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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

6 Annoying Things About Being a Female Martial Artist - Part 2

If you missed Part 1, click HERE.

Continuing on with things that annoy me about being a female martial arts...

4) Some Guys Are Threatened By Our Training And Hassle Us About It

I think this is getting less and less common, but it's still an issue.

Some men are incredibly threatened by the idea of a woman being trained in the martial arts. They see this as an attack on their manhood in some way.  They secretly wonder if a trained woman can beat him in a fight.

And this is something a few guys can't stand, mainly because they're either afraid it's true, or, that having a trained female martial artist in their lives somehow makes them a lesser male.

So they'll disparage our hobby and talk down to us and treat us like we are delusional for training.  They wouldn't say a word if our hobby was tennis, or yoga, or knitting, or making model trains or collecting glass or toys... but when it's the martial arts, they have to constantly jaw about it and denigrate it.

Now, plain and simple, these guys are assholes and not worthy of our time (and this is true for females as well as males)  If you have one of these around you, I recommend you drop that jerkface from your life.

BUT, for some women, these guys are unavoidable. They are siblings, fathers,

boyfriends or husbands, bosses, or other people that it is impractical or difficult to cut out of our lives.  This means we have to suck it up and live with it in some way or another, and that sucks.

5) Female Martial Artists are too Sexualized in Popular Media and Advertising

This is mostly a media image problem (versus the martial arts community itself, although we certainly contribute to the problem sometimes). There's a huge media image problem for male martial artists, too, but it's a different problem where they are physically idealized, but not sexualized.

It is very, very common for female martial artists to be represented in popular culture and in the media in revealing clothing (or no clothing at all) and in sexy poses, often with weapons held poorly (because these are models, not martial artists).

Exhibit A. Not that there's anything wrong with anything here generally, but when you accumulate this with all the other scantily clad women posing with swords, and then the 8 billion images of women in sports bras and skin tight shorts/leggings kickboxing (#1 image you'll find under "women's martial arts" by the way).. there's an underlying message being sent here, and it's this:

Female participation in the martial arts is to conform to what is attractive and pleasing to men. Male goals for women in the martial arts are more important than our goals, and really, we’re only in the martial arts to turn you on anyway.

Women (especially our young women) should conform to this image, no matter what, and if they can't or won't, they not "real" martial artists (and we all know, privately, that women can't be real martial artists anyway, but if they try, they better look hot while doing it).

Many people can't believe someone who looks like me is a serious martial artist, because I don't look like Cynthia Rothrock or AnnMaria De Mars or a UFC fighter and I certainly don’t train in a sports bra and skin-tight yoga pants or shorts (nobody wants that, trust me).

I don't have a problem with the sexualized fantasy of it all, as long as it's kept in FANTASY and off the mat.  We all know there's a lot of people that have a hard time separating the fantasy of the martial arts from the reality of it, which usually involves no makeup, a lot of sweat and dirt and sometimes other body fluids, and generally has zero relationship to anything sexy whatsoever. 

But “sexy female martial artist” tends to be the dominant image to represent us in the martial arts. Scantily clad, young, incredibly fit women = "female martial artist".

It's a constant irritation. I think it is improving in many places and in many ways, though. For example, when searching for images for this post, I am impressed with how much has changed since I started writing this blog in 2013. There is a greater variety than there used to be.

But it's still there, and it's annoying as all get-out.

6) There Aren’t Enough of Us

I really, really wish that we women made up half of martial arts classes as we tend to do the general population overall.

But the fact is, we don’t.

Adult women in the martial arts tend to be, on a generous day, 20-30% of a given class, often fewer (and sometimes none at all, going by class pictures I see on the internet and my own personal experience being the only woman on the mat at conferences and seminars).

Attendees at the last Heartland Arnis Players Alliance gathering. Yup, that's me in the middle - and note I am, yet again, the only woman training that day.

Sure, there's exceptions to this rule, but overall, women are vastly outnumbered by men in the mratial arts community ov

I’ve written about how I think we can get more women in class, but honestly, even if you do everything perfectly, the fact is, the martial arts are a harder “sell” to women as a hobby they should pursue.

Maybe they’re afraid of injury, or the media imagery has turned them off, or they’re afraid they can’t do it and will embarrass themselves, or maybe we do a poor job marketing the benefits of training (mental and physical) to women.

Or maybe there's a perception - with men AND women - that there's a ceiling for female martial artists, and they can't rise to the top of their styles (I know this is a fact in some styles, but totally a myth in others). Maybe the overachievers gravitate to other sports or hobbies where they can be recognized as best or as leaders and teachers.

Whatever the problem is, I sure wish we could solve it, because I’d like more women in the dojo.  I’d like to see more of us enjoy the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of training.  I'd like to have partners that have strengths and weaknesses that are similar to mine.

If you know a way to solve this, do let me know.

My fellow female martial artists - did I miss an annoyance in my big list of six?  Let me know in the comments!

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