Tag Archives: equality

Large breasts and martial arts?

It may sound surprising to some, but this is actually a thing. From time to time over the years, my wife has been asked questions about whether having breasts, particularly larger ones, is a problem in martial arts. It’s mostly men asking and commenting about this, but also some women.

I did a short “interview” with my wife on the subject the other day.

Me:
So, once and for all, does having breasts pose a problem in martial arts, especially if they are a bit larger?

My wife:
Well, the short answer is no. You have done some “sparring” with me. Did you get the impression that my boobs posed a problem and made it difficult for me to fight?

Me:
(Laughing) I would have to say no.
A summary of how things went when I challenged my wife to see how a clearly bigger and stronger man with no fight training would fare against a smaller woman with advanced martial arts expertise can be found here and here.

My wife:
(Laughing) There you go then!

Me:
But seriously though, you don’t see any potential problems here?

My wife:
Well, I have heard people invoke back pain and balance problems as thing that could arise from having a bigger chest and practicing martial arts.

First of all, having a bigger chest can cause problems such as back pain. As a woman with a rather big chest myself, I am well aware of that. That kind of back pain can develop over time because of the extra weight placed on your chest as well as a bad posture. But you know, the best way to counter and prevent any potential back pain problems of that sort is strengthening your muscles and also getting a better posture. And practicing martial arts will help you with both!

When it comes to balance, I really have to say that I don’t feel that a woman’s chest poses any problems at all there. In fact, I would say women often have better balance than men because of our lower point of gravity. And in any case, balance is one of the points of focus that you practice heavily in most, if not all, martial arts.

For a professional fighter that competes, a large chest may also be a factor when it comes to weight divisions. As you know, in combat sports, contestants are sorted in divisions by weight and a large chest could potentially put you in a higher weight division and thus facing bigger, stronger and tougher opponents than you otherwise would.

But when it comes to guys/men asking if my chest somehow “gets in the way” or stops me as a woman from performing the techniques correctly, then the answer is definitely that no, it doesn’t.

Me:
I guess we, as men, have a hard time imagining what having boobs is like. But you say you have had women worrying that larger breasts would be an obstacle for them while practicing martial arts, right?

My wife:
Yes that’s true. I can only recommend women who feel this way to try on a good sports bra and then just focus on the exercises. You will soon forget any discomfort that you might initially experience from your breasts. And, as I said, practicing something like martial arts will actually strengthen your body and make it much less likely – not more – that you will suffer from any back pain problems because of your chest.

How Egyptian women are using martial arts to combat sexual harassment

I came across an article about a growing trend of women in Egypt that are learning silat, an Indonesian martial arts style (created by a woman, according to legend), to protect themselves from sexual harassment. It was pretty interesting so below are parts of it. The  entire article is found here.

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Fighting Their Abusers: How Egyptian women are using martial arts to combat sexual harassment

By Karim Zidan

Pencak silat — an umbrella term for the ancient Indonesian martial arts practiced in the cultural centre — is a fighting style that incorporates full-body strikes, grappling, and weaponry. The sport has since gained notoriety across the region and is now included in the Southeast Asian Games. It also made its Asian Games debut in Indonesia in 2018. However, few could have anticipated that Pencak silat would have such a profound impact on women in the Egyptian capital.

The Indonesian Cultural Centre in Dokki holds weekly training sessions involving all age groups. The main focus is on performative aspects of the martial arts, though it has become popular with Egyptian women, mainly teenagers and young adults, interested in learning a different form of self-defence. Dressed in red silat uniforms paired with black hijabs (head scarves), they would train in hand-to-hand combat and weapons, and do so alongside their male counterparts. When one of the women successfully disarmed and took down her opponent, the others clapped in support.

Fighting Sexual Harassment in Egypt

During the holy month of Ramadan, the Indonesian Cultural Centre in Cairo hosted group iftars (evening meals) for the men and women training in pencak silat. More than a dozen women attended the meal, some accompanied by small toddlers while others looked as though they were still in school themselves. They seated themselves on the carpeted floor and waited for the call to evening prayer that signalled it was time to break their fast. Despite the differences amongst these women, they were all united by a common goal: to defend themselves against sexual predators on the streets in Egypt.

Sexual harassment is a notorious problem throughout Egypt. A 2017 survey by UN Women and Promundo revealed that nearly 60% of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed while a 2017 Thomson Reuters poll that surveyed experts in women’s issues, Cairo was named the most dangerous city in the world for women. There are also no official statistic for crimes of sexual violence against women in Egypt because the vast majority of victim choose not to report the crimes, either out of shame or fear.

