Note :

As someone who totally lacked self-confidence in my early years, studying Kenpo Karate changed my life. Apart from it being a very enjoyable sport, and also very good for self-confidence, it is very useful as a self-defence art.

Fintan Lynch,

Women in Karate

by Misty Jensen, 3rd Degree Black Belt AKKI

I had just started karate as the first girl, ever, in the junior class, and it was time to spar. I remember getting up to face one of the orange belt boys. He looked a little nervous. That was OK, because I knew exactly what to do. Id seen boxing on TV, after all, and whoever knocked the other one out first won. Right? It took my instructor, the only other female in the school, only a few seconds after "Begin!" to jump in immediately to break us apart, or rather pull me away from the boy who was backing up frantically, trying to reconcile the rule to never hit a girl with the fact that one was charging him at the moment. After an explanation on what control was, I was ready to start again, but he wasn't. His reason? Embarrassed, he bit out the frustrated statement in a whisper directed at our instructor, just loud enough for me to overhear, "But, where am I supposed to hit her?"

Women in the martial arts face different challenges than men, but also enjoy a unique set of advantages. Kenpo Karate is an art that has long been considered rough and brutal, a man's domain. Yet', it possesses less well-known qualities that have a lot to offer to even the least physically active or timid woman.

Defending yourself against any of the increasing list of crimes against women is the obvious benefit. I, on the other hand, have never used my twelve years of experience to foil one mugger or beat off a single attacker. Yet, Kenpo has helped me develop a confidence that benefits me every day.

In a book I recently read, the author made a statement that demonstrated very well one of the integral differences between men and women. He wrote, "Ask a man you know, "When is the last time you were concerned or afraid that another person would harm you?" Many man cannot recall an incident within years. Ask a woman the same question and most will give you a recent example or say, "Last night," "Today," or even "'Everyday."I

So many women enroll in karate schools to gain the confidence they lack, the one that eliminates the fear and the ability of others to physically intimidate or manipulate them in their daily life. So how come it doesn't always work? What about the black belt lady you heard about that got beat up, whose karate didn't help her at all. What if you're in karate now 3 but doubt it would really work against some of these tough guys you've seen. Besides, you are always paired up with another lady, and the two of you attempt your own version of a fighting art that seems to somehow lack the deadly effectiveness of the guys practicing next to you. That's O.K., you're told, women will never be able to hit as hard or as effectively as men, they're just built different, that's all.

Anyone who believes that hasn't been hit by some of the women training in the A.K.K.I. The secret to their success lies, first, in a very effective system of self-defense and instructors that are capable of teaching it. The second key comes from the student and her ability to communicate and get the most benefit out of the system, her instructor, and fellow students.

First, the system of Kenpo Karate has a lot to offer women. To start, its underlying understanding of fundamental principles makes it an extremely effective fighting system. This art is refined and sophisticated to an even greater degree in the elite group taught by Mr. Paul Mills. From personal experience, I've seen the tremendous increase in power his teachings can develop, regardless of sex. His. are the only teachings that I've found in twelve years of studying and 'investigating various systems that could give me complete confidence in my abilities to harm, not just halt, an opponent of any size.

D e Becker, Gavin. the Gift of fear: Survival Skills that Protect Us From Violence. New

York: little, Brown, 1997

Not only is Kenpo extremely effective, but it has another unique quality: the principle of tailoring. Female students who take advantage of this principle find themselves benefiting a great deal more than those who don't. Women are built different. We're smaller and not as strong. But these and other factors can be used to our benefit. Being smaller presents less of a target area. A smaller mass is easier to set into motion and speed comes easier. Smaller weapons can be used to maximize the pinpoint effect. A bullet is also small in mass, but deadly just the same. The grumbling complaint about the gals' bony fists and elbows and how much they hurt is a common one among Kenpo schools. When these and other elements are taken into consideration, the art of Kenpo can be tailored and altered to be just as effective for women as well as men. Not only should the instructor suggest alternatives to take into account a woman's strengths and weaknesses, but the student herself, as her knowledge of motion increases, should analyze what she's doing to find new methods of execution and discover what works best for her. Enforcing conformity to a style that was originally designed for men to execute, will only handicap a woman's ability to develop into an effective martial artist.

Communication is the second most vital key to a woman's success in the martial arts and absolutely necessary on the subject of contact. Learning to hit and getting hit are two of the greatest benefits of the martial arts.

The first takes more time for some than others. It isn't uncommon for a lady to think that she'd never be strong enough to physically injure a man. The only way to develop the confidence that it is possible is by actually doing it. Once you've learned a basic or technique, there is no substitute for executing it many times over on as many different workout partners as possible. If you aren't given that opportunity, ask for it! The only way I've developed the confidence to generate the power that I have is by working the techniques on as many guys as I can get to stand still for me. We always have an open communication and they let me know when I should increase my power, have hit it right on, or have hit too hard. You can't reach the top levels without this experience, and lots of it.

The second, getting hit, is just as vital as the first. It is something most women have some fear of, but once they gain experience in the controlled atmosphere of a good karate school, it isn't difficult to overcome that fear. Schools that allow no contact are severely limiting the growth of their students. It isn't uncommon for panic or fear to freeze a woman when she is hit for the first time. Having this happen in the controlled atmosphere of the studio is a learning experience. On the street, it can be fatal. Again communication is vital, or you can't learn. There is a limit to what a woman's body can take. You can't expect to let the men hit you as hard as they do each other. Taking an injury out of too much pride and a desire to be 'just as tough' as the men is as stupid as never having contact at all. There is a happy medium where you will grow in experience, train your body, and increase your confidence until it can eliminate any fears you started with. The key is communication between you, your instructor, and your workout partners. Sometimes it is up to you to take the initiative and ask to work with a variety of partners. Don't limit yourself to one partner, male or female. Communicate with your fellow students. If they don't hit you at all, explain the 'safe areas for them to hit, and ask them to. When they hit with about the right force, let them know they've got it right. By working with you, they are also learning to refine varying degrees of control and targeting. If you're getting hit too hard or in a vulnerable target, you have to speak up. If you've chosen a school with a good teaching atmosphere among the students and instructor, all of this should be encouraged and-cause no problems whatsoever. If it does talk to the instructor, try to work something out, or change schools.

Injuries, barring accidents, in the studio are completely uncalled for. They disrupt a students training schedule, disrupt the easy friendship a school should have, and will drive away students who decide, completely within reason, that they don't have to put up with that kind of treatment. Controlled contact, however, is what you're looking for in a school, and is the only way that a female martial artist will develop the knowledge that she can face any physical threat with confidence.

There is not only a definite place for women in the martial arts, but also the potential to develop their skills as fully as any other student. The complete confidence in my abilities and elimination of fear are only a couple of the benefits the years of training have given me, and can give to any woman who is willing to dedicate the time to learn the same. Kenpo Karate obviously has many advantages to offer, but there's a key one that keeps me coming back. When you're able to execute your skills with a precision and explosiveness that's completely exhilarating you'll know why I love Kenpo. It's fun! Lots of fun!


Women in Karate

By Misty Jensen, 3rd Degree Black Belt