- How bodies decompose
- Wilderness survival skills
- Mob mentality
- Other cultures
- What it takes for a human to die in a given situation
- Common tropes in your genre
- Average weather for your setting
Yeah, boxing is a bad test example. The “problem” with boxing is that because the strikes are, for the most part, upper body only, men do posses a much greater advantage when it comes to physical strength. Men can develop their upper body much more quickly and much more fully than women can. Whereas female strength develops more quickly in the core muscles and the lower body. They also have a much harder time building up “weightlifter muscles” and an easier time with “runners muscles”. That’s not a medical definition, but I can’t remember the terms right now.
When we look at boxing, even with the wider hips, the natural advantages that females possess just don’t come into play. This is just the way boxing works, for the most part. Add full rotation of the legs like in kickboxing and the field shifts dramatically. Add in joint locking techniques and free standing grappling, it’ll look different again.
The second problem that women face, and this one is much more important, are the psychological blocks they have developed from living in a patriarchal society. The beliefs a woman has about herself will be her biggest barrier to learning how to fight effectively. “I don’t want to hurt anyone, I can’t do that, I’m not a bad person, I’ll get in trouble” etc are all part of mental barriers that come into play when faced with a male (and sometimes even female) opponent.
The differences between men and women on a purely physical level aren’t really that substantial. When we compare their fighting ability on a cultural and psychological one, the difference is enormous.
We see this one come into play a lot with writing, especially with the latest influx of “badass” female heroines. In most of those cases, the character themselves isn’t the reason for their success. The success is based on X, be that their superpowers, their base fighting ability (which is treated as separate from their personality), the way that other characters around them underestimate them on the basis of their size and gender. But none of that actually has anything to do with who they are as a person or how they see the world around them. There’s some extra reason why these girls and women can win that has nothing to do with them, but instead their victories are based in outside forces at work around them and how those forces fuck up.
The expectation is the same in the beginning for many of the female students I’ve taught and it’s something that they have to get over if they’re going to succeed in their training. Mental willingness to go the extra mile and push past the self-imposed mental limits will actually make the difference over base physical strength.
In the article, I wasn’t just talking about perceived physical differences, though they are important, because success in combat is learning how to play to your strengths. But, I was also talking about mental strength and what we believe about ourselves, how we see ourselves, and our capability for success.
When someone goes into a fight against someone else on the belief that they are going to lose merely based on their gender, they will. Now, across the board women aren’t necessarily stronger than men either. That one is going to come down to the individuals in question. The important thing to remember is that they’re just not weaker and that, at least in the mind, begins to level the playing field.
OH MY GOD THEY SAID PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY this is the best blog.
when I did martial arts my sensei [who had a -lot- of experience] said girls tend to have better technique than boys, because to fight someone who is stronger, heavier and has a better reach than you, you have to really use skill and the way they teach you to use the opponent’s moves and weight against them.
This is true, but in some ways only partially so. I had this opinion too, until I stopped and thought about it. But the perception is, and this perception is general, is that the weight is the important factor. Since most martial arts are developed around the idea of making full use of weight, it is in a sense true. Men on average weigh more than women, so they get to coat. However, that’s only half the equation. Ultimately, what it comes down to is physics. Force = mass x acceleration.
Men have the greater mass, but because they do inertia works against them. They’re slower to start and slower to stop, which accounts for the lack of precision in their technique. Women weigh less, but they can accelerate faster and because they lack the problem with inertia, they reset much more quickly. This is where the average female martial artists greater precision comes from. She can start and stop whenever she wants and because she’s lighter. This means she hits slightly less hard but can hit her opponent more times in rapid succession than a man can. (The strength differential is ultimately more minimal). Thus, resulting in greater bodily control. When Starke and I discussed this, I ended up likening the female strengths to the Italian School of Fencing and male ones to the German School. The German School uses the longsword/broadsword for reference where the Italian School uses the light blades: foil, rapier, sabre. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I tell you that women happen to be extremely good at fencing. Both sports will mess up someone’s day, but they do it in different ways. Those differences are actually very important.
Now, in most martial arts, including many of the Japanese ones, you’re not really going to see this come into play unless the female practitioners begin to modify the style for themselves. The reason is that the average martial arts are built to play to male strengths, not female ones. They’re built around making use of the weight advantage, not the speed one. This translates into a general thought process that revolves around women being less proficient combatants because they lack the male advantages (generally taller and heavier) instead of feeding the female ones (lighter body, hits happen in rapid succession, making use of a lower center of gravity).
This is just on the basis of body. It doesn’t touch on the additional problems created by societal gender bias or how that can travel as a sub-component of the martial art and the societal attitudes that surround a martial artist as they are learning. Much of what is considered to be conventional wisdom, isn’t.
For most men, the best thing to do is focus on a “top down” mentality. Focus on building the upper body primarily, with an emphasis on hand techniques and using their greater size to force someone down. For women, I’ve found, the best approach is to focus on “bottom up”, start the student with an increased focus on leg strength, leg placement, hip rotation, and making full use of their lower center of gravity. Build muscle mass with an emphasis on speed. In most styles this will amount to “better technique”, but that’s not quite what’s happening.
My thoughts on the subject anyway and those are based in my martial arts experiences.
othersidhe said: weren’t they mostly used for suicide?
This is one of those great historical ironies. No, they actually weren’t. Much like the Gladiators of Rome, whose matches in the arena rarely ended with death, Samurai didn’t actually commit suicide as regularly as it’s commonly believed they did. There are many different warrior codes in many different cultures across the world, the Code of Chivalry for example also includes a passage on suicide for failure. But the knights weren’t committing suicide left and right for failing, that would be a waste of resources and manpower. The samurai weren’t either.
Here’s why: the period of time when the samurai existed in Japan, there existed a caste system that broke people down into different classes. Peasants were peasants, merchants were merchants, and samurai were samurai. A samurai, for the most part, could only come from the samurai class. Japan has never had an extremely large population, especially not when compared to other countries in the region. China can kill for failure (if they were dumb enough to, they’re not), Japan can’t. They didn’t have the manpower, the options, or the replacement candidates for a samurai to kill himself every time he failed his liege lord. There was a little bit of flexibility, but not much. This is what happened to the Spartans, Spartans were supposed to die in battle and they did. Eventually, the Spartans ran out of Spartans because they were all dying. If samurai were really killing themselves with any regular frequency, Japan would have run out of samurai very quickly. Plus, if this were also true and everyone was behaving the way they were supposed to there would have been no ronin.
The concepts of suicide and the Bushido code we have today come out of the period shortly before WWII, when Japan was reinventing itself. They looked back to the past, to “when they were great” and repeated the same mistake that every culture does when they look back on who they think they are with rose tinted glasses. They readopted the Bushido code, but much more rigidly. The No Failure State was a response to that. The mass suicides that happened during WWII were unique to WWII. However, the concept of No Failure still exists today in Japanese politics.
So, while the wakizashi was used for suicide, that wasn’t it’s primary purpose. It can’t have been. Japan didn’t have enough iron to really waste on two swords that a single samurai wasn’t really doing anything with.
The Gladiator problem is this: it’s inverted. Thumbs up you can kill him, thumbs down, you didn’t perform well enough for him to die. Hollywood screwed it up for dramatic reasons.