New laws were introduced into the Egyptian Constitution in 2014, while others such as Article 306 of the penal code, were amended to make verbal and physical assault punishable by up to 50,000 Egyptian pounds (approx. $2980 USD) and a prison sentence ranging from six months to five years.

Despite the recent changes to the legal framework, sexual violence remains a significant concern for most Egyptian women. They continue to face potential threats, which is why some have turned to self defence as a possible solution.

While offering women the opportunity to learn how to defend themselves is a way to improve their physical health and fitness, it can also increase confidence and mental strength. By teaching women to fight, Indonesian Cultural Centre in Cairo is empowering thousands of women who would otherwise be defenceless in the face of their harassers.

“Of course there are problems in the street,” Egyptian teenager Rahma Hatem told Reuters during a break from training. “If someone comes near me, I’m able to defend myself well. I have confidence now and no one can harass me because I can face them.”

 

Interview with a woman in martial arts, part 1: Leticia (hapkido)

Considering the main theme of this blog, I thought it could be nice to do a couple of interviews with women who are practicing martial arts. The idea is to get opinions and perspectives from women who have been doing different kinds of martial arts for different amounts of time and for different reasons. I’ll get this “interview series” started today by interviewing my wife – Leticia! So here we go!

Name: Leticia
Age: 23
Martial art style: hapkido
Years practicing martial arts:
17 years and she is now a 4th dan black belt.

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What made you get into martial arts in the first place?
I think I became interested in martial arts for various reasons, including my parents who were very encouraging. One particular moment that I remember and that really inspired me was when I was six years old and I saw two teenage girls doing taekwondo on tv. It looked like a lot of fun! And I remember I thought the girls seemed so confident, strong and beautiful. And they were kicking butt! I thought it looked really cool! It was a huge inspiration for me and I remember I wanted to be like them!

There are so many martial arts styles around. How come you chose hapkido?
Well one reason is simply that by coincidence there was a hapkido school not far from where me and my family lived. And already at that time, I didn’t really want to do a lot of competitions, but rather learn the techniques, have fun, be active and kick some butt (laughter) – so hapkido was a good choice for those reasons. My parents also told me it would be good for self defence – which is very much true. Then I tried it and I immediately loved it – so I stayed! The principles and techniques of hapkido also suits me very well as a smaller, not very muscular woman, as they allow me to compensate the lack of size and upper body strength with skills, speed, balance, flexibility etc. For example by using an attacker’s own weight, momentum, strength against him.

Are there many women practicing hapkido?
I definitely think there are more and more women in hapkido. Men are still the majority, but for example where I practice it’s almost 50% women (not counting the women’s self defence class).

Why, in your opinion, should women get into martial arts?
Oh, there are many reasons! First of all, it’s a lot of fun. It’s great in order to learn how to defend yourself. It’s also a great way to stay (or get) in shape. It is empowering and it boosts self-confidence!

You teach hapkido and you also do separate classes focused on self defence for girls and women? How come you started with that?
I think it’s important to teach girls and women self-defence. You just have to take a look at the world around us and you’ll see that there is a lot of abuse and men taking advantage of women. Many women feel they don’t have the means to stand up for themselves and they feel unsafe in their day to day lives. I don’t really view myself as a feminist but I see that women are exposed to this and many feel powerless to do anything about this.

So I aim to help by giving young females the confidence, skills and self-assurance so that they first and foremost are empowered enough to walk away from a situation where they see signs of abuse and to physically defend themselves and handle a dangerous situation if they have to.

Obviously you are very much better than me at fighting and physical self defence. In a way this turns the gender roles in our relationship around, compared to traditional expectations. Did that ever feel weird or funny to you?
(Laughter) No not at all! I know you feel, or felt, a bit embarrassed about it. You shouldn’t, but I guess it’s a guy ego thing right? In fact I would feel quite “weird/funny” if you had been able to kick my butt, even though you have no martial arts training at all! That wouldn’t reflect well on me as hapkido teacher would it (laughter)? It’s not about gender or being big and strong, it’s about skills and experience. That’s one of the beauties of hapkido. It’s no issue at all for me in our relationship.

