I have been practicing martial arts since I was seven years old, which makes this my thirteenth year as a martial artist. When people hear that I am a martial artist, the top three questions I’m always asked are, “Can you beat up a guy?”, “I shouldn’t start trouble with you then, should I?”, and my personal favorite, “Can you do something to me to prove that you can fight?” Knowing that they mean well, I answer them. I always say I don’t beat people up just because I can. I don’t fight, I defend myself if I have to. And no, I will not do anything to anyone because I do not hurt people for the sake of proving a point. They almost always seem to think I’m boring for not giving them the answers that they want. The truth is, they probably do not know what true martial arts is.
The practice of martial arts is defined as various sports or skills that originated as forms of self-defense or attack. Sadly, only part of this is true. While it is accurate that various skills taught by martial arts instructors today originated from ancient forms of self-defense and discipline, it is not accurate to call those disciplines a “sport”. A sport is an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. While there may be countless martial arts schools of varying styles that compete against one another for the sake of a trophy and entertainment, it is still not something that someone truly practicing the martial way should aspire to accomplish.
My martial arts teacher always says that, “Ninety percent of martial arts is mental, not physical.” What he means by this is that in order to maintain control of your body, both your mind and your willpower must be strong and balanced. This can be achieved through years of practicing meditation along with one’s physical training. Meditation brings calmness to one’s mind, allowing them to become less stressed in their daily lives. This translates to calmness within the body when sparring, which is important because being overwhelmed by fear or anger is counterproductive to one’s practice. Those who are truly dedicated carry meditation into their everyday lives, making their practice authentic. This transforms these individuals into healthy, balanced and calm people. They do not stir up trouble, make matters worse by arguing or fighting, or let their ego blind them. Once this state of mind is achieved, it is hard to go back and look at how others go about their lives in their often stressful ways, let alone understand the reasoning behind it all.
As a young woman, I am always around other women of varying personalities. There are shy women, outgoing women, straight-forward women, passionate women, and many others. There is nothing wrong with being different. If everyone was the same, there would be no unique people. There are, however, some women I do not understand. I do not understand those who gossip and slander others with their friends, start fights because they don’t agree with someone or sever ties with people because they do not share the same opinion. I see these young girls who are my age and wonder if they are truly happy and proud to have such a lifestyle that they think is normal for every girl to have.
Many women have popular sayings and mottos. They say “If you can’t handle my attitude and the way I talk to you, you can leave,” or, “a strong man can handle a strong woman, but a weak man will say she has an attitude,” and my personal favorite is, “I don’t have an attitude problem, you just can’t handle my personality.” These quotes are supposed to be inspirational and encourage women to keep being themselves, but when I read these, all I see is a load of irrationality and excuses for one’s behavior. Perhaps some will say that I do not understand certain perspectives because I have grown up with a particular mindset to guide me, therefore I am in the wrong to point out other women’s behavior because I cannot empathize with them. Perhaps they will say that I am wrong to suggest that women are more emotional because that is considered a stereotypical view on gender. Because I have a mindset that was acquired through years of practice and patience, I can see things clearly without having my emotions get out of hand. Granted, there are times where I cry or feel upset, but I do not let it control how I act or how I can potentially effect others. Others can also transition to the open mindset of a martial artist, to be in control and balanced, but it does take time and desire. However, those who do recognize that they are in need of change and try their best to improve themselves no matter how arduous the transition may be, these are the ones who turn out to be the best and most respectable kinds of people.
Now that the mindset of a true or aspiring martial artist is explained, I can move on to the physical aspect of martial arts. When people find out I am a martial artist, both men and women ask if I do MMA or kickboxing like Ronda Rousey. They wonder how many knock-outs I’ve scored and if I’ve ever broken a guy’s nose because looked at me the wrong way. They do not know this, but it saddens me that this is what some people see as martial arts. All the public seems to find appealing is the entertainment in watching two people beat each other up into a bloody pulp until one becomes the unconscious loser while the other becomes the ego-driven winner.
My practice of physical self-defense is not classified as fighting. I do not train for the purpose of fighting others, but rather to stop the fight. Unlike professional MMA female fighters, who I am sure are physically capable of amazing things, I do not train to one day purposely use my skills against another fellow martial artist. I train so that one day I could use my training to preserve my life, God forbid it shall ever come down to that.
My training does keep me strong and healthy in the aspect of exercise, but it is so much more. Women who train along side me push their physical and mental boundaries every day they train, improving themselves one step at a time. Their confidence is continuously building as they advance past their personal obstacles and train along with men, who sometimes find it difficult to keep up with the women. Sparring sessions are not separated by gender, but everyone treats each other like a brother or sister in the martial way, so instead of beating up one another, they help each other improve their weaknesses. The only opponent that matters is ones self. Women who practice martial arts see things differently than the average woman. They are capable of defending themselves yet are not cage fighters. They have control over their lives and emotions due to hours of meditation and physical training. Confidence is boosted for those who had none to begin with, and even though women are smaller than men, they can still hold their own when using techniques that don’t require strength, but require agility, wit and leverage. The path of a martial artist has so much to offer women. It is up to them if they choose to be a spectator, a fighter or a disciple in the martial way.