My teenaged daughter punched and kicked another human being while I looked on, pleased. Though generally averse to violence, I enjoyed this demonstration of toughness. It was all tightly controlled and ritualistic, the way karate always is, and she’s still a beginner, but the sparring match gave me hope that with enough training my child will have the means to defend herself against a real-life attacker who doesn’t follow the rules of the dojo.
Consider this story in the local paper today. A woman, jogging in the park, minding her own business, was attacked by a knife-wielding man. She fought back, and when her screams drew a good Samaritan to the scene, the assailant ran off. No analysis is required. Having the skills and the courage to defend yourself is a tremendous advantage in life.
The human species has an unfortunate design flaw: the males, who have the greater size and strength, are also the ones most inclined to assault and victimize others. Imagine how the course of human history would have differed if women were stronger or men were nicer. And now, being a strong, aggressive young man doesn’t mean you can hunt and provide food for your family, but it does mean you can attack 55-year-old women in the park. (Don’t jump all over me. I’m just reporting the facts. I know that most young men do not attack women in parks. And no, I don’t hate men. Some of my best friends are men.)
The reality of the size/strength/aggression disparity leaves women in a position of conscious and continuous vulnerability. A man can go jogging in a city park without a second thought. A woman will always have the big red flashing danger sign in her head. It’s stressful and it forces women to restrict their activities to certain places at certain hours.
Taking karate classes does not eliminate the danger, and in addition to self-defense skills, my daughter’s sensei teaches the students not to take foolish risks. But no amount of caution can make you perfectly safe. I want Tig to walk (or jog) without fear, with a confident manner that proclaims “not a victim.” I hope she never has to fight for real, but girls should learn how.