The obvious and most important reason for a girl to get involved in the martial arts is the capacity for self-defense that she will develop. In today’s increasingly violent world, crime can strike anywhere. Women are often times the target of sex crimes and, not knowing how to defend themselves, it can scar a young girl for her entire life. Being able to know how to defend herself is an invaluable tool as she grows up, taking her skills with her to college, and it gives not only her but also her parents a feeling that at least their daughter is safe.
The martial arts give girls the means by which to develop high self-esteem and self-confidence. In the martial arts, everyone is valued as an individual for not only their actions but also their personality. As girls grow into their pre-teen and teenage years, there’s a multitude of issues that come with that development. Girls growing into their bodies are subject to female bullying, clique contests and the like and so many begin to feel worthless or confused and may even venture into esteem-based diseases such as bulimia and anorexia.
The martial arts promote students by belt rank with achievement, and as girls watch themselves become promoted and valued for their rank, their self-esteem and self-confidence rises, making them less vulnerable to peer attacks.
The martial arts helps girls achieve balance in their lives. Instead of becoming nasty and gossip queens to hide their issues or their frustrations about themselves or others, martial arts schools offer a safe place to exert frustrations on punching bags and gives students a cathartic and physical release of negative emotions. Conversely, such exercise increases endorphins and puts girls in a more positive mood about themselves and others.
The martial arts help girls to focus on what’s important in their lives. While many may become caught up in make-up, fashionable clothes, and false friends that come and go, those in the martial arts tend to be more goal-oriented and self-motivated to achieve in academics and focus in the classroom and on homework. As an instructor myself, I have seen many students with severe cases of ADD and ADHD be trained to focus and achieve well. Since martial arts promotion depends on how well a student works to achieve a certain performance standard on forms, kicks, and sparring, a student must put effort into their training and focus on new techniques being taught in order to be promoted, and encouragement paves the way.
The martial arts ingrains respect for all people into young girls. Just as instructors respect students, senior belts respect junior belts and junior belts respect senior belts and instructors, it is an atmosphere of mutual respect regardless. Girls feel valued for their contributions and in turn value the people around them including peers and parents, setting a positive example and helping them to develop into respectful young women.
The martial arts promote gender equality to a great extent. Both males and females can be martial artists. Girls do the same exercises as male students in the karate school, they fight the same way, and many times girls can see that they do movements as well as the boys, further encouraging self-respect and the very visible understanding that women are not limited due to their gender.
Martial arts give girls a safe and comfortable place to interact with the opposite sex. As girls hit their preteen and teen years, the opposite sex begins to appeal to them but often times they don’t really know how to approach guys as friends first. Since martial arts are generally male-dominated sports, girls growing up have the opportunity to interact with guys on a first hand basis several times a week and develop friendships. It teaches girls to relate with their male counterparts and it shows them that no one is invincible-they watch boys get knocked down in sparring matches and help them up. Interactions with the opposite sex at a budding age where there is no pressure to date and males are friends establishes a solid foundation for building positive male-female relationships in the future that lead to healthier dating habits. How likely is it that a black belt teenager will put up with abuse (verbal or physical) in a relationship knowing that she has the power to render someone unconscious.
The martial arts give girls a support group. While in school girls may have a few close friends for sure, many shyer girls don’t have a whole lot of friends at all as they choose not to interact. With the martial arts, you have no choice but to interact, doing drills and fighting sparring matches with other students. Friendships form and cliques are rare as everyone participates in common experiences, and girls feel confident and accepted.
Martial arts support an attitude of perseverance that serves a girl well in daily life. Some kicks and forms may be difficult to learn, but there are always instructors available to help encourage students. When fighting, girls learn that if they get knocked down, they don’t cry and give up, rather, they get up and keep fighting. This attitude manifests itself into everyday decisions and girls in martial arts tend to stay at their tasks until they are completed rather than just simply giving up if the going gets hard.
Lastly, but also very importantly, is the fact that martial arts is a great physical workout for girls. Karate is a sport that builds strength, speed, stamina, and endurance in girls, keeping them physically fit and in great shape, a fact which helps establish a positive personal image and further promotes confidence in school and in life in general.
By Sidda Hollen