What was predominately a male activity has slowly been changing over the last few decades.

You now can go into any training hall where martial arts are being taught and often find more women than men practising. Their approach and spirit is often different and the challenges they face can be considerable if there are no role models for the beginners to follow.

Yet, in some cases, women did have access to martial training and in many philosophical ways the practice is very suited for them.

In weapons training, often the weapons they developed to use were different from the men’s. In Japan, women practised using a long pole with a wickedly sharp knife on the end.

Unfortunately in many other teachings, just like throughout our society, women continue to have to play a secondary role to male-dominated activities, be it arts, sports, trades and professions.

As an adult, the only real injury I have ever received in the martial arts was from a young woman in Karate. Because of a moment of distraction, I suffered two broken ribs from a karate kick. She was no taller than five feet and probably half my weight, but her speed and power were enough to penetrate my defence and crack the rib cage as well as my cavalier attitude toward her.

Women, given the tools and proper training, can defend themselves.

What is drawing women to the martial arts? Why do they often train harder than men and very often make it a part of their life?

I interviewed a few of them and this is what they had to say:

“I like the idea of being able to defend myself if I was threatened,” says one Karate-ka. She added that the balance between art and application are good for her.

Another never wanted to be a victim of abuse again. We live in a violent world with women often the target of that violence.

Women all over the world have to defend themselves from violence by men.

I attended a very powerful lecture from Stephen Lewis in which he highlighted this terrible injustice. His stories and experiences that he has witnessed or been told of from women in Africa were enough to chill the bones of anyone listening.

It made me ashamed to be a man.

Yet he also spoke of the strength of character of these women. Most of the people in the audience were women, but more men need to hear this message if change is going to happen.

Do women need martial arts? Yes. If only to help and protect themselves and others from the cruelties of war and violence that men seem to use against them.

Do men need martial arts? If it teaches restraint and a means to deal with their violent tendencies, then yes, that also is needed. A good martial art class should teach that violence is inherently wrong and must be stopped.

I hope sometime in the near future we all see this.

Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts over 38 years and trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at [email protected]