I practiced Tae-Kwon-Do all through my childhood from several different teachers, I currently practice Tai Chi and Kung-fu in my “adult” life.
My dad was one of the black belts that taught me Tae-Kwon-Do. (I was given no special treatment. If anything I was held to higher standards.) I had no fear of the abuse some women experience in dojos because my dad was around, and the people I trained with were excellent. I noticed later as an adult searching for schools that I was suspicious. I had heard of women and kids been taken advantage of in dishonorable schools. A few places locally had been closed down because the owners were perverts or abusive. I was weary of going to a new school; I would be vulnerable. I also felt like an outsider because I was looking for a place to learn the art, not the fighting.
As a woman, it can be difficult to train in a room full of men. Effective learning involves a lot of touching and grabbing. My experiences in past dojo's taught me that it is truly indispensable to have respectful and focused training partners, but these relationships require a tremendous amount of trust. Especially when you are the only woman in the room.
I talked to many people in the martial arts community I trusted. Ultimately, it was the advice of another woman I followed. I do not blame women for being afraid to join a dojo. The only reason I felt safe was from my confidence with prior experiences. I generally knew what to look for.
I learned when I was much smaller a formula that very much disproves the claim that women are at a disadvantage for being smaller with lighter bones than men.
Strength x Speed = Power. This formula is true. www.brianmac.co.uk/power.htm
At the height of my game, I could fight equally with men my height. I had to be careful though, because I could not take a single serious hit. My fighting was based on speed and dodging. Tire them out or hit them with many hits. I played to my strengths.
I have talked with other martial artists who say it is difficult to fight someone small because there is far less of a target to hit. Why do you think swatting a fly is so difficult? Being fast is just as effective as being powerful. You just have to make more hits and learn how to dodge. Strength and mass are just two facets of the whole. People who claim strength and size are the only traits that win a fight do not understand fighting.
A big part of western Martial Arts culture is strictly for the fighting. That is fine, but others train to perfect an art. Perfecting the art perfects the fighting. Many masters do not want to fight after they get to a point. I personally fear the master who has perfected the art over the athlete who trains just to fight. People who train to fight lose their abilities with age and over working the body. Their mind does not grow from personal reflection or wisdom. The Master learns with time that he/she does not need strength. They also learn that they do not need to fight.
Anyone who has thumbed through The Book of Five Rings or The Art of War can tell you skill and strategy are two of many traits important to fighting.
Martial Arts is about learning the basics of an art and exploring your experience within it. There is a reason it is called Martial Arts. Dancing and painting are both arts like Jujitsu and Tai Chi are Martial Arts. We learn the art from our teachers, but the style and finesse are up to us to perfect. My Sifu says that he is giving us a sword; it is our job to sharpen it.
Perhaps it is also our job to find how best we wield it.
The fun of being a Martial Artists is exploring our "Way" after learning the basics. Gender is just one piece of your style, just like your eyesight, temperament, speed, joints, determination, technique, and will are.
To conclude, Martial Arts is about learning the art of yourself. It is practice, discipline, dedication, patients, and self-reflection. Historically men have been influencing it longer than women have, but it is a uniquely human sport. There is no superiority/inferiority of being male or female in Martial Arts. Being male or female affects the style of fighting, but no more than it affects what type of shoe you wear. The shoe can kick just the same, how it kicks though, depends on the Martial Artist you choose to be.
Excellent reading and some very solid points. The world is slowly changing for the better and women like you are at the forefront of this long battle, so keep fighting the good fight!
Lots of respect!!