The general advantages of men when it comes to hand to hand combat are of course widely known, for obvious reasons. Strength and size, largely due to testosterone, gives men a very big advantage from the outset in this domain. When it comes to martial arts this is also true, even within martial arts styles where qualities such as skills, speed and flexibility are much more important than sheer muscle strength and physical size. All else being equal though, in terms of skills, being strong and more “robust” is always a good thing.
However, women actually also have several advantages over men when it comes to learning these kinds of martial arts. This is much less known and it may even sound a bit strange at first, but it actually makes sense.
Here are three of the main advantages that women have over men, when it comes to learning martial arts:
- Women are naturally more flexible than men. Testosterone makes men stronger than women, but it also makes men less flexible.
- Women have a lower point of gravity. In other words, women are shorter than men and have broader hips, so women have naturally better balance than men. Basically, while women’s bodies are shaped more or less like an “A”, men’s bodies are shaped more like a “V” – hence women’s better balance.
- Women are better at learning martial arts techniques. Many of the techniques in for example hapkido are quite counter intuitive – for example instead of resisting and trying to overpower the opponent, you should follow and redirect his momentum, in order to get him off balance or “trick” him into an unfavourable position or a lock. As men we are usually very accustomed to relying on and using our strength while wrestling or fighting someone. It’s like a reflex for us, so it is often quite difficult for us to “unlearn” this. Women, in general, have less of a problem with this.
I read that in ancient China, the men actually understood the female body was better suited for mastering kung fu techniques than the male body. That is why girls there were only allowed to learn martial arts from women – who were in turn not allowed to learn the entire martial art system. This was to make sure men would always be the best fighters…