Why Every Woman Should Try Martial Arts

15 08 2011

If you have spoken to me in the past five months you have heard me gushing about Kempo. Kempo, for those of you who are unaware, is a martial art that is a mixture of karate and kung-fu. It is strike-based, versus Jujistu, for example, which is primarily grappling. The second law of Kempo is “strike first”. Basically, once you’ve assessed that someone is a threat don’t wait for him to hit you!

I have strong feelings about martial arts, and my dojo/lineage in particular. Given the opportunity I would shout to the hills the wonderful benefits of Kempo for the average Jill. (The average Joe I cannot speak for- I know only one Joe and he seems to be rather un-average.) So, for all you gals out there, I’m going to break it down and explain why I think you should visit a Z-Ultimate dojo.

1) The People My biggest trepidation before trying martial arts was not “will I fall on my face” or “will I make a fool out of myself” or “are they gonna hurt me”. Knowing myself those were automatically going to be “yes”. No, my concern was “Is this going to be some kind of macho club where the boys are boss and spare time is spent chanting to Buddha?”. It took only a few moments for those fears to be put to rest. There are a few rituals- bowing and so forth, but nary a Buddha in sight and no suburban Vin Diesels leaking testosterone onto the carpet. Quite the contrary, with very limited exceptions, every person I have spoken to at karate has been fun, funny, positive and encouraging. Even when someone is pummeling you to powder they are doing it with a smile on their face and narrating HOW you can improve.

2) The Combination Ego Boost/Constant Humbling Our teacher is particularly awesome at being encouraging but all the teachers are great. If you do something wrong they correct you, sometimes with a good-natured laugh at your incompetence. Occasionally you will fail EPICLY and the whole place will dissolve into hopeless laughter. Once, I literally ran into someone’s fist while sparring. You can imagine. My Sensei was almost on the floor laughing. But when you turn around and do something truly well, the praise is enthusiastic and lavish. It’s a great atmosphere overall.

3) The fitness Two words: weight loss. Two more words: strength training. Since beginning training five months ago I have lost almost 15 pounds, my cardio stamina is vastly increased and I’m a lot stronger. If you invest your effort and show up to class, you’ll be amazed at the results. Honestly, girls, bikini season never looked so good. In fact, I’ve been mourning our rainy summer because I have a four-pack and it never gets a chance to be appreciated.

4) Fear Factor Growing up I was no fragile flower. I climbed trees, jumped off of stuff, did flips on trampolines, chopped wood, built forts- the whole shebang. But neither did I take crazy risks. There was never a moment where I thought “hey if I hold a sheet while jumping out my second story window I bet I can fly!”. Thus, I have never really tested my physical limits. Like most women, I have been subtly afraid of pain. It’s an insidious fear, incidentally, and pervasive amongst my sex. Flash forward to kempo. Last week I took two punches straight to the sternum from a man who was 1) twice my size 2) probably thrice my strength and 3) PISSED OFF because I’d just punched him repeatedly in the groin. Needless to say his punches were NOT love taps. And you know what? I’m ok. Bruised, sure, but unbroken. Through many similar experiences I have learned that my body can take quite a lot of punishment. The fear is gone.

I understand that a lot of women will not take to martial arts. It’s punishing and difficult and there ARE those men out there who will take out their insecurity on you. But your teachers have your back always and I have never ever felt unsafe at the dojo. I cannot recommend martial arts enough. The confidence-boost, the newfound safety in one’s own skin, the health benefits and camaraderie are all unique.

So try it out. And let me know how it goes. Maybe in a few months we can get together and compare bruises.

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