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Thread: Female Students...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
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    Hi All,

    I'm new to e-budo, though I have been an infrequent visitor in the past. My question is this; how does one convince a female student that, with good technique, they can be just as powerful and effective as a man?

    I teach Shorinji Kempo at University College London and have been for about 2 years. Unlike most SK dojos in the UK, at least 50% of my students are female around 18 - 26 years old. They are all regular, keen, happy students, eager to learn and each (notwithstanding my aforementioned concern) making good progress.

    I know from first hand experience that female students are more than capable of measuring up to men, but the difficulty I have, is getting my female students to believe it. Whatever approach I take by way of offering 'proof', despite the fact that they all seem to understand AND agree with me, I can't help feeling that at the back of their minds they're saying, "..yes, but I'm just a girl". They remain unconvinced and this is evident in their practice.

    Does this ring bells with any of you? Do any of you have any practical suggestions (exercises, etc)? Am I just being impatient?

    I know I'm not expecting too much and wouldn't want to suggest otherwise.

    Thanks in advance.

    George Hyde

    UCL, ULU, SOAS Dojo
    British Shorinji Kempo Federation

  2. #2
    BrianV Guest


    I don't try to.

    Would you try to convince a 140 cm tall man weighing 75 kilo that he can be just as powerful doing a squat thrust as a 186 cm tall, 120 kg powerlifter? Of course not.
    I have always taken the approach that it is not right to try and equate my students to one another, but instead to tell them about how they can optimize their natural build and talents to better aide them.

    I teach Jujutsu, and when my ladies hit the floor, I will tell you that even my big fellas take them seriously in grappling, which is generally regarded as a male dominated area.

    How?? By using their natural ability and common sense. The smaller people, male and female, in my style use finger locks, nerves and pressure points to great advantage.

    Having been on the recieving end of these techs, I can assure you that they give a large boost to the confidence and arsenal of smaller people.

    How this would apply to your art I don't know, but I am sure you get the gist of my thought.

    Great question!!

  3. #3
    Thomas Wahl Guest



    With females in the martial arts it is always a little difficult. First of all, You have to be very patient with them. What a trainer and their training-partners should not do, is to handle them like females. Better handle them like You would handle a normal member of Your training-group.
    I'm also know that a woman can be as effective as a man.
    After a certain while of basics, introduce them to more realitiy-based training. Do with them sparring or ground-fighting. Then they will be more relaxed in training! They are not worried anymore to be touched by other males! Sure! it's no problem for a man to win against a woman in a ground-situation, when she has not much experience! So let her "slip" out of a hold or something like that, so she can fight on. By time You make it more and more difficult for her. This gives her alot of confidence, because she see, that she can fight and win!
    Ok! not every woman can be a fighter, just as it is with males!

  4. #4
    Tetsutaka Guest

    Thumbs up yes, great question

    I tell my female students then need to do three things:

    1) grow stronger
    2) work on economy of movement
    3) realize that there is no substitute for determination

    Now, there are limitations to all three - but the jist of it is to imprint on them that the technique is not a silver bullet - they still need to work to *make it work*.

    When I say "grow stronger" I mean developing levels of power that are not "expected" for their body size.

    When I say "economy of movement" I mean don't dance aroudn with technique - be direct and firm in movement.

    When I say "determination", I mean that there is no magic cure for evil. It's only you and your desire to make it through the event and survive.

    Incidently, it's also what I tell the men...

  5. #5
    Warwick Guest


    I think, and tell people I'm teaching, that women actually have an advantage in martial arts training by being generally smaller and weaker than men. A lot of men, particularly large strong men, can make a technique "kind of" work just through muscle strength, and so they never learn how to do it really well, because they have no emotional incentive to learn it better. They think "I'm pretty good, and going to the gym and lifting weights will make me even better". Smaller, weaker people (men or women) who can't do that have to learn good technique and strategy to be effective. Their advantage comes from the fact that they know they have to work hard to learn good technique etc. That hard work will ultimately make them better and more effective than the strong guys "kind of" making do with strength. A lot of guys don't realise that, at least not until they've been training for a long time (and see smaller, weaker people getting better than they are).

    I've known and trained with some big guys who are very good, but it's more common in my experience for the people who are REALLY good to be smaller in stature.

    Warwick Hooke

  6. #6
    DJM Guest


    Originally posted by Warwick
    I think, and tell people I'm teaching, that women actually have an advantage in martial arts training by being generally smaller and weaker than men. A lot of men, particularly large strong men, can make a technique "kind of" work just through muscle strength, and so they never learn how to do it really well, because they have no emotional incentive to learn it better.
    Warwick Hooke
    Good as far as it goes..
    BUT, being a fairly big guy, I know I don't 'settle' for technique that just works. But being fairly inexperienced I'd imagine that some of the techniques that feel like they've worked were actually borderline, but worked because of my size...
    As opposed to having the reassurance that if it worked then it was spot on...

