We are preparing to launch a Community Ladies Introduction to Self-Defence program which will run in Queen’s Park in Toowoomba as part of Toowoomba Council’s “Change” Project. Our introductory program is tailored for and presented by women to familiarise participants with the central concepts of self-defence. A more advanced self-defence program will be offered in concert with the introduction program specifically for participants who have understood the basic concepts and wish to do more advanced training. There are very few programs aimed specifically at women’s self-defence in the Toowoomba area and so we are very excited to present these programs. I thought I’d write an article to commemorate their launch.
Although I believe in equal rights for all, regardless of race, culture, sex or any other social delineation, I am also a realist. There will always be differences between sexes, cultures and individuals. There are very obvious physiological differences between men and women. I don’t need to get into too much detail aside from stating the obvious ones. Aside from the sexual characteristics, men are generally bigger, heavier and are more muscular and stronger than women.

This is a general statement of course. Exceptions for both sexes do occur. A good article is available on the Psychology Today website which discusses some of the physical and psychological differences between men and women which advantage men over women in combat roles. The website is: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/homo-aggressivus/201409/male-aggression

So what does this mean for women who fight? Well, they are outnumbered, for one. There are more men involved in physical culture and fighting. This is a big psychological and social hurdle which many women find impossible to overcome. Martial arts schools and self-defence /combat systems are usually very gender-polarised towards males. The more prolific gender will usually establish its own micro-culture which might be exclusive of others regardless of whether the head instructors encourage this or not.

In addition, if pitted against men for sparring or combat-training experience, women will be fighting against the odds of superior weight, superior strength and higher levels of aggression. That is, unless the male student’s combat responses are altered when fighting women. Although this may be a reasonable and necessary short-term approach, it comes with its own challenges in the long-term. Women who never get to experience the same level of challenge as men do in a particular fighting system will consequentially receive sub-par training and their combat response and competence may suffer as a result.

I remember attending a health expo once representing my system here in Australia. I happened to be located alongside another martial arts school who were far more aggressive in their marketing methods than I was prepared to be. My attitude to marketing is that if someone cannot of their own accord make it to an interview or at the very least, cross a room to talk to me, they will not last through the challenge of training with me. So I typically don’t go out of my way to ‘grab’ new students.

The representatives of the martial arts school located at the stall next to me were literally jumping over their trestle table to corner passers-by in order to get them to sign up. There were a number of young women at the stand who were supposed to be members of the club but who did not participate in any of the demonstrations to show their martial ability. They appeared to spend most of the time chatting with the young men who participated in the demonstrations. I went home that day with a bad taste in my mouth. It was almost as if these women were ‘second-class citizens’ in this system. Merely there to show that the system was open to both genders.

So if men are more physiologically suited to combat than women, what is the purpose of this article? Why would anyone want to fight like a girl? Case closed, right?

No.

Not if you understand that combat is broader than is typically appreciated.
Combat is not just hard, it is an application of hard and soft. Combat is not just fast, it is a combination of fast and slow. Combat is not just strong, it is a combination of strong and weak. Combat is not just male, it is a combination of male and female.

I’ll try to be more direct than this esoteric mumbling.

Why would a man want to learn how to fight like a woman? I can explain it simply and pragmatically by asking you one question which will hopefully answer your question in part without the need for further explanation.

“Are you the strongest, fastest, toughest and most skilled man in the world?”

If your answer is “Yes”, be aware that this is statistically unlikely. What is more likely is that you have been deluded into a false sense of your own superiority by insulating yourself from real-world conflict, carefully regulating incoming information streams and carefully choosing a set of like-minded associates that don’t challenge you.

In other words, you may be a big fish but your pond is small and the ocean outside is a scary place. Reality has a large dorsal fin and sharp, pointy teeth.

If your answer is “No.”, congratulations for being honest with yourself. The next step is to realise that it is possible that your opponent or opponents (in a self-defence scenario) may be physically superior to you. If it is possible that you may encounter a threat which is physically superior to you, don’t you think it’s a good idea to learn how to defend yourself in a way that doesn’t assume your own physical superiority over your opponents?

So, here is something to consider. The woman who has endured within a male-dominated fighting industry and has developed a fighting response which is effective against men is an asset to all martial artists and combat specialists, male and female alike. She has overcome the challenges that she faces in dealing with the social and cultural taboos against women in combat. She has also overcome the challenges that she faces in fighting opponents who are physically superior to her.

Show her respect.

Learn what you can from her.

She can make you a better fighter.

Written by SiXiong Lester Walters, Head of Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia