“You’re a fit guy, can’t you use your strength and just overpower her?”

As I said in the very first post of this blog, there are a number of questions and comments that I get as a man married to a woman who happens to be a professional martial arts expert – and I will try o answer some of them here on this blog. The second question I will take on is:

“Can’t you use your strength and just overpower her?”

I work out regularly and I’m a reasonably fit and strong guy. I have always been pretty athletic. As I’ve written elsewhere on this I am physically much taller, heavier and stronger than my wife.

It’s a common misconception that physical size and strength is basically of be-all and end-all importance in a physical fight. If there is one thing that I’ve definitely learned during my over two years together with a girlfriend/wife with a passion for martial arts, it’s that physical size and strength is very much an overestimated factor when it comes to fighting and self defence capabilities.

Sure being big and strong is a significant advantage in many situations in life – including fighting. If everything else is equal, the bigger and stronger person will most likely win a fight. That’s why in most cases a man will almost always have a huge advantage over a woman when it comes to this. If the woman is highly skilled in martial arts though, the equation changes completely.

I must admit that I am too guilty of having overestimated the importance of size and strength in fighting and wrestling. Before the first time my wife gave me a demonstration and showed me her hapkido skills, I thought that the big difference in size and strength between me and her would mean that I would more or less be able to hold my own against her. Of course it didn’t take many minutes for me to learn just how wrong this assumption was, as she quickly proceeded to throw me left and right as she kicked my butt – with little effort.

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a selfie in the mirror…

I can’t get her in a hold.

In order to overpower someone, you first need to get hold of him/her. However hapkido techniques allow the practitioner to counter and avoid an attacker’s attempts to hit or grab you.

When I do get hold of her, my wife have the techniques and moves to break free of basically any hold I can apply on her. By using leverage, natural physics and pressure points (sensitive spots on the human body) she can free herself from anything from a firm arm grab to a bear hug. In fact, most of the time breaking free from my holds is amazingly – and for me frustratingly – easy for her!

She knows how to use my own strength to her advantage.

Hapkido teaches how to use an attackers own momentum, strength and weight to unbalance, throw/take him down or manoeuvre him into a painful position. Because of these techniques, when I fight her in a way it’s almost as if I am beating up myself, as she is using my own strength and energy against me. And obviously, this renders my bigger size and strength moot.

She can throw me.

It seems to me there are countless of ways that my wife can use hapkido techniques to throw me or sweep me to the floor – as mentioned above, often using my own strength and momentum against me. This, in turn, means that by attacking her or resisting her, I often make it easier for her to take me down! I would say that in my experience this is undoubtedly one of the most frustrating things about trying to fight someone with these kind of martial arts skills. As an untrained fighter, I do not have skills to counter a hapkido throw, so there is very little I can do stop her from throwing me and putting me on the floor.

She can immobilise me.

As if all these throwing techniques weren’t enough, there is a myriad of ways to immobilise an opponent using hapkido techniques too. Often the basic principle is twist and bend joints in painful positions that makes it impossible for the opponent to move. These are called joint locks. Any of the joints can be used for this – fingers, wrists, arms and even legs! And how come I can’t stop her from doing this to me or use my strength to break free? Well again it’s all about leverage and physics. It doesn’t take a lot of brute strength for example to twist someone’s fingers. And by using my own momentum and strength she can put me in very unfavourable positions, from where it is very difficult to resist or fight back. By manoeuvring me into certain positions she can also make use of the strength of her whole body against for example one of my wrists or one of my arms.

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The same principle with twisting and bending joints can also be used to break free of a hold or to force an opponent to move in a particular direction and thus open him up to a kick, strike or immobilising hold.

She could kick and punch me out

Obviously, in a real self defence situation a hapkido black belt like my wife could stop an attacker from trying to overpower her by kicking and striking him. In other words, my wife has the techniques and capability to cause some serious pain – or even render me unconscious – by kicking and striking. I’ll leave it at that for now though and write more about this later though, as I answer other questions.

To sum it up.

So the answer to the question if I can’t just use my strength to just overpower my wife, is definitely no. There is no way a man can “just overpower” a woman who has many years worth of this kind of black belt martial arts skills and experience.

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Stronger men with more fighting experience than me have been soundly defeated by women who are simply more skilled in martial arts and therefor better fighters.

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Being the “protector” in a relationship

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Today I’ll write about a particular incident that really made me notice and think about how gender roles can be influenced when a woman practices martial arts. 

About a year ago, I went out with my (then future) wife. We went to a restaurant for dinner and we had a really nice evening. On our way home, quite late at night, we suddenly found ourselves alone on a rather dark street in front of an empty park, with two very suspicious looking guys standing on the park side of the street, in front of us. They were menacingly staring at us as we walked by. We pretended to ignore them.

I immediately felt a burst of adrenaline in my body and my heart beating faster, as this was obviously a potentially dangerous situation. Then the next second I remembered that the woman beside me holding my hand was of course a martial arts expert and self defence instructor. I had her hapkido demonstrations with me fresh in my memory – and as I remembered that, I suddenly felt much safer, calmer and more confident. I knew she could likely handle any situation that might arise all by herself. Not that I would just stand there doing nothing of course, if something would happen. I remember we glanced at each other, knowing we would have to be prepared for things to get ugly. Nothing at all did happen though – the sinister looking guys followed us with their weird glare until we were out of sight, but they left us alone and we got home safely.

At home I started thinking about what had just happened. And I realised that in the face of danger from two possibly violent men, I – a tall, fit, perfectly healthy man – had basically looked at my girlfriend for protection! Objectively, this isn’t strange, as we both know she is a way better fighter than me. But it still felt weird and confusing for me as a man, and I could feel that I was blushing. It was like I had this inner voice screaming at me that I should be the “protector” in the relationship. But at the same time that doesn’t make sense, when she is the one having practiced martial arts since childhood and who had recently proved that she can easily wipe the floor with me in a fight. So there were some very conflicting feelings for me after this incident.

Again, I am very happy and proud over my wife and that she has the skills and capabilities to defend herself. I definitely don’t wish that things were different. But I guess it can be quite confusing and complicated for us human beings, when things like traditional gender roles and norms in society gets turned on their head like this.

couple on date

1. “Aren’t you scared of her?”

As I said in the very first post of this blog, there are a number of questions and comments that I get as a man married to a woman who happens to be a professional martial arts expert – and I will try to answer them here on this blog. The first one I will take on is:

“Aren’t you scared of her?”

Yes, a couple of men have asked me if I am not scared of my wife. This actually kind of surprised me. I mean, why would I have married a woman, if I was scared of her? And why would I be scared of a woman just because she knows martial arts? It’s not like I am planning to abuse or assault her, so why on earth would I be afraid of the fact that she can defend herself from abuse and assault?

In most cases, a man is capable of physically beating his girlfriend/wife, simply because men are generally significantly bigger and stronger than women. But most men would never abuse their girlfriends or wives physically. And most women aren’t afraid of their boyfriends and husbands. Just because you theoretically can do something, doesn’t mean you will do it. And the same obviously goes for a woman with martial arts skills! Sure, she has the capability to beat up a man who is not trained in martial arts – but that obviously doesn’t mean that she will!

Actually the contrary is true. A woman who is highly skilled in martial arts is less likely to use violence against her boyfriend/man! There is a lot of focus on discipline and self control and restraint in martial arts training and if a woman has achieved a level where she is skilled enough to defeat a much bigger and stronger man in hand to hand combat, she has very likely also achieved a very high level of discipline, restraint and emotional control. There are also strict rules for martial artists to not use their fighting skills on other people, except in self defence.

So no. I am definitely not scared of my wife.

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The first time my wife showed me her hapkido skills

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Obviously this picture does not depict me and my wife – I just thought it would fit the blog post! 🙂

My wife told me about her work as a hapkido and self defence instructor and how she started practicing martial arts already as a small child already on our first date. But it wasn’t until almost 4 months later that she showed her fighting skills (or at least some of them) to me first hand.

I had been curious about it ever since we met. The fact that she was a black belt martial arts professional intrigued me – it showed she was a strong and independent woman and made her seem even more attractive to me. In some way it kind of challenged me as a man too, as I assumed her skills meant that she – in spite of her very feminine looks and demeanour and apparent harmlessness – was perfectly capable of defending herself and no doubt was able to take me down in a hypothetical fight. It provoked my ego a little bit – but I basically just viewed it as something very positive about her.

It was a really warm July summer day when we went over to the martial arts gym where she practices and gives her hapkido lessons. I had asked her if she could show me some of her skills and give me a demonstration of hapkido self defence. She happily accepted. I remember my feelings as we stepped up together on a quite thick and soft blue mat. I had never done or been in contact with any martial arts training in my life up until then, so I had basically no idea what to expect. On our way to the gym I felt excited and a little bit nervous.

But when I stood in front of her on that mat and she told me to grab her and try to overpower her by any means I choose, I have to admit I suddenly did not see the black belted hapkido expert and professional martial artist that she is, but rather the beautiful, petite young woman that I had fallen madly in love with over the preceding months. I felt I was towering over her as she stood in front of me, waiting for me to make my move. She looked so beautiful and it made me feel almost like I was doing something “wrong”. It felt like a mismatch. And more or less automatically and subconsiously the instincts of not hurting or “beating up on” a girl/woman – deeply ingrained in most men took over. I felt I better go easy on her. This is ridiculous, I know, but to be honest that’s how I felt.

