Women who participate in martial arts report that the sport makes them feel stronger, safer, more confident, and more effective at work.
That’s according to a recent study of more than 400 female martial artists across Australia, conducted by the charity Pink Belt Project.
95 per cent of respondents to the survey reported they had experienced improvements to their mental health, as well as improved confidence and self-esteem as a result of their training in martial arts.
93 per cent said they experienced moderate or high improvement to feeling and safe and secure, while 78 per cent of women said they believed their martial arts training would help to reduce the risk of harm to themselves in the event of physical confrontation.
Most of the women who responded to the survey also said they performed better at work, were more likely to be able concentrate, and had improved their leadership skills.
Kristy Hitchens, the founder of Pink Belt Australia, said the study validates the work being done by the charity to offer martial arts scholarships to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Since 2019, the Pink Belt Project has provided 64 scholarships to women around Australia to provide them with access to 12 months of classes in martial arts.
“There is evidence to show women trained in self-defence and/or martial arts have an enhanced ability to recognise abusive or threatening behaviour and will also confidently express their boundaries,” Hitchens told Women’s Agenda.
Hitchens also says there are some outdated ideas about the sport, particularly that it encourages violence, rather than preventing it. She also wants to see martial arts shift away from being a sport that is so male dominated.
“40 per cent of my survey respondents reported having only male instructors. While just 10 per cent had only female instructors,” she explains. “The most commonly recorded suggestion for improving their martial arts experience was having more women participate.”
Hitchens would encourage women of all ages to give martial arts a chance, even if they feel hesitant.
“Many women feel hesitant to engage in physical activities like kicking, punching or shouting a ‘kyup’ because it’s just not something they have ever done before,” she said.
“It might feel outside your comfort zone but trust the experience of all the women across Australia who contributed to this survey,” she said.