Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Girl Power

I've always found it mildly irritating when girls come to train kung fu and they use the fact that they're female to sort of train halfway. You know the giggly, oh I'm embarrassed, sweat? what's that? kind of thing. I've never been a super girly girl, and always fairly sporty, so I never got that whole mentality. Of course we are all self conscious our first time out, but for some girls the silliness never goes away though the girls eventually do.

Last night, however, I felt like a dumb girl for the first time. L2 is like going back to those first days of L1 where everyone is intimidatingly better than you. But it's not quite the same because you do know a little bit, plus you know the people there and have a few newbies taking the ride the same time as you. My last class however, we were learning a strike, a pretty rudimentary straight punch, and I just couldn't seem to get it.

Training is a lot of kicking, and we don't do that many strikes in L1. Or if we do they're attached to a kick or stance. I was just very conscious of the fact that I did not know how to punch properly and I felt very conspicuous over in the back watching myself in the mirror. I felt, well, like a silly girl who's never punched someone unless you count the time I punched a boy on the playground when I was 12. Instead of giggling and giving up though, I got angry at myself for being so dumb and focused harder on our drill. I don't think I was looking like Muhammad Ali by the end there, but I think it definitely looked better than at the beginning.

So now I have a little more sympathy for the so called "silly girls" who feel lost when doing something new to them. And while kung fu has helped obliterate a lot of my painful self consciousness, I got a reminder that there is still plenty left to get over, but will get over if I just keep focusing on my goal. Plus, it's ok to be girly; we smell better.


  1. You bring up a really good point/question that I've been thinking about ever since I started training.

    It's always been interesting to me how so few women train at the temple. Is it because the men are intimidating? Or is the training too physically demanding? Or is it some sort of early age you-must-play-with-barbie brainwashing? So they feel silly and out of place if they do something physical. Just like how men get incredibly uncomfortable in emotional/vulnerable situations, especially if it involves tears.

    How is the balance of men-to-women ratio in L2? Is it more or less equal? I mean, the last few times I've seen the demo team, they have been mostly women. So what does that mean? That eventually, women will stick with training longer than the men?

    Maybe it's how each individual is taught how to handle adversity? Or maybe it's something evolutionary?
    Or maybe I should stop thinking about weird questions while going down the line and concentrate on my movements and kicks.


    btw, the Spice Girls are H-O-T!!

  2. the spice girls were hot...have you seen posh spice lately? yucky!

  3. Leo,

    I think the reason why there are more women than men in level 2 class is because women and men train for very different reasons generally. Women train there because either 1. They want to keep fit or 2. They like the spiritual side of the workout. Men train there because 1. They want to learn how to fight or 2. They want to be Jet Li.

    Level 1 is an equal playing field for both sexes since everybody is all kind of new to Shaolin kung fu. However by the time both sexes make it to level 2, the women are continued to be satisfied because its the same sort of workout with the same spiritual connotation to it. However, the men are not satisfied because there is no fighting and also obviously Jet Li is a practitioner of Wushu not Shaolin (very different styles). The men begin to realize this and move on to pursue other martial arts. I've known students who went into kickboxing or wushu which I believe really says why people leave.

    My two cents....

  4. I don't know if we can make generalizations about the training style/motivations of an entire gender; but in very broad terms I think you are on the right track. As a girl I think it is harder to come to temple initially because girls are usually more reserved when it comes to being physically extroverted in public. Also yes I think guys are generally more agressive and so kung fu appeals to them so more guys show up in the first place. So the percentage is skewed from the get-go. But I think when you talk about retention you can't make any hard and fast rules. Really there are only 3 girls on the demo team and I think four guys; you just don't see them as much.

    Still, like I said, after the initial beginning of training, I think personal life issues become the driving factors in how much one trains and aren't gender specific.

  5. Anything new you learn can be intimidating. Everyone's different. People might express it in different ways. Some people might express in frustration or others in embarrasment, other even others in anger. Is there a generalization of those emotions between genders?