5 Advantages of Training with a Female Martial Arts Instructor

10 Advantages of Training with a Female Martial Arts InstructorFor some reason, a lot of people think that because I am a female martial arts instructor that my students would probably be mostly women. This is far from the truth. The reality is that my division of men to women is pretty much the same as it is in most martial arts schools, with more men than women training. People train for all sorts of reasons, but many of my students, both men and women, look at training under a female instructor as beneficial to their learning. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Less Macho Training Environment. One of the reasons many people are hesitant to take up martial arts training is because they are worried that there will be too many people who train with a macho attitude using the dojo as their own personal proving ground. They worry that this kind of environment would make the social element unappealing, and the training environment potentially dangerous as people take out their personal baggage on unsuspecting partners. With a female instructor running the show, a class is less likely to attract people with macho attitudes because they’re usually men and those types of men don’t usually have any interest training with a woman making assumptions that they wouldn’t get what they want out of it learning from a woman.

2. Greater Opportunities for Technical Development. Usually women are smaller than the people they train with in the martial arts, being a male dominant environment. As a result, they often have to learn to be that much more technical, in order to be faster, more agile, more accurate, more efficient to be able to apply techniques on bigger, stronger partners. If the woman has stuck out their training over the long term, they’ll often have developed greater technique out of necessity, and they pass on this knowledge to their students.

3. More Creative Self-defense Tactics. We all know that people are more likely to face an attacker that is bigger/stronger than us when it comes to “the street.” Aggressors usually target people they think they can take, usually pitting their size against that of their victim’s. Because women are usually much smaller than the majority of their training partners in the martial arts, they are more likely to come up with lots of little “tricks” that help them make their self-defense tactics more effective. Women who stick with their training often learn to utilize a “whatever it takes” mentality, helping them to see and seize more opportunities when they practise self-defense applications. This is especially notable when you see them do higher stress activities like self-defense circles. Anyone who watches someone who is good at this can easily take something away from it and learn from their example.

4. More Communicative Environment. Many people find that it’s easier to communicate with female instructors than with male ones, often finding them more approachable, more encouraging, and easier to learn from. There is scientific research supporting this line of thought. A recent communication study conducted by Manchester University gave findings that indicated that women have better command of  language, using less words to communicate the same points effectively. It also found that they are far more likely to make more genuine-sounding compliments.

5. Better Leadership. In a recent Zenger Folman study, the results of which were featured on, women outscored men in all but one of the 16 leadership competences studied. Though there were more men in the study, the women were seen as better leaders at every level. According to the study, women build better teams, are more liked and respected as leaders, tend to be able to combine intuitive and logical thinking more seamlessly, are more aware of the implications of the their own and others’ actions, and think more accurately about the resources needed to accomplish a given outcome.

Of course, just because an instructor is a man does not mean that they cannot have all these benefits too. This article is just trying to point out some of the unique ways that women develop as martial artists and how these can benefit their students. Each instructor should be evaluated for their own unique talents and abilities.

Have you ever trained under a female instructor? If so, what advantages did you see from a student’s perspective?

Comments (12)

12 thoughts on “5 Advantages of Training with a Female Martial Arts Instructor

  1. I can’t say I have really experienced training under a female sensei (the one exception being a seminar on kali that was partly lead by a woman, she wasn’t better or worse than the other instructors) but I suppose the gender doesn’t matter as long as the instructor knows his/her stuff. The result of that study was a bit surprising though: women needing to use less words to say the same thing than men, are you sure? (lol) But seriously now: there will be good and bad teachers of both genders so it’s not because the instructor is a woman that the class will automatically be good. It’s been my experience that if you pay attention and open your mind you can learn from almost anyone: some instructors simply are great teachers, some are great fighters, some are much better at a specialized area than others… I’d probably find it difficult at first to relate to the way a woman would teach since I’m much taller, heavier and stronger than women so my body type would be completely different than hers but I’m sure I could take ideas away from the experience.

    I think one explanation might be that since martial arts do tend to be a more or less male activity so women who make it and especially those who achieve instructor status probably had to work harder than their male counterparts so it stands to reason they’ll generally be good although I can’t really comment on that for lack of experience. As to that study on leadership: I don’t consider one study to be ‘proof’ of anything, especially in the social sciences that are mostly centered on interpretation and opinion anyway. It all depends on how the questions are phrased and in sociology and the like there are way too many studies (and schools of thought) contradicting each other. What is especially annoying is the general lack of an explanation that actually holds water: just describing phenomena is necessary but not really science as it’s generally understood.


    PS: could you elaborate on your point of women generally being more creative when it comes to self-defense? It’d be interesting to see some examples of that (preferably in a video-format).

