Tag Archives: stereotypes

Do women in martial arts prefer men who also do martial arts?

Do women in martial arts only date men who also do martial arts? That seems to be a common perception, at least among men. In fact several men who have contacted me through this blog have expressed the opinion that women who are skilled martial artists would not be interested in a man if he is not also an experienced martial artist. The reason, according to these thoughts, would be that the woman may not “respect” or feel physically attracted to a man if the traditional (or stereotypical) gender roles of the man as the “protector” are reversed in the sense that a woman with advanced martial arts skills will be the superior fighter in a relationship with a man without this kind of training.

But is there really any merit to this perception? Or is it just another myth involving women in martial arts? I discussed topic with three women who practice martial arts: my wife (Leticia), one of her friends (Katia) and one of her students (Linda).

Leticia, was the fact that I am not into martial arts ever a factor for you when you decided to get into a relationship with me?

Leticia (hapkido instructor – and my wife)
(Laughter) no it was never a factor.

Frida and Katia, do your boyfriends practice any martial art? And if so, was that a factor in any way when you started dating them?

Katia (hapkido practitioner)
No he doesn’t and no that doesn’t bother me at all.

Linda (learning hapkido based self defence)
No and no. I mean when I met him, none of us were into martial arts at all. Or actually, he did do karate for a year or so when he was a kid, but I don’t know if that counts here haha.

No I’d say it doesn’t really count in this context.

So for you, it doesn’t feel awkward or anything to be the ones in the relationship with the martial arts skills?

Katia (hapkido practitioner)
No not at all! I don’t see why it would.

Leticia (hapkido instructor – and my wife)
No. As you know, I have been practicing all my life basically so I am used to be “the one with the martial arts skills”.

Linda (learning hapkido based self defence)
No. But to be honest, my boyfriend is still… I mean I am not at a level where I am better than him at fighting. He is quite athletic so he is definitely the “protector” in our relationship hahaha.

I understand. And if you would reach a skill level that made you better than him at that?

Linda (learning hapkido based self defence)
I don’t think so. I mean it would be so cool to have their skills (referring to Leticia and Katia)!

And you don’t think women in martial arts feel less respect for men who are not trained fighters?

Katia (hapkido practitioner)
Again, my answer is not at all! If a person is nice and respects me, I too respect that person, regardless of gender.

Leticia (hapkido instructor – and my wife)
No. My respect for a man has absolutely nothing to do if he is into martial arts or not. And I am absolutely sure almost all women in martial arts feel that way. In fact, something that does make me respect a man more in this context is if he is able to admit it and be ok with it if I am better than him at fighting. I know that is not necessarily easy for a man for a number of reasons, so I think that it shows strength and maturity if a man is able to do that.

Linda (learning hapkido based self defence)
I agree with Katia and Leticia.

Ok! But still, isn’t it rather common for female martial artists to have relationships with men who practice martial arts too?

Katia (hapkido practitioner)
I think it might be, but that is probably just because they have a shared interest and maybe even met while practicing. I mean it happens all the time in other places that couples meet through shared interests and at work. So why not in martial arts?

Leticia (hapkido instructor – and my wife)
I think that is basically it.

Yes, that sounds pretty logical to me. So would you say that the woman being the better fighter in a relationship with a man is much more of a factor and a potential problem for men dating (or thinking about dating) women who do martial arts, than for the women doing martial arts?

Leticia (hapkido instructor – and my wife)
Yes, I know some men have all sorts of problems with that. But I don’t think women in general care about that at all. Or if we care, to be honest, in most cases I’m sure it’s just a positive thing to know that you are better at fighting than your man or boyfriend. I mean, to me it is. I feel it’s very empowering for me as a woman!

Katia (hapkido practitioner)
Haha yes, if I would get there, that would be very empowering!


This conversation also touched on other topics and I’ll probably come back to some of those in another post.

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.

Reader question: “Do you feel like less of a man?”

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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!

What is masculinity?

me for blog bw5

a selfie in the mirror…

What is masculinity?
And what does it mean to be “a real man”?

These questions might seem easy to answer at first glance. After all, there are some obvious personality traits that are very much linked with being a man:

– Being competitive.
– Being in control and in command of any situation.
– Not showing emotions such as sadness, fear and pain.
– Achieving high status and success. 
– Being good at sports.
– Having high sex drive.
– Being tall and physically strong.
– Being muscular. 
– Being good at fighting.
– Not showing vulnerability.
– Courage.
– Willingness to take risks.
– Dominating.
– Being a provider for the family.
– Having great confidence in yourself. 

If you happen to not not fit into enough of these descriptions, you are likely to be judged as “not a real man”. Sure, the personality traits above can all be positive, or at least they are not necessarily negative. But what if a man is shy, kind and gentle, interested in fashion and cooking, likes taking care of children but doesn’t have a high sex drive and isn’t particularly interested in or good at sports, doesn’t wish to spend most of his time working to advance his career and making a lot money? These are also positive or at least not necessarily negative personality traits. Yet such a man would probably be judged to be very feminine. And in our society, for a man to be judged as “feminine” is generally considered shameful and emasculating – in other words, not a “real man”.

