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Challenges For Women

Women face many particular challenges in Karate training.

First, most women are smaller, lighter, and weaker than men. This presents a physical challenge: a woman cannot expect to match a larger man in strength or weight.

Of course, this is a generalization. I am 5 feet 7.5 inches tall and weigh 170 pounds. There are many women who are taller and heavier than me, and certainly many women who are stronger than me. In this regard, I face a similar challenge. My Karate training is shaped by the fact that I cannot expect to match a larger man in strength or weight.

Now if a woman is only 5 feet 2 inches and 100 pounds, this challenge is even greater!

In order to be able to possibly use Karate techniques, a woman must train hard and learn to use exceptional body dynamics. The idea is not to match a man, but to develop techniques and skills that are not size or weight dependent. This is generally true for all Karate students. Even a tall man could be challenged by someone who is taller. We need to learn techniques and methods that give us an advantage.

Another challenge faced by women is the fact that some men in the martial arts are chauvinistic. This was especially common among certain older men from the orient who grew up in the pre-war era. Women were not accorded much respect in that society at that time. Even today, some men do not believe that women belong in the martial arts and look down upon them. They might even think that women do not deserve rank or respect.

Of course, there are stupid people everywhere. Prejudice against women is absolutely stupid. It is reasonable to be frank about the physical challenges a woman would have -- but these are mostly size and strength factors rather than gender issues.

My daugther is 13. I always tell her that women can do anything that a man can do. She should never tolerate being put down by boys her age and should not tolerate the same when she becomes a woman. I have often seen cases where men will treat my wife with less respect than me, simply because she is a woman. When we were active in real estate, some men would defer to me simply because I was a man. Again, this is stupid. People should be judged based on their abilities.

Still, women face many challenges in the martial arts. As instructors, we should do our utmost to ensure that all students are treated fairly in our dojo.

One of the women who teaches here in Hawaii is Hisae Ishii-Chang who heads the Island Ki dojo. I respect her very much and admire the way that she teaches. She is an excellent role model... and her daughter is also an excellent Karate student.


Charles C. Goodin