Women in Martial Arts

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day.  This is a day where women are recognised for their social, economic, cultural, and political contributions.  The role of women in our society is one of the most important, yet it seems to be one that we all take for granted.  It must be stated that women are just as capable as men and should be afforded the same kind of opportunities to grow and excel in whatever fields they desire.

Martial Arts is a field that is dominated by men.  This might be due to the belief that men are naturally inclined to aggression due to the male hormone – Testosterone.  However, this is just a one-dimensional look at a multi-dimensional subject.  At the root of Martial Arts philosophy is self-improvement, inner strength and overcoming violence with a calm mindset.  So, the belief that aggression makes one a better Martial Artist is contradictory to these philosophies.

Martial Arts Women

Wing Chun Kuen is a Martial Art that was founded by a female Abbess of the Shaolin Temple.  This Martial Art incorporates principles to overcome larger and stronger opponents with efficient techniques and superior timing.

Apart from pioneering Martial Arts, history is filled with valour of female Martial Artists such as Nakano Tekeko and Tomoe Gozen who were onna-bugeisha or female Samurai who wielded the Naginata and helped shape Japan during its feudal periods.  Feudal Japan also comprised of female Shinobi or Kunoichi. These were women that were skilled in the art of Ninjutsu and were specialised forces with the Samurai ranks.

Nobuko Oshiro is the highest ranking female sensei in Okinawa.  She is an 8th Dan practitioner of Shorin-ryu Karate-Do.  To achieve such a high rank as a woman, Oshiro had to work much harder than her male counterparts.  She even held the record for the most pushups in her dojo for many years.  The number of pushups that she completed for the record exceeded 200!

In modern times, Ronda Rousey and Rika Usami have proven that women can excel in Martial Arts.  Ronda Rousey is a UFC champion and Rika Usami is referred to as the “Kata Queen”, having won many Kata competitions including the 2012 World Karate Championships.

Women have always played a pivotal role in Martial Arts and it should be no different in the times that we currently exist.


ronda rousey

Important Role of Martial Arts

Given the manner in which women have been oppressed, Martial Arts can be a powerful instrument of change and empowerment for women, especially in the following ways:

  • You learn to defend yourself
  • Your overall health improves
  • You build self-confidence and improve your self-esteem
  • You build new friendships and formulate a support structure
  • You learn to rely on yourself

Learning to Defend Yourself

Femicide and violence against women has always been a concern.  It has become even more prevalent and alarming in recent years.  Women are viewed as easy targets for violent crime due to their obvious strength disadvantages to their male counterparts.  Martial Arts can help level the playing field by giving women a toolset with which to deal with violent and dangerous attacks.

Training in Martial Arts will not only arm you with techniques and increased strength, but it will also help you keep your composure so that you can make the most appropriate decisions for a given situation.  This can make all the difference in surviving a dangerous attack.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, reachout and seek help.  Protecting yourself and your family need not be left solely on your shoulders.  Here is a helpful Domestic Violence Resource Guide which has a full Global list of international help centers and organizations for women all over the world.

You should also check out this comprehensive Cybersafe guide to protect yourself against online harassment.

self defence women


Improved Health

In recent times, women have had to balance both work and family life.  These demanding responsibilities can result in neglect of one’s health.  Martial Arts can have an incredibly positive effect on the mind and body.  It provides challenging exercises and drills to improve strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health.  Your overall ability to perform your regular day to day activities will receive an exponential physical boost.  You will experience renewed energy and vitality.

In addition to the obvious physical benefits, Martial Arts has a corresponding positive effect on your mental well-being as well.  It will help you hone your mind and develop an inner strength.  This will help you deal with difficult life situations and stave off depression and anxiety.

Improved Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence

Apart from mental wellness, Martial Arts will improve the way you see yourself.  You will experience improved self-esteem by learning to value yourself.  This will have a corresponding effect on your self-confidence, making you more assertive and more likely to stand up for yourself and confront those that may treat you unfairly.

Martial Arts Training for Women

Growth through Martial Arts and New Experiences

Empower yourself and build confidence
Learn self-defence principles
Be self-reliant
Travel and build friendships with like minded people
Enrich your mind and strengthen your body
Learn new skills

Book Your Martial Arts Camp
kalaripayattu travel

Building Friendships and forming a Support Structure

A major characteristic of abusive relationships is the isolation of the victim from friends and family.  Attending Martial Arts classes will put you in the same space as other people that may share your values.  This will allow you to develop friendships and a support structure to help you along your journey and difficult times.  As people, we are social beings, and this will add to your overall quality of life and happiness.

