Are female martial arts masters as rare as they seem? Or are their numbers proportionate to those of female students? I don’t know the answer, but if I had to guess, here are some of the factors I would consider.
The Strength-Sensitivity Paradox
Paraphrasing Mark Twain, a martial art is something that everyone wants to know, but nobody wants to learn. The learning is arduous, occasionally painful and frequently embarrassing.
Having reached the limit of their endurance, students are sometimes tempted to abandon the principal objective, and start playing to win instead of investing in loss. Practically speaking, this means using strength and speed to “fill in the gaps”, or compensate for inferior technique.
The use of excessive strength and speed interferes with cultivation of sensitivity, precision, coordination and efficiency. But how can this be so, if no martial artist wishes it to be so? Cannot we have our cake whilst eating it too? Therein lies the paradox, or irony, if you will.
Women Learn Faster, But Men Go Further?
I have attended classes where men outnumber women 10-to-1, and I have attended classes where women outnumber men; in both environments, the average female student seemed to absorb and master new material faster than the average male.
I have a few theories to explain this. First, women are relatively less tempted to muscle through poorly executed technique, because they have relatively less muscle to use; thus, the only route to success is through correct technique. Second, women have different expectations and priorities in training; specifically, they are less inclined to mistake the classroom for a no-holds-barred fighting arena, and place less value on the bragging rights acquired by beating other students.
If earning a reputation as “the best female Kempo fighter in town” is roughly equivalent to becoming the hungriest midget in a pie-eating contest, then why even bother?
Despite all this, the male gender holds a trump card: willingness to expend overwhelming effort towards mastery of an impractical skill. Am I right, ladies and gentlemen?