The only woman in my class

Discussion in 'Women of the Martial Arts (Women Martial Artists)' started by Shadow5, Apr 24, 2018.

  1. Shadow5

    Shadow5 White Belt

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    Hello everyone,

    I've been doing historical fencing for almost two years. Most of the time, I am the only woman in my class and I am starting to think that this might be a problem. I have the feeling to be always treated differently. Some teachers assume I will take more time to learn certain techniques, most of the students are competitive and are in my view slightly dangerous during sparring, especially when they notice i am actually not that bad. Their way to win is to start using brute force. Most of them will actually be offended when I point out that they should be careful with their hits when they're not stricking protected parts of my body (at my level, we only wear gloves and a helmet and teachers mention that you should have control of your sword at all time, bones were already broken during class). On top of that, I can't seem to find protective gear that is right for my size. Even when I go for small sizes, everything is too big and gear for woman is rare.

    I am not sure what is the main issue. I am not doing this sport to try to become the best or anything like that. I like to learn different techniques and I enjoy sparring when it is about using sophisticated techniques and using my brain (and I dislike challenges of strengh). I feel like that the students that are there for the art, and not the competition are scarce and I feel a tad lonely.

    Have any women (or men!) out there felt like me when practicing a martial art? How have you solved the issue? Changed school/sport, found 1-2 sparring partners who come to class for similar reasons as you and stick to them?

    Sometimes I wonder if martial art is really the right type of sport for me. I like to fight, but I don't like to risk of injuries...and the special treatment.
     
  2. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    Our girls have the same problem. Martial arts has these rough edges where you can go too hard or too easy.

    I think you just have to put up with it.
     
  3. Kenposcholar

    Kenposcholar Orange Belt

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    I'm a guy who trained at a predominately female school. The students, many of whom had an anti-male mindset, certainly treated me differently. In the end, it's up to you to continue looking for the right school that fits your niche preferences. Better to spend the time searching for long-term enjoyability than endure the aggravations, in my opinion.
     
  4. kempodisciple

    kempodisciple MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm assuming that you are referring to HEMA when you say historical fencing?

    You can't control the aggression that others are using, unfortunately, but if they are consistently doing this, and react more aggressively when you point it out, to me that would be a sign to leave. Also the broken bones without additional protective gear would be a sign to leave as well.
     
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  5. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

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    That's definitely an ego problem that those students need to work out. Most importantly, where is your instructor during all this??? I'm not saying you're wrong for saying something to the students when they act that way, but your instructor should be shutting that behavior down immediately.

    Have you asked your instructor for any gear recommendations. Try searching other forums for other brands that may fit.

    Training hard and training intelligently aren't mutually exclusive. It sounds like some of the students are doing unintelligent things like striking to unprotected areas. I would ask your instructor to keep a closer eye on practice and intervene when necessary. Though it's not a great sign that he needs to be told this.

    It could be that you might be at the wrong school opposed to not training in the wrong thing.
     
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  6. Headhunter

    Headhunter Senior Master

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    Not really much to say to this you're obviously unhappy there so find another school
     
  7. Hanshi

    Hanshi Orange Belt

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    This does happen too often. One of my best students - she started in her mid 50s and is still going strong at near 80 - would complain to me whenever another, younger student tried to "be easy on her". Now my dojo was pretty tough and we treated women just about the same way we treated the men. This lady I'm refering to wanted to be slammed on the mat in judo, and we did, she did everything I required the younger guys to do, including boxing. Yep, whe got injured a few times but she never, never complained about that.
     
  8. jobo

    jobo Grandmaster

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    This is contradictory! If you want to " fight" you risk injury, if you want to fight and not risk injury you need special treatment, but you don't want that, they may be pleased if you left.

    We have girlS like that, punch them and they start crying, don't punch them and they think your being patronising,
    A knitting circle would suit them better
     
  9. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

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    This is a big YES for me. Not sure if my way is the recommended solution, but what worked for me was to get better with the techniques I trained and to be good enough where I could use my skills to minimize a lot of what you described. The people who were hitting too hard never stopped hitting hard. It was common for me to tell them to ease up and not hit me as if they are fighting a stranger.

