Brethren not Brothers
By: Brittney Mooney
San Kyu Gi Yu Honbu Dojo
At The Gi Yu Dojo, I walk through the doors on a Tuesday night and look around and see all the great people I am surrounded by. Many are parents there watching and supporting their young children, but once the kids class is over and they go on their way home I look around and see a much different group of people. On the mats there’s a select few of us who are there to challenge our minds and body and what stands out to me, is that I am the only female. I have been with the Gi Yu dojo for a little over a year now and I have seen only three other females come to train. None of them ended up training for long though. I have been told of only one other female who has trained with the Gi Yu dojo for any extended period of time, and she was able to obtain the rank of ShoDan. In a way I feel proud to be the only female there, but it also is very concerning. Every chance I get I try to “recruit” other females to come train and they all have similar responses. “It looks/sounds like it would hurt” or “O that sounds intense I don’t want to learn all of that” and hearing those statements I’m dumb founded. If anything you should want to learn how to fully protect yourself and your loved ones regardless of gender or size. As a female you are more likely to be targeted so it is crucial to at least know basics. Unfortunately you won’t learn those basics by taking a self-defense class once in a while. They need to be practiced daily in order to be effective for those (hopefully) rare instances in which we need to defend ourselves.
On the other side of things, there have been times during training where I feel I am treated differently for being a female. I am a woman, not a porcelain doll. A few of the guys seem to go “easy” on me by pulling attacks or just setting up a throw and not actually completing it. I appreciate the fact that they may not want to hurt me but in the long run they are doing me a serious dis-service. I need to know what it takes to escape an attack or how it feels to take a throw to prepare and condition my body for that crucial (hopefully never) event outside of the four walls of the dojo. I recently tested for my green belt and part of the test is controlled sparring against the black belts (randori). During Randori , I felt that pressure, the pressure to escape. I knew none of the attacking senior students personally would want to hurt me but in that moment there was no friendship between me and the person coming towards me. There was only an attacker trying to do damage. If it wasn’t for training I would have been in a constant state of panic and be completely unable to defend myself. However, because of the last year of being under the guidance of this school, I persevered…a few bruises and all…but a much stronger spirit and sense of purpose.
The Gi Yu dojo is viewed as a “band of brothers” and I would have to agree. However the term brothers should not be meant as the literal gender sense of the word but as brethren meaning fellow members. Women should not feel afraid to learn and grow at the dojo, if anything they should use that fear to motivate themselves to build skills and confidence in a controlled setting to take out into their everyday lives.