Do you feel women are treated differently compared to men in martial arts ? And have you met any prejudice as a female instructor?
I would say most men into martial arts do not view or treat women any differently really. But it is not that unusual for people who have no real clue about martial arts to express more or less prejudicious ideas, like for example that “girls can’t fight”, that I am “good… for a girl” or that women who do martial arts necessarily aggressive, “butch” or masculine. I have also been told that “it’s cute” that I do martial arts and I have been asked (by different men!) if my boobs don’t get in the way when I dod martial arts! There are many more examples. I think some guys feel threatened by a woman being good at martial arts.

And yes occasionally I have encountered prejudice as a female instructor – and that might have to do with me being rather young too. A blatant example was one newbie guy who told me he didn’t want to learn to fight from girl. But I do want to stress that these are rare exceptions.

On the other hand I also get a lot of positive feedback for being a woman teaching martial arts – especially from other women and girls. And that makes me very happy and motivates me even more to keep going!

Seven reasons being married to a black belt woman is great

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Practicing martial arts has many benefits for women. That should be pretty obvious to most people. But dating or marrying a woman into martial arts also brings benefits for a man! Here are seven reasons why a man too benefits from being married to a woman with a black belt in martial arts!

1. She is confident

As a black belt she has worked long and hard for a goal and achieved it. This fact in itself generates self-confidence and empowerment, as any major achievements in life. Martial arts specifically also gives her the confidence of knowing that she can take care of her self and protect others. And a confident person is generally more pleasant to be around than a nervous and insecure person, right?

2. No big ego

Arrogance and a huge ego is more often than not the result of an attempt to compensate for and hide low self-confidence and insecurities. In other words, a huge ego is the projection of false confidence, and that is annoying and rarely a good thing. On the other hand, as mentioned above, a woman practicing martial arts will gain real confidence. Practicing and perfecting martial arts skills also requires lots of humility. So it’s a great way for a person to get over any ego issues. And an ego free wife is of course is of course something that’s very positive for any husband to have!

3. She is healthy and fit

Martial arts is a full body exercise and a person practicing it regularly over a long period of time is bound to obtain a healthy and fit body. My wife for example, works/practices hapkido for several hours six days a week – so she is in great shape! Martial arts training results in stamina, strength and flexibility. And as they say, a healthy body can also be a way to reach a healthy mind and a more harmonious and happy existance. So this is an obvious win-win both for her and  the guy she is married to!

4. She can defend herself – and you!

Of course it goes without saying that a as a martial arts expert, she can defend herself if she has to. For me as her husband, that feels very good to know and makes me worry less about her safety. And – provided you can get over any issues about not necessarily being the “protector” in the relationship, you’ll feel safer and more relaxed too having a hand to hand combat expert by your side!

5. She is calm

Martial arts training isn’t just about physical conditioning and exercise, but just as much about learning to keeping their feelings, reflexes and impulses under control. True martial arts masters have to learn to be in control of themselves at all times, keep calm and think straight in very stressful situations – and that obviously helps to achieve a very high level personal discipline. A common prejudice about female martial arts practitioners is that they are volatile and prone to use violence and would therefor constitute a danger to their husbands. However, nothing could be further from the truth. If a woman has achieved a level of martial arts skills where she is able 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. She does not thirst for violence, picking fights or arguments, but knows that the best form of self defence is to avoid confrontation and fighting when possible. Thus a female martial artist is much less – not more – likely to get violent or throw fits of screaming rage towards her husband.

6. She is disciplined, patient and good listener

In order to excel at martial arts, you need high degree of discipline, concentration, patience and ability to focus. In hapkido, the black belt skills take years worth of hard training and taking in instructions to master – and the techniques often appear counter intuitive, so it takes a lot of disciplined and patient practice, to perfect them. Facing a male attacker, even a seconds lamps in concentration might result in a disaster. So it’s absolutely vital to keep focused. The same power of concentration that for example allows her to dodge and evade a barrage of punches and use a big, strong man’s own momentum and weight to lay him out flat on the floor, also enables her to be disciplined, focused and patient in order to find solutions in complicated or difficult situations in life in general – or to listen to you when you have something to say!

7. It’s sexy!

Confidence can make a woman more sexy and obviously so can being healthy, fit and flexible too. So in these ways, martial arts can add to the sexiness. In my opinion, her martial arts skills can also in themselves be a definite plus in this area! Sure, the fact that she has the skills to throw a man around like a rag doll or bend him into a pretzel without breaking a sweat can in a way represent a bit of a challenge to our traditional sense of manhood, or even lead to feelings of frustration and embarrassment. But I would argue it is also a really cool and very impressive skill for a woman to have -it makes me admire her more and that adds to her sexiness! If you let it, the “reversal” of traditional expectations and gender roles in this sense can actually also be source of very positive sexual energy!

