Last Wednesday was International Women’s Day and the most interesting thing happened the night before. I was just finishing up teaching my Kid’s Muay Thai class with my assistant instructor Shane when I noticed in the corner of my eye that I had a trial for adult Muay Thai. We were just about to bow out for the kid’s class when the gentleman went up to introduce himself to Shane saying that he was trying out Thai today. Shane then redirected him to me informing him that I would be his instructor for class tonight.
This story is pretty common for me. It happens so often that I don’t really think about it anymore. I just take it as part of the job.
I’ve been teaching martial arts since I was 16 years old. When I started, I mostly taught children. Then as I progressed in the arts I started to teach adults then eventually cornering fighters as well. Teaching combat arts to a bunch of alpha men is kind of like jiu-jitsu, simple not easy.
So I did it the old school way. Show them that you know what you are talking about. I have always worked so hard to prove people wrong and eliminate qualifiers next my skills. “Your tough for a girl.” “You’re definitely a female brown belt!” “You kick really hard for a woman.” These are common things that I have heard throughout my martial arts career. So why did I work so hard to prove everyone wrong and show that I know what I’m talking about? I did it because for some reason in martial arts, specifically MMA, male students, and fighters need to feel like their instructor can beat them up in order for what the instructor is saying to be valid. So, I’m a woman so CLEARLY, I cannot beat up any man…
But this sentiment makes no sense to me. It’s not like leverage in jiu-jitsu is gender specific. It’s not like the laws of physics work differently on women versus men. The technique is the technique. My thought process is actually different if I can make these techniques work for me and I’m a woman imagine if I put this knowledge into a 195-pound athletic man.
So that is why I don’t try to go out of my way anymore to prove I know what I’m talking about. That is also why I don’t assume that a man might not want to learn from a 31-year-old woman. I walk on to the mat with confidence now. I know what I know and my job is to share knowledge with people. If they do not want to learn from me because of their own pre-conceived notions that is their loss. I will not add a qualifier to myself. I’m a good instructor.
By the way for those of you who were wondering about the trial that tried out my Thai class, he signed up that night. So I celebrate International Women’s Day every day that I change someone’s mind and get them to not just see me as female, but as a martial artist.