A while back, I received a message from a guy who had read sa couple of posts on this blog. He asked me if my wife’s martial arts expertise and the fact that she can easily “kick my butt” in any way made me feel like less of a man in my relationship with her.
I can see where he is coming from and why he would pose this question. I know that for many men, getting your butt kicked “by a girl” is a huge embarrassment and basically means that you should “turn in your man card”. On the other hand, for many others, the whole thing is a total non-issue because martial arts is a skill like any other and relationships aren’t about two people beating each other up anyway, so obviously it doesn’t make a guy any less of a man.
So does my wife’s martial arts expertise and training make me feel like less of a man? No, it doesn’t. But it has challenged how I think of manliness and what it means to be a man (hence, one of the reasons I started this blog two years ago).
Even though I have been in a relationship with my wife for quite a long time now and years have passed since she first gave me a first hand demonstration of her martial arts skills and the effectiveness of hapkido techniques, I can still feel a certain level of embarrassment thinking and talking about it. It still “hurts my pride” to some extent and there is a sense of frustration that I, as a man with a significant size, weight and strength “advantage” over her, am not able to simply overpower her in a physical contest. But none of these feelings really affect me in my day to day life. To sum it up, I would say that it’s basically just a fact of life that I accept. Besides, the positive sides of my wife’s martial arts training (mostly for her of course, but also for me) are so much bigger and more important than any annoying feelings or stereotypes that I may sometimes experience.
However, I do think that to some extent I really would have felt less of a man if I hadn’t be able to admit that – because of her years of martial arts practice and natural talent for that – my wife is way better than me at fighting and self defence. I mean if I had tried to make up excuses or if I had been lying to others and maybe to myself about it. So I would say my advice to other men in a similar situation is to simply be honest, accept it and give the woman credit for the talent and hard work she has put down to achieve these skills. Be proud of her!
I like to feel that I am “in control” of the situation I am in. I want to feel that I only depend on myself and my own efforts and actions. When I feel I have no control, it can be quite stressful, frustrating and even scary. One such example is traveling in an airplane. I am no pilot, the airplane is traveling very fast at a very high altitude and I can’t even see what is in front of the airplane – so my body and my life is completely in the hands of airplane crew and the technology and structure of the machine itself. This is one of the main reasons I don’t like flying.
As I have mentioned on this blog, I have “practiced” hapkido a couple of times with my wife and it has been both a lot of fun and very interesting. But those hapkido demonstrations were also a situations when I felt I had no control, which made me feel uncomfortable and frustrated. After all, no matter how hard I tried, there was very little I could do to stop her from throwing me, putting me on the floor, bending my joints and tying my limbs up in knots with a seemingly endless array of techniques.
Of course part of my frustration came from the simple fact that by nature I’m a pretty competitive guy and I was getting my butt handed to me by my wife, in spite of being significantly bigger and stronger than her. But my negative feelings also had a lot to do with me being put in a position of “powerlessness” where I was not at all in control. Even though of course she didn’t (and never would), it was obvious that with just a little more pressure and by following through on the hapkido techniques, she could very easily have inflicted serious pain and injuries on me. One could say that my body and my life is in the hands of my wife – a bit like the airplane situation.
The other week, one of my best female friends pointed out to me that this could actually be a good opportunity for me to practice my ability to not feel the need to be in control all the time. I think she really has a point. After all there are a lot of things in life we can’t control. We all need to accept that. Most ot the time, it’s a good idea to just stay calm and not let the situation get to you, even if you can’t control it. Put things in perspective – is it really so serious/bad/dangerous? Ride with the flow of life and put some trust and faith in other people!