weekend, I came close. Two women from a sister dojo came to our side of the river to train with us. Our little space is usually filled with a bevy of 6 to 18-year-olds on Saturday mornings and it is a good thing, I think, for them to see the folks their instructors train with and under on a regular basis. It is also good for them all - both the young ladies and the young men - to see as many powerful, dynamic and graceful women on the mat as possible giving instruction, doing drills and getting sweaty like the rest of us.

After a little bo, our students bowed out as did training partner Ed, who had to run to a family function. The three of us women had lunch planned for after class, but we decided to work a little kata before we changed out of our gis. So we did - and I even learned from my training partners - a fourth-dan, international bo and empty-hand kata competitor and her shodan student - the bunkai of a kata I've been dying to learn more about. Suffice to say a good - and interesting! - time was had by all. It was a very good thing.

I love all my training partners - the males and the females - because they help make me a better martial artist by challenging, encouraging and prodding me to ask "Why?" and "Why not?" always. But there's something about being surrounded by nothing but women that is hard to put into words. The energy isn't better, it's not worse. It's just...different.

Looking forward to training with them both again :-)


  1. I understand where you are coming from when it pertains to the "energy" in a dojo. It is simply something you can feel when the energy is one you like.

    Now, this isn't a negative comment in any way, so I hope it doesn't sound is if it were. Still, I wonder why men don't feel the same way about "all male" classes. (And we're comparing apples to apples, so that takes out the chauvinistic A-holes who look down on female karateka just as you're not counting "meaner" feminists.)It is just that I have never, even in the company of only males, heard one saying the equivalent.

    And to be clear, this isn't to say that you are somehow wrong or being sexist. And I really do mean this as an honest question to my fellow male martial artists.

    Soooo....any thoughts, fellas?

    1. Hi Brett, men would never ask the question because they would never find themselves in a female dominated environment in a dojo - all male/virtually all male is the default setting! Men never have to ask the question that's why it doesn't occur to them.

  2. BJJ is typically male dominated, and some women have found that having their own space is very positive.

    Things like the "NYC Womens Open Mat" in New York, and in Texas, they organize events for women only. It seems to be very popular and beneficial for all of the reasons you describe. Perhaps you've identified a need and could organize some similar "Female only" events for your style. Couldn't hurt...


  3. Steve, I've wanted to do an all-female tourney for a minute, I really have, but mostly for selfish reasons. See, in the "executive" (aka old ladies/men) divisions, there are never more than a handful of women competing in kata and even less for kumite, so I thought that MAYBE if it were an all-femal thing, perhaps more XX chromosomed humans would show up to compete. Haven't quite worked out the details in my head (more age categories or less than a traditional tourney?), but it is an idea that's sort of floating around in the ol' grey matter...