What exactly is empowerment?
It sounds like some contrived cartoon word without merit, thrown around readily when it comes to women in the martial arts. Are we really empowered and why?
When I pulled up the online dictionary, I found the word “empowerment” to be a convincing description: to make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights. That makes a lot of sense when it comes to women and martial arts. Men are generally stronger, and while they do gain more strength when practicing karate, a woman probably sees a bigger change than a guy when it comes to strength from practicing martial arts.
Because a woman doesn’t typically “fight,” can you imagine how much stronger she gets when she must go a few rounds of sparring? How about when she learns to yell? The most quiet woman can scare an opponent if she has a yell that bellows with a warrior spirit from within.
2. How else does a woman get stronger or more confident through martial arts?
Physically is one way. The other is a mental strength. Women are seen as vulnerable in a mental sense. We are loved because of our softer side and our gentle approach to life and our relationships, especially with our children and those we love.
If we walked around yelling or ready to punch someone I think we would lose some of what makes us so special. However, we cannot allow our softer side to always overshadow our stronger side, especially if danger is imminent.
Having a fighting mentality or one of fierce determination is a trait on which women have to work. Martial arts give us a way to increase our physical strength and our mental strength by learning how to protect ourselves if the time comes to defend. We are “empowered” because we have gained strength in actions and in attitude. Do I want to fight an attacker? No. Do I want to yell, kick, or punch someone? No. But I can. That is the empowerment I have received from the martial arts.
3. Fighting and yelling are not the only way to get empowered through martial arts, right?
Right. Empowerment comes in many shapes and sizes. Training in martial arts seems to naturally lead to other types of physical fitness. Even when I was training more rigorously in the martial arts, it was not the only physical activity that I did. The strength and stamina I received from trianing led me to run 5k races, take dance classes, and lift weights.
It was a great cyclical way to increase strength and focus because these other activities helped me maintain my martial arts practice. Even now, I teach martial arts and also take different fitness classes that help me stay motivated in training my body.
So, general fitness may be an offshoot of a woman’s martial arts training. Other offshoots are becoming martial arts instructors, teaching self-defense, or training others to have a positive mindset. These abilities to train in other fitness areas and to teach others are forms of the empowerment a woman can gain specifically from the martial arts.
4. Why do women who take martial arts stand out?
There is a certain aura about a martial artist, in general. It is subtle. It is quiet. It is fascinating. Add a feminine touch and wham! Fascination is tripled.
Women in martial arts stand out because they are purposeful, ambitious, and determined. They are not necessarily that way before they walk through the martial art school door. Not long after, though, they find a good combination, the right mindset and new approach to their own martial art femininity.
That is why you will see a female martial artist wear a pink uniform, for example. Just because she is a martial artist does not eliminate her desire to be feminine or beautiful or engaging. It elevates her to be all of those wonderful things PLUS being well-trained, fierce, and powerful. It is this combination that sets her apart and makes her stand out.