Who Says Women Can’t Fight

When I started teaching fifteen years ago, my school was mainly comprised of teenage girls. In fact, six of my very first seven students were female, (see blog essay “A Brief School History Part 1 – The First Seven,” June 2006).

Since one of my main training partners when I was a student myself was a woman (my teacher’s daughter), I had no reservations about teaching these young ladies. I certainly did not have any concerns about whether women belonged in the martial arts or not. The fact is, I welcomed the opportunity to teach them, especially because I feel women have more of a need to learn life-protection skills than most men do.

Over the years, I’ve read numerous articles debating whether women belong in the martial arts, whether they can compete with men, and the pros and cons of men training with women. I assume that those that believe women have no place training in the martial arts don’t realize that there have been many notable women warriors throughout history. Even the creation of the art of Wing Chun is credited to a woman named Yim Wing Chun (Beautiful Springtime).

I, for one, have never understood these debates. So when I teach women, I teach them exactly like I teach the men. I give them no preferential treatment, and I expect them to perform techniques just like the men do. No “Dojo Bunnies” are allowed.

While the argument that men are physically stronger on average is true, my experience has shown me that women compensate by becoming more technically oriented. This doesn’t mean that any woman could go toe to toe with any man in a fight, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance either. All factors being equal, I don’t see why a woman can’t beat a man.

In fact, I know a few women martial artists I wouldn’t want to fight with, and that I would be extremely happy to see coming to my aid in a real a street fight. To be perfectly honest, I was once saved from being thrown off the top of a water tower by my female police partner: she grabbed the suspect’s testicles and pinned him to the ground without ever losing her grip. Now that is technique over brawn. I bet the bad guy is still singing soprano to this day.

Well, for anyone who thinks women can’t fight, or shouldn’t be martial artists, I’m posting this video clip featuring Mixed Martial Arts fighter Satoko Shinashi.

This is one tuff looking little powerhouse. That’s not a sexist statement either. Satoko Shinashi is 4-11 and about 105 pounds. That’s pretty tiny. However, though small in stature this Sambo/Jujutsu stylist has amassed quite a fighting record.

Bronze Medal – 2000 World Sambo Championships (-48kg)

Silver Medal – 2001 Asia Sambo Championship

Gold Medal – All Japan Brazilian Jujutsu Championships

MMA record – 13-1-1

Semi-professional MMA record – 11-0-0

What’s really impressive in this video happens during the last few second, when she makes a much larger male opponent tap out by using an arm bar. It’s clearly a David versus Goliath match, and while I haven’t been able to find out why the fight took place or what specific rules they fought under, it shows a woman can, at times, beat a man.

Now, I’m not saying that Satoko Shinashi is the best woman fighter out there. I’m certain there are plenty of others. What I liked about the video is her technical ability, and the power she demonstrates executing her techniques. Clearly, she is a martial artist.

Certainly, this video shows that women can fight, and I’m sure as female MMA matches gain more acceptance, it wont be long until we witness a number of cross-gender fights.

Sugino, Yoshio – Martial Arts Legend

Sugino, Yoshio (12/12/1904 to 06/13/1998)

While I never had the opportunity to train with this man, or see him live in action, from everything I’ve read, or heard about from others, his skill in the Japanese martial arts was legendary.

Besides his 10th Dan Hanshi ranking in Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, during his 75 years of training Sugino Sensei also attained rankings in Judo, Kendo (under Master Shingai Saneatsu, one of the initiators of the kendo reform), Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, and Yoshinki Ryu Jujutsu.

He is also known for being the fight choreographer of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” as well as many of Kurosawa’s later movies. In addition, he was one of Toshiro Mifune’s primary marital arts instructors.

For years I’ve known that there was a video available in which Sugino Sensei demonstrates various forms of Iaijutsu and Naginata. He completed this film when he was 90 years old.

Available at Mugendo Budogu for $49.95

However, while I knew the video existed, the price has always been more than I could justify. And, to be honest, I was never sure what I would actually get for my money.

Well, while checking out some of the videos posted on Youtube.com, I came across the below movie clip which shows Sugino Sensei in action.

http://youtube.com/v/tN6FYoGCvBo

His technique is flawless. Watching the movie clip, I can see why so many people speak so highly of his technical abilities. It is also really refreshing to witness Iaijutsu as opposed to Iaido.

Now, I’m the first to admit I have a strong predisposition when it comes to my opinion of Iaido. For the most part, I don’t believe that Iaido—the way it is presented to the public and propagated today—resembles the actual swordsmanship employed by the Samurai. That is, I do not think that the way Iaido has developed since the Meiji Restoration reflects how samurai used swords prior to the reign of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Given my baises, I found this movie clip very refreshing since Sugino Sensei does not do any kneeling draws from seiza (sitting posture). The emphasis on draws from seiza is one of my biggest issues with modern day Iaido, and one of the main reasons I feel Iaido as taught today is not traditional swordsmanship. (For more info on this debate, see this thread.)

Sugino Sensei draw his sword from tatehiza (iaigoshi — kneeling posture). To be honest, this makes a lot more historical sense than draws made from seiza do. In addition. Sugino Sensei does not perform any overly broad cutting motions or large elliptical movements, two elements often seen in modern Iaido forms.

In fact, in contrast to many Iaido forms I’ve seen, Sugino Sensei’s forms look a lot more like real swordsmanship. The movements are short, crisp and to the point. There is no wasted motion and there are no overly extended body parts. His movements are swift, controlled, and absolutely precise—just like a true swordsman should be.

While I’m not sure I’m ready to invest $50.00 to buy Sugino Sensei’s video I will reconsider that option. Until then however, I hope more video clips of this legend are posted on the Internet.

Video of a Younger Don Angier

As an interlude among all the dense theory, I wanted to link to this old video of Don Angier. This seems apropos; Mr. Angier has been an inspiration for Gary to improve his understanding of aiki principles. In many cases Mr. Angier provided a new way of looking at things or a new vocabulary to use.

http://youtube.com/v/QvWiYcxTm2A

This video is truly sublime.

When I have seen Mr. Angier do techniques in recent years, he looks quite different. He has refined his art to a degree that he can now be barely seen to move—ironically, his technique is so good that it now makes for a poor video.

This was put up on YouTube by a former student of Mr. Angier’s, Richard Elias of Yoshida-Ha Bujutsu. I highly recommend all of the other videos he has posted as well.