Sunday, April 8, 2012

Can Girls Learn Martial Arts?

Teaching martial arts to a child is not unusual; in fact, it is a common practice. However, when I asked my uncles to teach me, my desire was met with laughter. Being seven years old was not the obstacle. I had forgotten the obstacle that in my culture was insurmountable.  I had forgotten that I was a girl. 
Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim age 13
Girls did not learn the martial arts. I was told it is the place of women to learn to cook and sew. Why? Simply because for centuries it had always been that way. No, that was silly; they wouldn’t teach me. I should look forward to growing up, getting married, and having twelve sons. But, somehow, to me that didn’t make sense. The desire in my heart was constant, as was my persistent asking. Finally my uncles relented, confident that when I experienced the difficulty and bruises I would surely give up.

Every morning, every day, I practiced. The work was hard and the bruises were many. But, to my uncles’ surprise, I didn’t give up. To their further bewilderment, I progressed. 

As I grew in my martial art, the difficulties I encountered were enormous. Difficulty not in the art itself, but in the resistance I encountered from people’s belief that a woman couldn’t do it and, furthermore, shouldn’t be able to do it.  I had to wear slacks to hide the bruises so the other children wouldn’t laugh at me. My family was convinced there was surely something wrong with me. Proud of my accomplishments if I were a boy, they regarded me as one who had brought shame on them. Still, I felt I had to be true to something deeper within myself. I had a burning desire to be the best martial artist I could possibly be. But because my desire was controversial for oriental culture, I was simply dismissed as someone who was unbalanced.

However, a year later, at the age of eight, I discovered that not everyone thought I was crazy. A martial arts master recognized and acknowledged my desire by accepting me as his student. I was extremely fortunate, for this gifted master trained me in unusual and unique ways.

For many years I trained with him in the nearby mountains. here, I learned things that opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed. Year upon year passed as I began to understand the deeper teachings and secrets of martial arts that would eventually define what I now teach today.

by Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim - teacher, author, and master instructor

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