Women in the Martial Arts

I decide to add a page for women (and their friends) as we get so many enquiries from women. Most enquiries to date have been related to finding good martial art and kickboxing clubs to train with. There are thousands of martial art clubs in the UK now, but not all seem to welcome women. So how do you find the right one for you?

Finding clubs:
1) Check with your local library - the reference section will often have addresses of local martial art and sports clubs
2) Read the yellow pages, more clubs are starting to advertise now
3) Visit or phone your local sports and community centres
4) Ask friends and family
5) Obviously, you are already checking the internet.....

Finding a selection of local clubs, offering a selection of martial arts, will be probably be easy (unless you live somewhere remote) - the tricky thing is picking the right one for you. Not all styles of martial art / types of club / instructors will be right for you. some may not treat you (or anyone else for that matter) with respect / appropriate care / appropriate attitude.

So, what then?

First, decide what you want from martial arts training:
Do you want to improve your fitness?
Are you mainly interested in self-defence?
Do you want to try something new and meet new people?
Are you looking for a weekly activity? or a way of life?
Do you want to enter competitions and/or test for higher ranks in a system?
Do you have other reasons for trying out martial arts?

When you know why you want to do it, you'll be in a better position to decide which art(s) to try.

Styles of martial art
There are literally thousands of different styles of martial art available, and they can be sub-divided in many ways, e.g.
1) those who wear uniforms versus those who do not
2) those who insist that students 'grade' versus those who do not
3) those who claim that their art is the ultimate form of self-defence versus those with more common sense
4) those who insist that students enter competitions versus those who do not
5) those who consider themselves 'traditional' versus those who consider themselves more modern or non-traditional
6) those who insist you train with them and only them versus those who accept your right to find out what suits you best

Female savateurs in action!

Names you may hear:
Boxing - a combat sport most people have heard of
Kickboxing - mainly sport, various types available including Savate (french), Muay Thai (thai!), American (based usually on karate)
- filipino art, involving empty-hand and weapon training
Arnis - filipino art, see Kali
Escrima - filipino art, see Kali
Combat Sombo
- russian military fighting art, emphasizing strikes, throws, holds, locks and more
Sombo Wrestling - the sporting version of Sombo, emphasizing throws, not unlike judo
Wrestling - many types from different countries, including freestyle, Greco-Roman and many others
Jeet Kune Do - Bruce Lee's interpretation of the way forward in martial arts
Jun Fan - see Jeet Kune Do (Jun Fan was Bruce Lee's chinese name)
Kung Fu - chinese martial arts - many types including Wing Chun, Wushu, Shaolin and hundreds more
Silat - a family of martial arts from the far east - indonesia, philippines, malaya......
Karate - japanese empty-hand systems, emphasizing striking skills
Judo - japanese sport, emphasizing throws and holds
Aikido - japanese, traditional art, emphasizing locks and throws
Ju-jitsu - japanese traditional art, including strikes, locks, throws, and sometimes grappling
Hapkido - korean martial art, emphasizing locking and striking
Taekwondo - korean martial art emphasizing kicking
Tang Soo Do - korean martial art, a bit like Taekwondo


Good Instructors
Will respect you, encourage you and guide you towards your goal.

Other women students
If you want an idea of how a woman will get on in a particular martial arts club or style, see what proportion of students are female, and how long they have been training. Do women stay? Do they progress? Are they happy with their classes? How do they get on with the instructors? Are there any female instructors?


Some people use the terms martial art and self-defence interchangeably. BUT, they are not the same thing. In self-defence, you may use some physical skills that you have learnt in the martial arts or other situations (fighting with brothers, sisters or friends, playground or street fighting, close-quarter combat or military training), however, the emphasis of self-defence should be using awareness and forward-planning to avoid risky situations. Good self-defence instructors will also cover training in assertive communication, body language, and personal space, as well as legal issues.

Governing bodies
Some martial arts have Governing Bodies in this country, some of these are recognised by the Sports Council, some are not. Just because an art/or martial art club is not recognised by the Sports Council does not mean it is bad - it simply may not have enough members yet for recognition. Just because an art/or martial art club is recognized by the Sports Council does not mean it is good for you or your purposes - you have to use your common sense and trust your instincts. Just because a group chooses to call itself the 'whatever Governing Body', doesn't guarantee that it actually is a recognised governing body, you'd have to check that with the Sports Council! (Some groups have really impressive names, like 'world council' or 'global federation', but there's really nobody who can verify that kind of claim).

What to do if you're not sure
Ask if you can watch a class
Speak to the students before or after a class
Ask some questions
Find out if you can do a short trial before committing yourself to long-term membership/buying uniforms or equipment
Trust your instincts
Persuade a friend to go with you at first, or at least to come and watch your first few classes
If you have any doubts, leave - there are many more classes you can try

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