The Hirakawa Guide to Understanding Woman

Understand that in the very traditional ryuha we are taught social, personal and physical interaction between the sexes. In modern western culture it is "politically incorrect" to even notice a difference between the sexes, let alone interact with the opposite sex. It seems everywhere you go there are groups insisting at once that there is absolutely no difference between man and woman, and also that woman should be afforded deferential treatment because they are different. The alarming tendency to ignore the differences between man and woman is a symptom of a broken society and to ignore those differences in the dojo is an almost certain invitation to disaster.

I am going to paraphrase this and do some interpretation for you, since I learned this in Japanese under a different cultural bias.

First, Understanding

If you (man or woman) have ever said "you cannot understand a woman(man) so do not even try" (or some similar foolish catch-phrase) then you are correct. No, that is not a typographical error; the quickest way to ensure a lack of understanding is to deny the possibility. Trust me, this type of thought process IS nonsense.

If there is to be any understanding at all it must be between individuals. This is without regard to sex, or race, or creed. Classifying groups of people and lumping individuals together based upon a single characteristic is simply muddy and unclear thinking - slipshod and haphazard.

If you wish to understand a woman, understand the person. If you wish to understand a man, understand the person. Until you get past this hurdle you will never understand anyone.

Second, Acknowledgement

Men and women are different. This is a fact, get over it. All the rhetoric in the world cannot change this. Adapt your teaching methods and adapt your style to suit this indisputable fact.

  • Men have larger bone structure overall and tend toward greater physical stature; women are generally smaller and lighter. Go take a look at the most heavily built up bodybuilders in the world, male and female. At the absolute peak of bulk and muscular development the woman is still smaller than the man (I chose Iris Kyle and Ronnie Coleman).
  • Men are built for much more powerful short-term exertion while women are capable of much longer endurance.
  • Women have wider and flatter hips than men; this is to accommodate childbirth and as a result a woman's stances will be both wider and more shallow than a man of comparable height.
  • A woman's center of balance is lower than a man's; typically a man's center of balance is 2 inches below the navel (or, the point where a line through the spinal column and a line through the points of the hip crosses). That same point on a woman is generally 4-5 inches below the navel. This is also because of the differences in the hip girdle, and for this reason a woman is very well suited for spinning or turning techniques that a man struggles with.
  • But the biggest difference is that of perception, which will be the next point.

Third, Perception

A man looks at the world. All of a man's primary evaluation falls mostly upon the eyes and then the ears. This is how a man perceives the world. A woman feels the world; her primary evaluation is based upon the sense of touch.

Don't believe me? Well then what does a man say when he goes on the defensive? That is right: "what are you looking at? You looking at me? You looking at my girl? Keep your eyes to yourself!". Tell me I am wrong.

What is the first thing a woman says? How does "keep away from me! Don't touch me! Back off, buddy! Keep your hands to yourself!" sound? Slightly familiar?

By now you are asking "Why does this matter?"

The first day a man spends in the dojo starts with looking, seeing you and your training, evaluating that he is not being threatened and from that point on anything goes. Touching, grabbing, punching, throwing, it is all good. Bring it on!

A woman is in a slightly different position. Not only is touching a primary way of evaluating the world, but it is also a primary sexual stimulus for a woman. No matter what she sees or hears, whenever you touch her you are committing an act of intimacy and right or wrong a woman is going to feel vulnerable.

A woman is not "timid" or "weak" or "lacking self-confidence"; each and every time you or another student touches her she is facing a primal fear. "Primal" means "built-in, instinctive, cannot do anything about it, not going to go away, cannot be ignored" and simply saying "get over it" will not do.

Your female students must build a level of comfort and trust each and every time they train with someone new, or are shown a new technique that involves physical contact, or reach a higher level of training.

It is your job as sensei to provide the foundation upon which that trust is built, and you cannot ever misuse or violate that trust. Nor can you allow those who work under you to do so. How you do this is entirely up to you, but do it you must.

As an example and from my own life: There are women and (girl children) who are in my life on a personal basis. Hugs (and jumping on my back, and plowing into me at full speed from a dead run, and hanging on my arms) are a normal occurrence. Although harmless, I do not allow this behavior when I visit the dojo where they train; not because I "do not like them anymore" or because I am embarassed by them, but because other female students who do not understand our relationship outside the dojo may be made uncomfortable.

Consider this.