    Just a thought,

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Cardiff - Wales - UK
    Likes (received)


    Interesting Topic.

    Personally my favourite advice regarding teaching Women (also applies in a lot of situation) was

    "All I see is Gi !"

    Personally I've always found the differences between individuals regardless of gender, age, race or sexuality to be much wider than the simliarities between people of a 'type'.

    I have a number of women in my Dojo, some of whom need to work on attacking (they don't want to hurt anyone) and also on confidence. I also have some men like that.

    I have one women who has to work on control and 'reigning' in her natural enthusiasm so that people will train with her - again some blokes the same.

    Generally I find with people who need convincing that they really can 'do it' against a bigger stronger oppoinent is to start off with someone closer to their own size until they understand the technique and then give them on of the big guys to play with.

    Watching a one of my most shy and nervous female students take a six footer trying to take her head off with a base ball bat and drop him hard is one of the things that keeps me coming back. (The grin on his face as he hits the mat, and the expression on hers when it's her turn with the bat are two other highlights)

    Anyhoo just my rambling thoughts when I should be working.

  8. #8
    MarkF Guest


    OK, so the little guy (or woman) with great technique can beat the big guy. In general, I agree, as I have no choice. I am one of them little guys at 5'3". So what does the little guy do against this: I know of a judoka in New Jersey who is nearly seven feet tall, weighs well over 700lbs. and, well, I think we can see where this is going. What do you do? The only advantage I can see which will work in a self-defense mode, is that I can run faster than him, but what about randori?

    BTW: This guy is also a sumotori. His name is Manny. Hi, Manny!

  9. #9
    BrianV Guest


    Hi Mark,

    I always take the basics approach, especially in a self defense sit with an opponent such as your friend.

    Break the fingers
    Jab or rake the Eyes
    Genitalia Twisting
    Ear Boxing

    I am sorry it is unimaginative, but I have used them in the past in self defense, and against much larger-stronger people.

    I know they work.

    Regards and eager to learn,

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2000
    NYC, NY, USA
    Likes (received)

    Default GI


    Rob Wallis hit the nail on the head, ALL YOU SHOULD SEE IS THE UNIFORM!!! Next, the old people, the fat people, the skinny people, the...people will all be looking for special consideration. The only thing one should see is the uniform!

    Tom Militello
    "You can't hide on the mats." Terry Dobson sensei.

  11. #11
    Iain Richardson Guest

    Arrow Big people are scary!!

    I was one of the little (120lb, 5'3) unconvinced people for a long time. I'm not a woman, but nonetheless I understand the feeling of being hoplessly overpowered by a bigger opponent. There is one shodan at my club, Stewart Mackenzie, who is physically my exact opposite (240lb, 6'8 consisting of layer after layer of impenetrable muscle ontop of a reinforced steel skelton and coated with nerveless cured cow hide). Short of a bullet or a sword in the back, the guy is invincible. he feels no pain, and is practically unchokeable. Pressure points merely anger him, and broken bones just mean that he has one less appendage with which to bludgeon you into a messy pulp. This combined with lighning quick reflexes and almost flawless technique make for a mighty scary opponent... mighty scary. Fortunatley, he is a nice guy, a bit of a dink sometimes (by personal admission, I might add), but usually his dinkitude serves a puropse (usually means I'm doing something wrong).

    Anyway, back on topic. In all the time I have spent training with sensei Stew, I have at least become used to the presense of a big scary chunk of muscle, and I no longer just give up when it comes to randori or the boxing cross training we do. My point? The only thing that can help a person overcome their fear is to confront them with it. If your student doesn't think (s)he can beat a larger opponent, pair him/her off with the biggest guy in the club and have them practice together until she becomes used to his presence. Have him/her grow used to the idea of a large scary looking opponent attacking him/her. This is one of those problems that all the talk in the world will not fix. It's just a case of getting the person with the problem to confront it and be rid of it sooner rather than later.

    now if I can just overcome my fear of people my own size I'll be set! (it's just that little people are so fast!)

    Oh, and as for the 7 foot tall 400lb sumotori, even trying to take him in randori may be enough to throw him off and give you an edge. Do something nutty like a flying armbar! Large people almost always expect a win over a smaller opponent, and the smaller guy almost always expects to loose. You can use this to your advantage if you are small. First of all, the bigger guy is usually overconfident of his abilities, and second of all, in your desperation at the thought of loosing, you are more willing to try things you would usually never attempt. There is nothing more scary than a person with nothing to loose.

    Iain Richardson

  12. #12
    MarkF Guest

    Unhappy But what if he isn't my friend?

