I just read an article about why it can be intimidating for people to go to the gym. The main gist of it was that people concerned that they don’t look fit enough or hot enough to work out in front of others. Particularly those of the opposite sex. There is also some fear of trying to go in and use equipment you are unfamiliar with and either making a fool of yourself or actually injuring yourself because you don’t know how to use it properly.
Thinking about this makes me feel gratitude for my own situation. My martial arts classes include both men and women but there are none of those concerns. First off, we all dress in uniform and a not so flattering one at that which is a good thing. It is designed to allow for freedom of movement and not show off any body parts as the clothes are pretty loose. This I’m sure is no accident. This helps everyone stay focused on the class and not on one another. Probably more of an issue at beginner level where you may have some students come in that do not realize that the kung fu taught at my school is all about focusing on the practice itself.
So I can walk into a room where I am occasionally the only woman in the class, and not worry about any of that. I don’t think they see me as “a woman” per se as much as they see me as just another person there for similar reasons to their own. I don’t have to worry about what I look like which is very freeing. I also don’t have to worry about using any complex equipment – other than trying to get my own body to do what I ask of it! 🙂
We also either always have my teacher in the room or another instructor who will make a correction if you are doing something wrong particularly if it could result in injury. So no worries there.
When it comes to things like sparring, I like the fact that I don’t feel like my male counterparts make allowances based on my gender. I would hate to be in a class where I felt I was being given special compensation or condescended to based on the fact that I am a woman.
This may not be everyone’s experience in their martial arts school but if your class is all about flirting, big egos or if you find that your instructor or classmates patronize you because you are female, then you might want to take a walk and find yourself another school quickly because it doesn’t have to be that way.
The truth is you will never find me at a gym. It is not my thing at all. I signed once many years ago and it is one of the very few things I ever signed up for that I didn’t pursue. My martial arts training gives me a great workout. I am sweaty, exhausted and often feel great after a good, hard class. It helps train flexiblity, coordination, strength, balance, endurance, cardio, focus, awareness and so forth. I don’t need more than that and I certainly don’t need the extra baggage of worrying about if I look good in my work out attire.
Now, I’m sorry ladies if some of you who love the gym disagree. That is fine and I encourage you to speak up if you do! After all, if we all thought identically what a boring world this would be.
Granted, some women gravitate towards all female classes to avoid some of these issues. But I still won’t be joining the gym. The mental training, the personal growth aspects coupled with the physical benefits of my martial arts practice is simply unmatched by any other activity that I’ve tried.
So, I’m not really saying one is better than the other because we are all different and. I suppose what it really comes down to what you are really looking to get out of it. I will say this though, for me my martial arts classes will get my vote every time, hands down.
Originally published November 21, 2008