    I kept telling them that I spar to learn and not to win. The logic is, that if sparring is too hard then you won't take the necessary risks to learn how to apply techniques. When sparring is too hard then people tend to play it safe. Eventually I got good enough where I could protect myself without much worry, even when my fellow class mates would get wild. When I feel the intensity increase, I remind my classmate to ease up.

    I have a saying. "Never put your safety in the hands of another." Don't count on your classmates to spar with the same perspective that you have. Train hard, get better to where you can start depending on your skill set to keep you where you want to be. But always tell your sparring partner to ease up, never count on them doing it on their own.

    Eventually you'll become even skilled enough to teach them a lesson. In other words if they go hard on you give them the same 2 fold.
     
  10. pgsmith

    pgsmith Master of Arts

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    It sounds to me like it is time to branch out a bit and explore other schools that may be in the area. I agree with others that you need to keep reminding your sparring partners to ease up, but the entirety of your post makes it sound like you are ready to change. Now there's no reason to jump off the bridge, but you should check around and see if there are other schools in your area that might be a better fit.
     
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  11. Buka

    Buka MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Shadow5, welcome to MartialTalk. :)
     
  12. AngryHobbit

    AngryHobbit Senior Master

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    Yup, had that issue at my previous school. I felt like I should walk around with a sandwich board saying "Just throw me! I can take it!" on one side and "I don't want the rank because I am a woman - I want the rank because I am that good" on the other.

    I've also studied and worked in traditionally male-dominated areas throughout my career, so... it's nothing new to me. It's the way it is. I speak out against it. I make a point to bring up the issue without being rude but assertively. I've seen some positive changes over the last 20 years, but it is a very, very slow process.

    Fencing is AWESOME. I am in awe of anyone who takes it on - so kudos to you. If this is what you want to learn - then learn it. Show them you can outclass them, outlast them, outmaneuver them, and their bruised egos are not your problem, especially when you get really good.

    There was an entire class of women in the Ancient Greece called hetaerae. People mistakenly think they were courtesans, but, in reality, they were nothing of the sort. They were the best educated women in the country, their knowledge of science, literature, philosophy, and languages often surpassing that of male scholars and statesmen. Another thing common among the hetaerae was to be competent in at least two traditionally male sports (horseback riding, running, swimming, knife fighting, etc.) - competent at the level to surpass male Olympians. That is the philosophy I adopted when training or working in what is considered to be a man's domain - I know I can get just as good or better, and I just go for it.
     
  13. Ryan_

    Ryan_ Green Belt

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    I know my instructor as well as my last instructor have recommended Blitz for equipment. I'm sure they would have some female protective gear.
    I haven't felt like you in any classes but I did change school, and I found that I enjoy the new school due to different techniques and more focused on locks than strikes.
     
  14. Dirty Dog

    Dirty Dog MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    What kind of historical fencing? What specific weapons and blade types are you using? Fencing is any sword fighting for points. Fencing with a greatsword, a longsword or a rapier are vastly different things. I've done all of these, though I am far, far more experienced with rapier combat.

    OK, first off... Any weapons based sparring (other than 'boffer' weapons) that requires only gloves and a helmet is, frankly, idiotic. Without additional protective gear it cannot be done in a historically accurate way with anything resembling historically accurate weapons and techniques while remaining safe.

    However, gear considerations aside, brute force is a valid tactic in weapons sparring.

    You can't have it both ways. If you're engaging in any martial arts training, injuries happen. And you really can't complain about people using their strength while at the same time claiming you don't want special treatment.
     
  15. kravmaga1

    kravmaga1 Yellow Belt

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    Keep faith in yourself, and keep on learning until you are becoming good in it.
     
  16. Headhunter

    Headhunter Senior Master

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    Well this is over a year old so by now and not come on since they've either quit or stayed but won't see this lol
     

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