Tag Archives: girl power

Being the “protector” in a relationship

couple

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

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!