11 comments female martial artists are tired of hearing

skilled girl kick

I talked to my wife about annoying and stereotypical comments about her martial arts training that she gets from time to time. And here – in no particular order – are 11 such comments, together with her answers.

1. “You are too small to fight!”
Well they say don’t judge a book by it’s cover – and that good things come in small packages lol. Seriously though, hapkido is designed mainly to be used for self defence and to overcome stronger and even armed attackers. Contrary to what many people believe, size, height, weight, muscle strength and testosterone are not the most important features to become a good fighter. In fact, agility, speed, balance, experience and above all skills are much more important factors. And using some techniques actually allows a smaller woman to use a larger man’s size and strength against him, to her advantage. 

2. “Could you kick my ass?”
This question is generally posed by guys who have no experience at all from training martial arts, just after they hear that I am a martial arts instructor. Usually, I think, they don’t really mean anything bad with this, at all. It’s probably just ignorance. But it can still be a bit annoying and I sometimes do feel the urge to counter that with a “well what do you think?”. And would they have asked this if I was a man? I think not…

3. “You do martial arts? That’s so cute!”
This is such a condescending thing to say! It sounds like he’s talking down to a small child…

4. “I’m sure I could beat you in a fight anyway. But I don’t hit girls.”
It says a lot about the arrogance of a man, who even though he has no training whatsoever, still assumes that he can beat a highly trained martial artist, just because she happens to be a woman. And with the added condescending and fake gentleman twist of pointing out that he doesn’t hit girls. Well, he doesn’t need to worry about that though cause most likely he wouldn’t be able to hit me even if he tried. I admit that the “evil” part of my inner thought process tells me to just throw him on the floor and make him tap out, but obviously I never do that.  

5. “Wow! So you’re a dangerous girl!”
No I’m not dangerous at all. Unless maybe you had planned to be violent against me. 

6. “I’m sure the guys you train with go easy on you.”
Again, more condescending “macho” man talk from guys who believe women aren’t capable of martial arts fighting. In training, we all go easy on each other in the sense that we take care not to seriously injure each other. However most guys who practice martial arts do not see their opponents as men or women, but simply opponents and you don’t go easy on anyone regardless of gender unless they are at a very much lower level in terms of skills and experience.

7. “Doesn’t it get awkward and sexual when you’re on the floor with a guy?”
Other women in martial arts that I know aren’t bothered by this at all. I guess I am a person who is rather sensitive to people invading my personal space, so I remember in my early teens I actually did feel a bit awkward sometimes when practicing with guys. And it sometimes that still can feel a little bit weird. But on the whole, it is no problem at and no it definitely never ever gets sexual. We are all there to practice martial arts – nothing else.

8. “I don’t want to practice with you because I don’t hit girls
Most of the time, this kind of comment comes from “macho man” guys who believe that being a guy automatically makes him far superior to any female at hand to hand combat. Thus, training with me would be beneath his dignity and a waste of time. Depending on the situation, it can actually be quite fun to prove this kind of guy wrong, especially if it’s an arrogant newbie with a far to big ego. Sometimes I feel engaging with him would be a waste of my time.

9. “I don’t want to learn from a girl”
This has happened to me a couple of times since I started teaching, with the comment coming from male teenagers. 

10. “But you look so feminine!”
I try to take this one as a compliment – because looking feminine is very much a positive thing in my book. Though of course I get the comment in the context of having told someone about my martial arts training and this person is apparently shocked that practicing martial arts as a woman doesn’t automatically result in you looking like a brute man. And that attitude can get a bit tiresome after a while. 

11. “Don’t your boobs get in the way when you fight?”
I guess this one would be hilarious if it wasn’t so prejudiced. While I do have rather large breasts, they aren’t anywhere near as humongous as they would need to be to in anyway affect how I perform martial arts. Besides, there is something called bras, and they are widely available for women use. The first time someone asked me this I thought it was meant as some sort of sexual pick up line, but apparently there are men who seriously think that having boobs might actually interfere with your fighting abilities…

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“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.

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.

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“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 a 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.

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 4th dan 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!