How Being A Girl In Martial Arts Made Me A Better Woman

For a long period of my life, I participated in the traditional Korean martial art, Taekwondo. Through the years of Taekwondo I learned many things. From respect, to the exact angle a roundhouse kick should be. I learned how your arms can burn after 10 minutes in pushup position and the pain that’s inflicted by accidentally hitting yourself in the skull with a metal nun chuck. After years of training I ended my martial arts career with a high second degree black belt and a reservoir of knowledge I would carry with me for the remainder of my adult life. Twelve years passed while I perfected my blocks and deepened my stances, as I faced struggles in the sport whose solutions grew me not only as a person but as a woman.

Taekwondo to this day remains a male dominated sport, gender being a physical limitation as well as a mental one. While my adored instructors never insinuated that gender was a shortcoming at times it felt impossible to adequately compete with the guys in the class. Being one of the few girls in a high level taekwondo class was a blessing in disguise, I realize now as an adult woman. Growing up doing taekwondo I was never aware of the obstacles I would face in regard to my gender in my normal life. I was raised running alongside boys, I was trained side by side with boys who were expected the same as I, I was offered the same rewards and penalties as members of the opposite gender. These equality tactics conditioned me to expect nothing less in the real world. Now in college, I realize that this discipline and these expectations transfer. I don’t expect tailored treatment and I don’t expect to be handed something without working for it, yet I also know that I am just as capable as anyone else of meeting goals. My confidence and work ethic as a human and a woman benefitted from my childhood years of working to keep up with my Taekwondo peers.

            It seems cliché that an organized sport could have bettered me to such a degree but regardless, my years in martial arts have transformed that way I live my life. When I retired from my Taekwondo career I thanked the opportunity for keeping my body in shape and my mind and memory sharp, never did I think I would be thanking the experience for helping me battle the patriarchy faced in America. Not for a moment have I allowed myself to feel lesser in the face of a man, simply because I was never made to feel that way. Certainly I faced individuals that challenged this idea, yet this seemed to encourage me to push myself harder to disprove this characterization of society even more. The primary lesson I learned through these years is that female empowerment needs to start young.

            Little girls need to be reminded that they can do anything their male peers can. Limits should not be set and their confidence should be nurtured in the sense that they are just as capable as anyone else. Gender norms should be abolished in households, in classes and extra-curricular activities. Teach young girls that although they will have to work, while they will need to fight, it’s completely plausible for them to succeed regardless of their gender. The seed of feminism needs to be planted early in order to empower young girls and young boys to rejoice in the prospect of equality.