    1. As to the point about women being more creative, when things aren’t going as expected, men seem to be more likely to resort to using brute strength in an all-or-nothing effort when the chips are down. Because the brute strength method often will not work form women against a bigger, stronger attacker, they often learn to look for opportunities that will make their escape more efficient, like finding a space in which they could fit a hand to do a nasty attack to a vulnerable target. That’s not to say I haven’t seen smaller stature men learn the same type of creativity, but because women are generally smaller and weaker they are presented with more opportunities to develop this skill. Thanks for commenting Zara!

      1. Good explanation, although it stands to reason the martial arts (especially those that focus primarely on self-defense) would naturally employ the strategy of attacking weak points combined with superior body movement to gain the upper hand and this should always be the focus and the goal of practice. When I train I always presume I’m up against a stronger guy and if I feel I have to muscle my way through I know I made a mistake somewhere along the way. In fact it’s one of the chief criteria for profiency in the martial arts: do the techniques flow naturally or not and is technique used instead of pure force? I’ve seen this in all the truly good teachers I’ve met so far: they all have a certain flow and ease about them and they never rely on strength alone. It’s certainly possible that a woman would develop this quality quicker (in a way it’s even logical) but I still maintain that those men who employ strength or superior physique to gain the upper hand are not true martial artists but brawlers or beginners in the art, at least one may hope they’ve not been doing it for too long. When you’ve been training for a couple of years and you’re still forcing it it’s clear you’re not up to speed as to the principles of the art. I found this principle is pretty universal too: wether it is boxing, thaiboxing, JKD, kali… They all use superior body movement and technique to negate brute force.

        The first reaction to any attack should always be evasion or body shifting (depending on the type of attack) and swift, accurate attacks to vital points. In my opinion this truly is the essence of self-defense: use the element of suprise (as you’ve mentioned above people will generally only attack you when they think they’ve got the upper hand), protect yourself against whatever it is he’s trying to do and strike back asap. Locks and throws and the like are not even necessary (or perhaps even undesirable except in specific circumstances): just damage or at the very least distract him and run like hell.

        I’m training for my black belt atm (hopefully my training partner will stick with it this time and not divorce from his wife like the last one, lol) and especially in training with and against weapons this is quite evident: the aim is not to defeat him but to escape and the longer you’re entangled with him the more chance he (or a friend of his) has of seriously hurting you. Of course for the test I’m obligated to show technical variety and ‘complete defense’ (ending with tori on the ground) and since my main aim in this is not to let my sensei down I will prepare thoroughly but when it comes down to it I’d rather do reflex and freestyle/live training but I’m trying to find the balance between the two. For now I only get to train twice a week but I’m trying to make the most of it, to complement this I plan on doing some running and swimming since the test is going to be tough. Next week I’m planning on some light sparring: unfortunately my uke is not that experienced (which means losing quite a lot of time explaining how to receive techniques) but I’ll have to make do. I could try sparring my sensei but the last couple of times I found the experience not that pleasant: he’s just so much better than me and I don’t feel I’m learning anything but how it feels like to get hit but I’ll ask him for some pointers next time.

        If you and/or Chris have any additional pointers on preparation for the shodan test I’ll be happy to hear it. Technically I’m pretty much set, I just have to decide on a practice program combined with endurance training as mentioned before.

        1. It sounds like you’re preparing well for your grading. Try interval running as part of your fitness preparation, which I talked a little about in Running Workouts for Martial Artists. Here are a number of articles I’ve written pertaining to belt tests if you’re interested.

          The only other thing I would suggest is doing visualization training as part of your preparation. Basically just visualize yourself going through every technique. This is helpful when you aren’t able to train as often as you would like, serving to reinforce the techniques in your minds.

          I hope this helps. Good luck!

  2. Very good points. I understand what you mean even though I am not a woman.haha

    But you covered all the bases with this article and I like how you mention the technical part of Martial Arts. Many Instructors have forgotten this. I am still very young but have a place of training where I teach and my biggest thing is the macho thing. I have been quick to lower the egos in the gym because right now all I have is all guys and one girl. Thank you for the information!

  3. Personally I feel you’re pretty off here. I don’t know why you wrote this article, but it seems to be coming from a biased point of view, rather than being objective.

    In your first point you’re right, most “macho men” don’t want to train under a female instructor.

    However under your second point I believe you’re way off. No instructor in any art worth talking to relies on his strength and size. Any good instructor would teach you to rely on technique, speed, and accuracy over strength.

    In point 3 you’re still working under the assumption that all men are big and strong and can easily force their way through fights, and don’t care for using techniques or developing new techniques strategies etc. There’s always someone bigger, and any real martial artist trains technique. Not just strength.

