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A review and commentary concerning articles published within Martial Arts Magazines and how they might apply to Aikido and self-defense training.

       A subject that has been the center of hot debate is woman and self-defense training.  Kathy Long, a five-time kick-boxing champion wrote a very good article, titled “Male Instructors vs. Female Instructors,” in the August 2002 edition of Black Belt Magazine. Women who seek training in Aikido face a number of choices.  They can train with a female instructor one-on-one, training with a male instructor, train in a all female class, or train in a coed class containing both men and women. Apparently, women do not respond as well to instruction from men as they do instruction from a female instructor.  She has been told she inspires the women because she exhibits herself as a strong, confident woman.  Also, training with another woman allows a woman to work around her physical limitations and turn them to her advantage.  There are some advantages to women training with women at the beginning of their self-defense training.  However, women will reach a point that they must train with men.  Once they have the basics down, they should train with men and women in a coed class.

         There are many advantages to training in the coed class.  If a student trains with only one person, the woman can become accustomed to working with that person.  She does not prepare herself for the eventuality of having to defend against others of different sizes and shapes. Kathy Long believes training with me allows a woman to gain insight into how the male attacker thinks and tell you where men are most vulnerable.  She states, “for example, a guy could tell you what goes on during an attack emotionally and physically, how a man sizes up a victim and how me might pursue a woman to force her to have sex.  He may be able to teach you the best ways to defend against different types of predators in different situations.”  Also, training in a coed class gives you a chance to feel what it is like to train with a variety of partners of different size and gender. The female student will also learn what it is like to fight a man on a physical level and what it is like on a mental level.  The student must be sure to train with instructors that will help them overcome a strength disadvantage.  Train with men that are tall, skinny, fat, and short to maximize your training opportunities.

        Mimi Lessos, a professional wrestler who trained with Gene LaBell for 15 years, was interviewed in the September 2002 edition of Black Belt Magazine. She stated that if the techniques that are taught in martial arts classes do not function when an average woman attempts to apply them then they may be wasting their time if they are learning a martial art for self-defense. She states, “women who are training to develop their strength and martial arts techniques need not be overly concerned about losing their femininity.  It is very import to a woman who fights and trains to stay feminine and vulnerable – but know in her heart that she can kick butt. To have both sides – the masculine and the feminine – is very important to women.”

        Kathy Long in the October 2002 edition explores some truths and misconceptions. One of the truths is that women are not as strong as men are.  However, that should not stop women from training in Aikido as it will give them confidence and help them understand what they are capable of.  Women can learn to maximize their potential and overcome their strength handicap.  Many believe that women are too fragile to practice martial arts. Kathy Long indicates that sadly this may be a true statement.  She indicates many women are uncomfortable with their bodies and don’t realize that they possess some strength.  They also believe they can’t train in the martial arts because it is not feminine enough and they are not good enough.  Often girls are raised to be victims by their parents expecting to be taken care of.

        Women also make better students than men.  Men usually have to deal with their ego and have trouble just listening to instructions.  They are so worried about looking good or hitting hard they forget to follow instructions.  It takes men longer to learn a new technique because they watch the instructor demonstrate the technique then say to themselves that they got it.  It takes time for men to settle down and focus on what they have learned.  Women make better students because they do not mind listening, asking questions, and doing the technique the way it was taught.

         The important point of these articles is that women can train in the martial arts and still remain women.  Further, that while it is a good idea for women at the beginning of their training to practice with other women, at some point women must begin training with men.  Unless a woman trains with men, she will never discover how to overcome her physical disadvantage (in most cases).  If she does not train for self-defense, then she has wasted her martial arts training and will be unprepared for an actual confrontation. Further, if a woman does not train in the martial arts she may be perpetuating a victim mentality. I believe that Aikido gives a woman the tools that she needs to help protect herself and still maintain her femininity.