Martial Arts for Women: Where to Begin?

If you’re a woman and looking into martial arts, chances are you’re interested in self-defense and a good workout. Good for you. So where do you go? How do you choose which martial art to begin with? How do you choose an instructor? And what can you expect when you start? All good questions. Let’s get some answers.

Fortunately for women, the martial arts in Western culture have expanded in their acceptance of women in the arts. It’s very common for women to participate in all forms of martial arts, including previously male-dominated arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Most instructors are males, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get an instructor who knows how to train women (and there are some differences!). Check out studios before you decide which to join: sit in on a class and observe the instructor. Look for respect in the students (means the instructor deserves it), and look for patience and expertise in the instructor. If there are already women in the class, chances are you’ve found a good one.

When you are choosing which martial art you want to practice, you really need to ask yourself a hard question: why am I really doing this? If your answer is that you want a demanding workout to be in absolutely the best shape of your life, you may want to consider a different path. Martial arts are much, much more than just a physical expression of strength and physical control. The arts are about self-discipline, understanding an opponent, building your own character, and becoming a better person. If those things fall somewhere on your list of why you might want to do martial arts, then keep reading.

Self-defense is an honorable reason to learn martial arts. Hopefully (and this is true for the majority of those who practice), you’ll never need the techniques you learn in class. But having the knowledge and ability to execute a self-defense move that could save your life or someone else’s instills a level of self-confidence you just can’t get from a cross-fit class.

So you’re committed to doing this. Now you have to decide which art to focus on, at least in the beginning. Not sure you want to be thrown around just yet? Consider starting with something like Tae Kwon Do, Wing Chun kung fu, or Aikido. You’ll learn self-defense, self-discipline, and how to diffuse negative physical energy coming at you. And what’s really cool is that Wing Chun kung fu was named after the young woman who used it to get rid of a marriage proposal she didn’t like! Try one of these styles of martial arts for a challenging entry into the practice.

Of course, if you want to get right into the hard-core fighting, you have plenty of options. We already mentioned BJJ, but there’s also Muay Thai kickboxing (there’s your workout). You’ll want to make sure your instructors are certified, as there are many out there who teach combinations involving kickboxing and grappling without staying true to BJJ or Muay Thai.

Your options are limited only by your own desires. Choose an instructor, choose an art, and become the martial artist you dream of being.