    Point 4 and 5 shouldn’t even be considered valid. It all varies between person to person. I’ve had female instructors (Masters in multiple arts no less) who were great and easy to talk to, and some who were very difficult to approach and no one really wanted to talk to outside of what was necessary. I’ve had male masters the same way. Some were great, open, and easy to spend all day talking to. Others were very unapproachable.

    The same thing goes for the leadership thing. It all varies person to person. It is rather shortsighted to say that one gender can lead better than another. It depends on the person. I don’t really think a survey would be credible in this way unless you were able to count the majority of leaders in the world, which is probably pretty hard/impossible to do.

    I’ll close on this, I think everyone is biased in regards to their gender. And I’m sure you’ve had to take a lot of shit being a female instructor in the world of martial arts. But I also feel that being in that position you should stay above all this gender war business and look at it completely objectively.

    Basically, as a male martial artist, I found this article to be very degrading and insulting to me, my fellow male classmates, and my Masters and instructors.

    1. Thank you for your comments Bryan. I know this will sound like an excuse, but it is the truth. I had written a paragraph at the end about these qualities not necessarily being exclusive to female instructors etc, but when I went to the blog post it was missing. It is possible that I had multiple windows open at the time I was writing it and accidentally posted the version I had written before I had added that paragraph. I went ahead and added it back in for what it’s worth. I meant no offence in the writing, and it was certainly not meant as a “gender war” thing. It was just intended to show highlight some of the ways women can add to the martial arts world as instructors because they are often undervalued in the industry. I apologize for the absence of that integral paragraph.

    2. Hi Bryan,

      I have to echo Lori on this. Her original post did have a paragraph about these points not being exclusive to female instructors, I recall it quite clearly.

      Just so you understand the writing process here, Lori and I draft our articles and then let the other edit it, give points, etc. I probably would have been taken aback, being a larger male instructor myself, if that paragraph had been missing. And I can see that without that paragraph how the article would certainly come across as being a bit of an attack against men instructors. But I assure you, it was in her original draft.

      I suspect what happened is in the editing process, (WordPress allows multiple editors), something happened and the end got truncated. It’s likely my fault, as I use a desktop editor to make my changes, and if someone is editing a piece online, it can lead to weirdness. I think thats what happened here.

      I suspect you might be a new reader, since anyone who’s read many of her previous posts will note that Lori Sensei has a very open mind and does not take extreme views. I would suggest reading a few of her other articles and perhaps in that context, when added with the snafu in the publishing of this article, you might find that your conclusions on her views are a little off target.

  4. Sex does not matter in martial arts. Either you can transmit the information or you can not. There are zero advantages to training with a female sensei.

    1. Sex on its own does not matter, but size certainly does. And most women are smaller than men and have to have better technique. Of course, if they cannot transmit the information it doesn’t help. But if the person doesn’t even know how to make a technique work for a smaller individual, then it doesn’t matter how well they transmit the information, because the information itself is lacking.

  5. Lori you brought sex into it. Sex means nothing. A lot of men weigh 120lbs I train with small guys and I train with a lot of women who out weigh the guys including me at 156lbs. To say most women are smaller than men is crazy. SHORTER perhaps but every hour of ecery day i see women who weigh more than me. you’re so lucky to live in a city with all these skinny fit girls. i want to move there 🙂

    Maybe you mean it is an advantage to train with a smaller/light-weight?

    PS how much do you weigh?
    PPS are you sexist?

    1. Joe, you are clearly training in an exceptional place that clearly doesn’t fit the norm. It’s a fact that men on the majority aren’t just larger, but stronger. Even a man and woman who’s weight is nearly the same, (or even when the man is smaller), the man is stronger because proportionally he has more muscle. That just the standard anatomical make up of the sexes. Guys have more muscles, women have more fat. Hunter/gatherer vs. child bearing. The wonders of evolution.

      I’ve trained in a couple of different styles, and I can tell you, on the majority, (there are always exceptions), stronger guys take longer to really learn the technical aspects of things like throws and locks, when they have the option to simply muscle through it. Physically weaker people, both men and women, but generally it’s the women who are physically weaker statically, learn techniques faster, because they must, in order to have success with the technique.

      I’m sort of wondering if you bothered to finish the article while making a claim of sexism though. She pretty clearly ends the piece by saying these aren’t exclusive traits to female instructors, it just develops more naturally in female instructors due to need.

      “Of course, just because an instructor is a man does not mean that they cannot have all these benefits too. This article is just trying to point out some of the unique ways that women develop as martial artists and how these can benefit their students. Each instructor should be evaluated for their own unique talents and abilities.”

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