Boys and men are boxed in to a quite narrow field of definitions on how men “should” look and act to be considered as “masculine” or as “real men”. Success within at least some of these definitions – be it in terms of a high status and/or well payed job, sexual conquests or sports/physical prowess is extremely important to men – because it will to a huge extent determine their status and value as men in the eyes of our society. This leaves very little room, but lots of negative pressure, for men that have different personalities, talents and physical characteristics. I would argue that this negative pressure results in a lot of destructive and often violent behaviour among men, who feel like they don’t live up to these norms and expectations of masculinity.

Like most people I took these facts and values more or less for granted and didn’t really question or think about this issue. I just accepted that this is basically just “how things are”. I really only started reflecting seriously on the subject after I met my wife – a woman who happens to be a professional martial arts instructor. I (predictably) found out that because of her expertise in martial arts techniques, I stand no chance against her in a hand to hand combat situation, despite being significantly bigger and stronger than her. Especially in the beginning, I felt rather confused by finding myself in this situation. After all, according to the general definition of masculinity, being outclassed by a rather small female (like my wife) at fighting and wrestling was rather shameful and should make me less of a man. I remember, for example, one of my classmates (we were both 19 at the time) being teased, mocked and asked to “hand in your man card” after losing to a girl in a track & field competition. But I really don’t feel at all like less of a man just because my wife is better than me at fighting/wrestling. I can see no reason for that and this didn’t pose a big problem for me. But maybe that is in large part because I fulfil enough of the other traditional expectations of male traits…

I don’t have a clear answer to the questions I posed at the top of this blog post. But I’m sure the generally accepted definitions of manhood and what means to be “a real man” need to be much wider and much less constrained by stereotypes. On average, men and women are different – both physically and mentally. It would be ridiculous and counter productive to deny that. But we need to recognise and embrace that, as human beings, we are all unique individuals.

At least where I live, girls and women are constantly encouraged to express their personalities and be who they really are, even if that doesn’t conform to the traditional stereotype of how a woman should be – which is great. But I think much more work is needed to support boys and men in expanding the male gender role.

How do you define masculinity? And what do you think characterises a real man?

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…

WSD-23-e1463697048280

 

 

“Beaten by a girl” – why would that be embarrassing, really?

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One thing that I have thought about during the last few years as I have been in a relationship with a woman who practices and teaches martial arts, is why on earth – in the year 2018 – it still is such a sensitive topic among so many men to admit a woman is better than us at self defence and fighting.

A man who has never played a single game of tennis wouldn’t be embarrassed to admit that a professional female tennis player is better than him at tennis. And a man who has never studied astrophysics would hardly be hesitant to admit that a woman with a phd in astrophysics is in better command of astrophysics than him.

Yet, for many men, the idea of getting “beaten by a girl” in a fight is still a source for embarrassment, humiliation – and even feelings of emasculation! When I have talked to my male friends about it, there have been many jokes, questions and statements that in one way or another points out the supposedly embarrassing situation I am in. And some guys more or less refuse to accept that my wife, as a hapkido expert, is way better than me at fighting and self defence. I have to say though that so far no one has been mean spirited or scornful towards me, which feels good because it was something that I was somewhat worried could happen, before I decided to talk about it. With that being said, two guys I talked to even went so far as to openly claim that they would not want to be dating a girl who has enough martial arts skills to be able to kick their butts, no matter how nice and beautiful she is – because, they said, it would simply be too embarrassing to bear!

My wife has also told me that it’s not uncommon for newbie male students and much lower ranked guys to be visibly blushing after losing to her (a 5th dan black belt and instructor). And there have even been some instances where the guys have quit the martial arts classes all together after being defeated by her or one of the other females there! And then there are the extreme examples of boys and men who just don’t want to learn how to fight from a woman at all – no matter how much experience she has!

It has to be said too though that not all men feel there is anything embarrassing in admitting that a woman is a better fighter than them. In particular, my impression is that men who actually have some martial arts experience generally don’t feel that admitting that a female practitioner is more skilled is any reason at all to be embarrassed.

Personally today, my feelings of pride, admiration, inspiration, fascination, excitement and love for my wife and her martial arts expertise completely drown out any negative feelings of embarrassment. I love that she is a martial arts teacher and wouldn’t want things to be different in any way!

But I remember very well how frustrated and embarrassed I felt after her first martial arts demonstration with me where I learned just how easily she can kick my butt. So in a way I can relate to how many guys feel about the topic.

So what is the reason behind these feelings of embarrassment? They obviously aren’t based on logic, reason and the modern ideas of gender equality that most people share. So I can only guess what’s going on. Here are some of my thoughts.

Gender roles 1 – men as “protectors”
As I wrote in an earlier post, society and men themselves are generally used to seeing themselves as the “protectors” in a relationship with a woman. Thus, fighting is seen as something closely related to the male identity and therefore, when a woman is better at this, it can instinctively be interpreted by a man as if he losing some of his manliness.  Obviously this isn’t true, but I believe that’s how a lot of people subconsciously think.

