6 Annoying Things About Being a Female Martial Artist - Part 1
Updated: Jan 14
I have so much to say on this, I had to break it up into two posts. Here's Part 1. Part 2 is here.
I love being a martial artist. It's how I spend a lot of my free time, I write about it many, many times a week here on this blog, and I can watch or discuss just about any topic in the martial arts that you want to bring up (and I want to).
I'm as into it as any guy you will ever meet.
But man, sometimes, it's very hard to be a female martial artist. Here's some of the things I struggle with:
1) Having to explain our bruises (and other martial arts injuries)
If a guy is standing there with a big bruise on him somewhere, most people automatically assume it's from a sport injury of some kind, or maybe an accident or something.
Nobody's first thought is, "Maybe he's a victim of domestic abuse".
But I promise you, that is the first thought people have going through their heads when they see me after a long weekend of an arnis boot camp.
Most people who know me are used to it and understand the reality of my life. Heck, they don't believe it when I get an injury that is NOT martial arts related, such as walking into a car door face-first - which I totally did once.
Yes, it's as dumb as it sounds.
I've had this issue at the doctor's office more than once. You'd think they'd make a notation in my file or something, right? Nope, every time I'm there, for myself or my kids, if I've got a bruise or five on my arms - that is, a typical day after training, especially because I bruise easily - odds are even that I'll get asked where they come from, with... a “look”.
When this happens, I explain, "I'm a martial artist.” Then I get a skeptical look and I'm pretty sure they don't quite believe my answer. I'm tempted to whip out my phone and show pictures to prove what I am saying, although I really shouldn't have to.
I'm sure this reaction is partially because I am not visually what most people would picture as a martial artist (short, somewhat dumpy, middle-aged, female). I also get that these folks have my welfare at heart, and I know that these questions can and do help women in domestic violence situations get help. So I'm not demanding these questions stop, really - if it helps someone in a bad situation, my putting up with the discomfort of it is really no big deal.
But it does get a little tiresome sometimes.
As an aside - a big downside to this attitude for MALES is that the first assumption will be martial arts or sports or something like that, and never domestic abuse, and it turns out guys are often the victims of violence from their partners, and they don't get much support to get out of that situation. I think that if we are going to start assuming women covered in bruises are domestic violence victims first, we really ought to give thought to doing the same for men.
2) Periods in White Pants Suck (and they're no party in black, red, or blue pants either)
Generally speaking, we do have some idea when our periods will start. But it's not like we have an alarm go off or something - there's a variance, of hours, or even a few days.
And yes, when it's approaching that time, I dreaded having to wear the damn white pants at kobudo (the only time I personally wore them).
I don't care how prepared you are and how many levels of "super" you're wearing - leaks can and do occur, especially under physical exertion. And it's incredibly embarrassing.
Even in dark pants - black or blue or red - it's still a problem, especially if your art is a grappling art. Moisture, staining, and odors... yeah, it's awfully embarrassing, and it's hard to control sometimes.
I am damn grateful that I only had to wear a white gi once a month or so for two hours. Nowadays, it just hangs in my closet!
3) Some people think women on their periods shouldn’t train
Related to point #2... I’ve never had this happen to me but I have read about it/heard about it in some quarters.
There’s a belief that women on their periods are more temperamental, or shouldn't be training at all. Yes, that question is asked in martial arts forums frequently. Either a claim is made that women can’t handle the training itself during this time OR that women aren’t emotionally able to train properly during this time.
Guys, guys, generally speaking, for most women, PMS is a myth. See this.
There are always exceptions, but generally speaking, women work (including doing hard physical labor and acting as warriors) during their periods in all cultures, throughout history. And unless I actually tell you, Mr. Guy-I-Don’t-Live-With, you won’t know if I'm on my period or not.
So if I'm irritated with something on the mat or grumpy about something, it's probably got nothing to do with it (unless I’m annoyed at the white pants thing), so stop thinking it. I am perfectly capable of being pissy at all phases of the moon every day of the year.
I'm assuming all of guys reading this are smart enough to not say such a thing to a woman in their lives out loud, right?
I have three more reasons it's annoying to be a female martial artist, so I'll post tomorrow. In the mean time, what are some of annoying things you know - or have heard about - for female martial artists? Tell us about it!