In a seemingly increasingly violent society, and particularly with some anti-female vitriol being spewed in political contexts, it is more important than ever that girls and young women learn to defend themselves, both physically and emotionally. Studying a martial art can build both capacities and give some peace of mind to the parents of young girls.
The martial arts are renowned for teaching self-defense, but they are also a key component in building a sense of self-worth, an understanding that the person practicing is actually worth defending. In a culture that constantly tells girls and women that they aren’t pretty enough, thin enough, strong enough, smart enough, or attractive enough, it can be difficult for a girl to grow up believing that she is valuable just as she is. Martial arts teach children, girls and boys alike, that all human beings are valuable and are to be respected. While the hope is that the children will never actually have to use martial arts to defend themselves, the practice itself imbues the children with a sense of self-confidence and value that may in itself be a form of protection.
Some parents worry about the physical demands of martial arts for girls. They worry about them practicing or competing with boys, but the result of this practice can be incredibly empowering for the girls. As they develop their skills, they learn that any physical limitations they have can be compensated for through cunning, instinct, and honed skills. In this case, size doesn’t matter.
If there were ever a group of people who needed martial arts training, it’s girls and women. As a society, we should respect and revere them as fellow human beings, not targets or sub-class citizens. Encourage the girls and women in your life to consider a self-defense class or to take up a martial art as a fitness routine that they can continue to build on the rest of their lives.