The power of art
My daughter started studying her martial art a few weeks before her 6th birthday. As a young one on the mat she was an absolute mighty-mite executing perfect forward and backwards rolls that were the envy of the Dojo. Now entering her 6th year as she turns 11, she has become a mature Aikidoist with a love and appreciation for the art and physical prowess of the sport — and for the confidence, mental discipline and sense of accomplishment it has given her.
As a discipline for young women, Aikido provides a clever alternative for girls to learn an art where size and weight are less an issue that one’s ability to execute well-timed defensive moves that takes advantage of an opponent’s forward momentum to land them on the floor in awkward positions (and the chance to run away from trouble once they’re down on the ground!). Aikido also offers training in weapons to include the “Jo” (long-stick) and the “Bokken” (modeled after a Japanese sword). With such moves Aikidoists become skilled in the defensive possibilities of such weapons and of the adaptive possibilities of broom handles and mega-umbrellas.
Whether it’s boxing, aikido, karate, Tai-Chi or any of the other martial arts, a brief course of study for a young women can offer a taste of the possibilities for personal defense and their own physical power. I know that in my daughter’s case, it has given her a confidence in her physical capabilities that has translated itself into the schoolyard where she can hold her own with the best of them physically and mentally. That’s not to say that she’s ever been in a physical fight, but the mental toughness of her martial art has given her the confidence to walk away from confrontations and the sense of self necessary to keep the mental taunts of the bullies out of her head which can be just as devastating if not more so.
I’ve also watched as other girls and boys for that matter in her Aikido classes and at places like Gleason’s Gym have transformed into clear thinking young people who are cognoscente of their abilities and mindful of the responsibilities of the unique skills they’ve garnered through the disciplined study of a martial art. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but offering the opportunity to young girls in particular means raising a generation of women who will grow-up understanding the possibilities of their own physical prowess.