Thursday, 25 June 2009

Women training with men

We have a grading session coming up in July and several people from my class will be grading, including me. So last night Sensei decided to put us all through our paces by assigning us to our grade groups and taking each group through their entire syllabus.

My syllabus for 3rd kyu includes: a striking combination, a kicking combination, 3 katas, a striking combination against a pad, a kicking combination against a pad, demonstrate two defence techniques against a mawashi geri and finally 2 rounds of free sparring.

I would normally pair up with another woman to do partner work, irrespective of grade differences, but as we were in grade groups and the other purple belts are all men I had to partner a man. This made for quite an interesting experience.

With the pad work the men can clearly strike and kick the pad with more power than the women. A year ago I would have found it difficult holding the pad for a man because I found the shock wave you feel going through your body with each strike difficult to tolerate. Last night it wasn't a problem - I must be toughening up!

I also did the self-defence techniques with the men. Here I had to contend with making my techniques work against their greater height and weight. One technique I do involves catching the leg as the kick comes in, elbow strike into the ribs, grab them on the shoulder and sweep the standing leg from under them. I've practiced this many times with female partners and have got the technique to work. But against the taller, heavier men I found it really difficult to grab the shoulder as it seemed so high up and sweeping the leg was much harder - their extra weight seemed to root them to the ground more securely. I think I need to give them a push to unbalance them a bit more first.

But this was a great lesson in how you have to vary the technique to make it work against a variety of opponents. I think we should partner the men more often because firstly it will toughen us up (they show no mercy!), and secondly it makes us work harder to get our techniques to work.

This was a great energetic session that left us all feeling on a high. Roll on the grading...


Man of the West said...

One of the great blessings in martial arts training is to have at least a few partners that are much larger and stronger than you are. In our little group, we have a couple of guys whose wrists are at least a third larger than my own--and I am by no means a small person myself. Learning to make the techniques work against a person of that size is a great confidence builder.

Another great confidence builder is seeing our teacher make those techniques work; he is, literally, something of a skinny, little old man, about 5' 7", 60 years old, with a deteriorating lung condition that leaves him on supplemental oxygen. He cannot muscle his way through a technique, so everything he does validates the old saying that size and strength don't matter. He can make the techniques work on bigger and stronger opponents, so we know that if we will just keep at it, we will be able to do it, too!

Michele said...

Historically, my training partners have been men. There were only a few adult women in the dojo.

When I was preparing for Shodan, my training partner was 6' 2" and 220 lbs. He worked in a steel foundry and his hands and wrists were very strong. During self-defense, he would grab me and say "I want to make sure you can really get out of it". I was lucky to have such a good partner.

Sue C said...

Yes I agree with both of you. The only way learn how to throw a bigger partner is to err.. throw a bigger partner. Now way around it!

Man of the West - your teacher sounds very inspirational. To continue training to such a high level when his health is clearly failing is a true validation of his courage and spirit.

Anonymous said...

You should try to train with as many people as possible due to different body-types: height, weight, flexibility and experience (training takedown-defenses is much more taxing when you're paired with a wrestler than someone who isn't particularly adept at them). This will prepare you to deal with any type of assailant you might possibly encounter and this will help both the effectiveness of your technique and your confidence in general.

Generally MA-techniques (especially those used in self-defense) are designed to work against bigger people: if you can't do them against someone bigger or stronger than than either you're doing it wrong or you need to modify the technique slightly.

With regard to your self-defense technique: I would either catch the leg and step in more while lifting the leg up (forcing him off-balance, this will lower his shoulder or chest to a more appropriate height for you) or you can catch, kick him in the groin (bending him over) and throw. Either way the technique will work, I sometimes forget the standard way might be difficult for some people (I'm pretty tall and fairly strong myself) but with a little inspiration (if you can't hit the face hit the groin or the plexus) and/or some extra advice from your sensei you should be able to make it work too.

While I don't want to scare off or hurt the women training with us I'm against the barbie doll-phenomenon: taking it easier on women and lowering the bar for them to get their belts just to keep them or get more women in the class. This is counterproductive both in the development of self-defense potential in said women and it lowers the general standard for the rest of the class. Either way it's bad for your reputation as a teacher and it'll ruin the good training-atmosphere in the dojo: either the men won't respect the women or they'll resent them because they have to work harder to get to the same destination.

I do think it's great for women to work with men on a regular basis: this may be slightly more difficult (especially in the beginning) but it'll be far better for you in the long run. Training with other women is ok but since an assailant will most likely be male it does makes sense to check whether your techniques actually work on the intended audience or not. I think anyone will agree it's infinitely preferable to find this out in the dojo than in the street with possibly serious consequences.

For men it's fun to work with women and the presence of women can help to keep the level of machismo down. Toughness and efficiency should be top-priorities in the dojo but too much stubborness will most likely result in an aggressive mood and injuries which is the last thing you'd want.



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