Relying on Yourself

It is important to be independent and to be able to stand on your own two feet.  Depending on others for things that you can provide yourself, often disempowers you.  Women are just as capable as men and possess the means to solve their own problems and provide for themselves and their families.  The self-confidence and personal skills that you will acquire from Martial Arts will set you on a path to be truly self-sufficient.  This means that you will be able to do things at your pace and on your terms.


Women Warriors in History

Throughout history, women have overcome significant odds to make impactful change to the benefit of their families, communities and their countries.  They have gone above and beyond the traditional gender stereotypes to safeguard their nations and facilitate a path in which their people can thrive.

Trieu Thi Trinh aka Lady Trieu

Trieu Thi Trinh, a fierce and powerful Vietnamese warrior, raised an army to rebel against Chinese invaders who sought to conquer her homeland. The Eastern Wu Dynasty ruled with a heavy hand and was responsible for many atrocious acts of war against the Vietnamese. She dismissed her concerned brother with the following response when he tried to dissuade her from her rebellion:

“I only want to ride the wind and walk the waves, slay the big whales of the Eastern sea, clean up frontiers, and save the people from drowning. Why should I imitate others, bow my head, stoop over and be a slave? Why resign myself to menial housework?"

Needless to say, her brother was so moved by this, that he joined her army in service of their homeland.

Triệu was also a proud and progressive woman who lived the idea of gender equality as witnessed in her own words:

"I'd like to ride storms, kill sharks in the open sea, drive out the aggressors, reconquer the country, undo the ties of serfdom, and never bend my back to be the concubine of whatever man."

Lady Trieu was a fearsome warrior who enjoyed much success against the Chinese forces.  Her army was victorious in more than 30 battles spread over 2 years of fierce fighting. Unfortunately this was not to last.  She was defeated in battle and committed suicide by drowning.  Likely one last act of rebellion to her oppressors.

The life and exploits of Trieu Thi Trinh is testament to human history that women are just as capable as men in matters of war.

Jhalkari Bai

Jhalkari Bai hailed from humble beginnings.  She lost her mother early in her life and was raised by her father.  She was not able to get a formal education but was taught to wield a weapon skillfully and ride on horseback. She seemed destined to become the fearsome warrior that played an instrumental part in rebelling against her British oppressors.

The British had decided to put an end to the Indian rebellion that began just a year earlier.  The Indian rebellion was led by Rani Laxmi Bai, a powerful queen, who resisted the British attack from her fort with an army of just 4000. Unfortunately, she could no longer stave off the opposing army as she was betrayed by one of her commanders.  She was advised to escape so that she could regroup and plan for further steps for the Indian resistance.

The escape was not easy but it was made possible by Jhalkari Bai who willfully placed herself in danger.  She would assume the identity of the queen having disguised herself as such and took up command of the army.  Her actions in this position were bold and courageous.  She made her way to the camp of General Rose and demanded an audience.

This act of bravery afforded her queen enough time to escape.

Jhalkari Bai’s acts of valour, warriorship and courage stand as a testament to the powerful and brave women that she was.  She is lauded by the Dalit community as a warrior who lived and died in service of her community and country.


The Pink Belt Project

I would like to introduce you to the Pink Belt Project, an initiative that seeks to empower women through Martial Arts.  The Pink Belt project provides 1 year of free traditional Martial Arts training to women in need at their closest Martial Arts training facility.

Pink Belt Project

This project has changed the lives of scholarship recipients for the better.  There are so many examples to read about at the Pink Belt Project. We urge you to reach out and contribute to this worthy cause in whatever way you can.  Some ways of offering your support are:


Final Thoughts

I will leave you with a quote by Barbara Ehrenreich

“Of all the nasty outcomes predicted for women's liberation … none was more alarming than the suggestion that women would eventually become just like men.”

Be unapologetically feminine and embrace your uniqueness. Martial Arts is for all, male or female. It can be an invaluable addition to your life and empower you in ways that you had never even considered.


More on Martial Arts


Saturday, 04 December 2021 10:43

A Korean Martial Art that is characterised by jumping and spinning kicks, high kicks and quick flurries of kicks. Taekwondo focuses on landing kicks and strikes above the waist only. It is a Martial...

Wednesday, 01 December 2021 14:08

Kalaripayattu is an ancient Martial Art that originated in Kerala, India. It is thought to be the oldest Martial Art in the world and the predecessor of all Martial Arts. The Martial Art is...

Friday, 08 October 2021 19:02

I first became aware of the center as a concept through Sensei Rick Horton who is an experienced and articulate Karate practitioner. He emphasizes the use of the Center as a focal point through...