    Well, actually, I 've only seen Manny Yarborough on television; the Tonite Show; twice. Yes, after thirty-seven years, and being this small, the big guys do tend to become smaller, and easier to handle. Manny, on the other hand is by far the biggest judoka I have ever seen. There have been some his height (Geesink, more or less) but not that wide. Since his legs are his weakest point, tai otoshi is not a bad throw to put on. He does not have much strength, from what I could see, from there. There are a myriad of waza to use, but one thing we small guys learn and do it as well as can be done, technique, and it has to be near perfect, but that does off-set the size.

    For teaching women who have the mindset of "only," I would recommend anything written by J. Kano. His perceptions of what one could do with proper waza, and short bursts of strength from the "center" (hips and shoulders), he proved this by teaching women. For Kata, he had women demonstrating kata in photographs, and early drawings of jiudo, small women, dressed as geisha, are in the drawings throwing, or countering, a big guy. It is never hopeless, and in fact, for a lot of the reasons given here, good waza does win out in the end, especially for women on the small side. Hell, most of the women I have taught were giants, some even 5'6"!

    Lain, we little blokes need to stick together. Sometimes, and this is in the case of the Manny Yarboroughs out there, it does take two.

    But I agree, there is an advantage here. The first one is using what the big ones where "only dogi" is seen, usually think, and that is "oh, he is a little fellow." Remember the fourteen year old Shiro Saigo in the infamous Tokyo Police judo v jujutsu matches around the turn of the century. What match today is rememberd most from that tournament, or shi ni ai? Saigo. And he beat the biggest and strongest they had. Maybe it is a good idea that women train a little more in kata. Waza is everything!


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Likes (received)


    Hi All,

    First off - thanks for your enthusiastic interest, it's very welcoming for a first timer.

    On the whole, I don't think this is quite as simple as a matter of size. I've seen many very diminutive guys scare the bejeezus out of bigger blokes and a number of "well built" athletic girls exhibiting just the kind of attitude I was originally talking about - even when teamed with smaller girls.

    As one or two of you pointed out, it comes down to attitude. Personally, I try to cultivate in my students (of both gender) an inner determination not to be a victim. Without that, all the fancy waza in the world won't help. An attacker will rarely pick a 'challenge' instead of a dead-cert victim. If one can muster enough breath, voice, kiai and unshaken eye contact, even the most determined of attackers will be forced to consider you as the former.

    The "all I see is gi" approach is a good one. However, as a responsible teacher I feel I also have to consider the boundaries of individual students. Some of my students like nothing more than to go hell for leather and worry about the bruises later. Teaming them up with less committed individuals can be detrimental to both.

    In short, I think the best approach is to learn by experience and as a teacher I try to provide as much opportunity for this as possible. That is usually when I hit the problem. All too often, with my female students, as they are doing the technique, there is clearly something going on in the mind that says, "..yup, I've seen how this technique is supposed to work, but who's he kidding... I'm just a girl". Consequently the technique doesn't work and the "experience" they get, is not what was planned for.

    Any ideas?
    George Hyde

    UCL, ULU, SOAS Dojo
    British Shorinji Kempo Federation

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Princeton, New Jersey, USA
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    Great thread and great advice. Sometimes, however, any teacher must just demand a performance out of someone.

    Yell at the women if they show weak attitude. You cannot be encouraging all the time, thereby accepting their insecurity, they have to rise to the demands of a martial art, not the other way around.

    I also tell the women - that nothing in martial arts ever guarantees anyone, man or woman, success in self defense, and the bigger and stronger the opponent the smaller their chance of success. If they ever do meet a 250 lb 6 foot 3 in. attacker, probably they will die and that's reality!!!

    But I followup to say that by training seriously they may improve their odds against some smaller, weaker men and that is an overall improvement from no training whatsoever.

    Given a realistic goal, it is easier to imagine success. Also, some women will never strike seriously at a dojomate because they perceive that person as a friend. I tell them that this approach actually shortchanges the other person since defense side cannot practice a credible defense without a credible attack. For many women, the belief that they are helping someone by being aggressive will overcome their inhibitions.

    My 2 cents.


    P.S. If you tell the female students that they can't measure up to the guys, sometimes that infuriates them and makes them work harder. you'll just have to accept the flak that may result - since it is the truth.

    [Edited by Margaret Lo on 08-18-2000 at 09:48 AM]

  15. #15
    Thomas Wahl Guest

    Thumbs up Great Post!!!!

    Hi Margaret!

    You are speaking right out of my heart! A woman (or better a member of a training group in a martial art) has to fit her/his attitude to the martial art not vice versa!!
    The same problem often have men, when they think, it is nice to try once a martial art.
    When they think that they fail, because they cannot do enough pushups (less than the woman next to them) or are not as tough as they think, they are, they quit!!

    So men have the same problems with martial arts-training and self defence as women!

    The more they train, the better they are, the higher chances they have, to survive a fight. But they also have a better sense for danger and so to avoid a fight at all. That training in awareness is something, what many martial artist fail to learn or to realize!

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