So I grabbed one of her arms in a steady grip with my right hand. Firmly but not too hard, so I wouldn’t risk hurting her. With a quick “twisting” move she broke free of my hold and the next second I felt how she swept my legs from under me and I landed on the mat flat on my back with a thud. I was already impressed by her skills!

I got up and tried the same thing again, only a bit harder, and also determined not to let her surprise me with that “leg sweep” again. But again she used the hapkido move to quickly break free from my hold and this time she applied (what I later would learn was) a joint lock on the same right hand I had used to grab her. I felt a sharp pain whipping through my hole right arm and I was forced down on my knees. And there I found that every effort to get up or get free caused me to feel that same sharp pain immediately shooting through my arm. She had me immobilised! Now I felt a bit embarrassed and frustrated by the situation – and the apparent ease with which she had taken me down twice in a row!

I felt I needed to take this more seriously, so on my third try I was using both my hands to try grabbing her by her arms – but she anticipated it, got hold of me somehow and the next thing I knew the world around me was spinning around – and I actually let out a cry, I guess from the shock – before I landed on my back again. She had thrown me over her shoulder! It had the benefit of knocking most of the unwarranted worries about “hurting a woman” out of me. However I felt the frustration growing inside of me.

I remember how I during the next 15-20 minutes or so tried harder and harder and again and again – with different approaches – but always with the same result: me quickly ending up flat on the floor and/or immobilised in a painful hapkido lock. Two times I managed to get her off balance and take her down on the floor with me – only to end up immobilised in a hapkido hold with her legs locking and painfully bending my arm, leaving me with no choice but to submit to her. In the end I just felt I had had enough and I told her I gave up. No matter how I tried, there was no way I could defeat her. She had an answer to everything I threw at her and it seemed she was anticipating my every move. I was completely overwhelmed and outmanouvered by her skills and speed. The “humiliation” was topped off when she softly and compassionately inquired if I felt ok and informed me that she had been careful not hurt me, as I had no training in how to fall/land properly after a takedown (I now know this is something you practice as a beginner in hapkido classes).

After this very one sided duel, I was humbled, slightly bruised, in a bit of a shock and mighty embarrassed – but also full of admiration, love and fascination for my then girlfriend (and future wife). It might sound a bit pretentious, but in a way these 20 minutes changed the way I look, not only at her, but women in general!

My wife is a black belt

“Can she kick your butt?”
“You need to be careful – she could kill you!”
“Don’t piss her off or you’ll be sorry!”
“Aren’t you scared?”

“You could take her if you really wanted though right?”
“In a real fight you would win though, right?”
“You’re a fit guy, can’t you use your man strength and just overpower her?”

These are some of the many questions and reactions I have faced during the two years that I have been dating and married to my wife, who happens to be an expert martial arts and self defence teacher.

People are obviously – though often they won’t admit it – very curious and interested in this subject. However, especially men, feel embarrassed to talk about it (I can relate to that feeling and I will certainly return to this topic) or even refuse to admit some rather obvious facts (like that a trained female martial arts professional will easily beat an average male).

So I made this blog to answer and talk about all the questions above and others on the same subject: the huge benefits of women doing martial arts, confronting myths and prejudice – and also discussing how it affects traditional gender roles and how men (like myself) without martial arts skills react when their female partners are training in martial arts.

Who am I?

I am a 27 year old man living a fairly “regular” and happy life. I have a well paying job that I very much enjoy, my health is intact and I have a nice home and a beautiful wife. In other words, – so I’m certainly not complaining about my lot in life.

I am a rather fit guy. I stand 1.84 m (slightly under 6 feet 1 inch) tall and I weigh 83 kg (183 lbs). I have always been quite active, into various sports and working out regularly to keep in shape. Obviously there are guys who are much bigger and stronger than me. But I am far from a couch potato and I would definitely say I am in better shape than the average man.

A little bit more about me here.

My wife teaches hapkido

About two years ago I met the wonderful, sweet and lovely woman I am now lucky enough to call my wife. She has been practicing hapkido, a Korean martial art, since she was a small girl. Today, at the age of 22, she is an experienced black belt and works as a hapkido and self defense instructor.

My wife is 17 cm (7 inches) shorter and about 25 kg (55 lbs) lighter than me. She looks perfectly harmless and very feminine – I really don’t think anyone would guess she is a martial arts expert just by looking at her. Yet, because of her expert hapkido skills, she can literally wipe the floor with me – without even trying hard! I know this for a fact because as we became a couple, out of curiosity I asked her to show me some of her skills. And even though I now know very well that I don’t stand a chance against her, I admit I still can’t resist “challenging” her to a (playful) one on one duel from time to time! It is exciting and fun and she is careful not to hurt me for real – except for the inevitable (slight) bruising of my male ego.

That’s it for today – more to come

Ok – this is all for today. This blog is very new and very much a work in progress. I’ll write more in the coming days. In the meantime – enjoy the weekend!