MARTIAL ARTS FOR GIRLS IS LIKE SWIMMING FOR TODDLERS (AND 5 TIPS FOR PARENTS THAT WANT TO GET STARTED)
By PJ Pereira*
Since the long overdue debate around violence against women got traction, parents have been asking me for advice on how to get their little girls to learn to defend themselves. Teaching women to fight is far from a real solution for our society’s rape-culture problem but, at least on the individual level, it may help – either by teaching them how to get out of violent situations or creating clear signs of physical confidence that will make some predators think twice.
I’ve been teaching martial arts to women for a while now. It’s fun, but sometimes very disheartening. Most of my female students tell me they wanted to learn to fight when they were kids, but their parents said “it was a boy’s thing.” That’s the first part of the problem, and an easy one to fix: don’t be those parents.
Other issues I’ve empirically observed start at how uncomfortable my female students usually are with rough, physical contact. They can’t stand causing any level of pain. They get psychologically shocked when they get hit. Most of all, they lack confidence. The idea they can survive a fight with a stronger man is unfathomable for them. That's what they've heard their entire lives, after all. Good news: all those issues are the base of every martial art in the planet. Let them start early, and they may have the chance of not even developing those erroneous feelings. It will make learning much easier for them.
If you are a parent of a little girl and is on board with this plan, just doesn't know how to get started, here’s my advice:
No matter if an early or late starter, all women I know that spent time to learn a fighting system became a fierce, impressive, confident fighter that can defend herself against much bigger opponents using technique and intelligence. Following these tips will give them the chance to focus on the fun part much quicker, cause they won’t have to unlearn the fear. As a side benefit, they will also develop a sense of confidence under pressure that will help even more in this misogynist world.
* PJ Pereira is a martial arts instructor with 20 years of experience and advanced degrees in Shao Shin Hao Kung Fu, Wing Chun and Shorinji-Ryu Karate.
Disclaimer: I know violence against women is a serious issue and do not mean to diminish the debate to this single angle. And I know there will be people that will severely disagree with me and think this is a man trying to blame women for not being violent or something like that. Please, understand this whole thing saddens me more than you can think. I got into martial arts not to defend myself but because I loved the discipline behind it. Having to teach someone for self-defense reasons breaks my heart. Unfortunately, that’s the world we live in, and if this little advice can save only a few brave women from trouble, it will be worth the headache it may cause. In the meantime, us, parents of boys, have a long road ahead to teach and educate them to treat their female peers with respect.