Gender roles 2 – fear of being made fun of
Because of the norms and gender roles we have in our society, a man is generally expected to be better than a woman at most physical activities. Thus, sadly, a guy who loses to a girl at fighting/wrestling/martial arts risks being the target of attempts to tease and ridicule him, like “you throw like a girl” etc. This creates an environment where boys/men are taught that losing to a woman in this kind of activity is embarrassing.

Gender roles 3 – the stereotype of women as the “weaker sex”
Traditionally, women have been seen as “the weaker sex”. The only real life basis of this stereotype is that women on average are physically smaller and not as strong as men. Being strong and tall can be an advantage in many situations. However, there are very few activities in modern life where physical size and strength is the single factor that determines success. Skills, training, experience, intelligence etc are almost always much more important factors. So the talk of women as “the weaker sex” is both wrong and demeaning. Yet, when it comes to things like physical fighting the stereotype is still present in people’s minds and society’s views on gender. And following this (outdated and completely inaccurate) way of thinking, losing to a woman could make a man feel weak and failed in his manliness.

Ignorance about the basics of martial arts
Surprisingly many people still see size and strength as the by far most important factors when it comes to a person’s capabilities of physically defending himself/herself. But in reality, as with most other things in life, skills and experience are much more important. And that’s where martial arts – several of which are even designed specifically to enable a smaller person to defeat a bigger and stronger attacker – comes in. Women are of course just as capable as men of excelling at martial arts skills and techniques – and even have some advantages over men. Yet, the mistaken but common view that fighting is basically all about size and strength can make it seem like an embarrassment for a man to lose a fight to a woman, just because she is smaller than him, when the question really should be who has the most skills and experience.

Genetic heritage
During the tens of thousands of years that humans evolved as a species, there was no such thing as martial arts. At that time, fighting really was almost exclusively about physical size and strength – and obviously it would have made sense to assume a bigger and stronger man would always have a huge advantage over a smaller woman. I think we, as humans, still have some of those old “cave man” instincts inside of us. Maybe our instincts aren’t yet used to the concept and implications of martial arts.

Sexism
Lastly, of course, there are some men who are misogynist jerks who look down on women. A man like that would not want to admit that a woman could kick his butt. Fortunately that is very much a minority of all men.

Well I think these are the explanations I can come up with right now. If you have anything to add, you are very welcome to comment!

takedown

 

“In a real fight you would win though, right?”

Back when I made the first post of this blog, I rounded up a couple 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 third question I will take on is:

“In a real fight you would win though, right?”

This is very much related to my previous post – and I won’t dwell too long on this subject, mainly because the answer is pretty obvious.

It took quite a while for me to get to a point when I felt confident enough about myself to actually talk to other men about my wife (at that time girlfriend) being a black belt martial arts instructor and to admit that by using her martial arts skills she had proved to me that she could defeat me at fighting and wrestling with the greatest of ease. I was then somewhat surprised to find that one of the first reactions of several guys after hearing about this, was to suggest that if it had been a “real fight”, surely I would have won against her!

To me, this made little sense. I mean as a 5th dan hapkido black belt, my wife has mastered some pretty devastating punching and kicking techniques. And in a theoretical “everything goes” fight situation, she would obviously be free to use them. Adding to that, she would of course also still be free to use all those techniques which, in her hapkido demonstrations with me, allowed her to consistantly throw me around like a rag doll and tie me up in knots, despite all my best efforts to stop her. And had she applied those techniques on me in a “real life” situation, there would be no soft mattresses to pad my landing…

On top of that fact, she knows exactly how and where to kick and strike to cause maximum damage, so you don’t have to be a genius to figure out the likely outcome of a hypothetical fight between me and her. Yes, obviously I would have been allowed to throw punches myself – but let’s face it, the chance of me landing one of them against someone who has practiced all her life on how to avoid being hit by punches and kicks is pretty much zero. So, barring some major stroke of luck or a freak accident, such an encounter would obviously not end well for me.

This should all be pretty self evident. Yet, as I said, several of my male friends insisted that in a real fight, I would somehow come out victourious. The only explanation for this reaction, I would say, is the deeply ingraiend resistance and feeling of embarrassment of most men to admit that a woman is better than us at fighting. Even in cases like this, when there really is no objective or logical reason to feel embarrassed about it, given that the woman involved is a martial arts expert with many years of hard training behind her.

Yet for most of men, it still feels embarrassing. Why is that, really? I mean a man who has never played a single game of tennis wouldn’t be embarrassed to admit that a professional female tennis player is better than him at tennis. And a man who has never studied astrophysics wouldn’t be embarrassed to admit that a woman with a phd in astrophysics is in better command of astrophysics than him. But when it comes to fighting, things are very different. I’ll write down some of my thoughts on why that is, in my next post.

Professional female karate fighter isolated on white

“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.

why jiu jitsu

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

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

“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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