Some religious communities have a standard of “modesty” that requires girls and boys, and men and women, to participate in activities separately. These activities include school, group worship, and even social events such as weddings.
Should self-defense classes be also separated by gender? My answer is most definitely, no.
The reason is that neither the girls nor the boys would benefit from such a separation.
Let’s first take a look at the threats posed to girls and women.
Are they more likely to be mugged by a man or a woman?
Raped by a man or a woman?
Sexually molested by a male relative, or a female relative?
Sure, this is blunt talk, but the purpose of self-defense is to protect yourself from real threats. And like it or not, these threats are real. And they are posed overwhelmingly by boys and men, not girls and women.
Given that, it makes no sense to have girls learn self-defense only with other girls. It will do them little good to prepare for an attack by another girl their size. They need to be able to handle themselves against a boy or man who is bigger and stronger. That means they have to train with boys, so they can get a taste of the real thing.
Doing so would also benefit the boys. We all want boys to control their sex drive, and avoid crossing boundaries and other inappropriate behavior. Well, I have news for you: one of the best ways to get a boy to develop self control is to put him in a sparring situation or other combat drill with a girl who is a skilled fighter. If he gets preoccupied with sexual thoughts, a punch in the head or well-placed kick will remind him to focus on what’s important.
A school that teaches traditional martial arts, teaches real self defense and real personal growth. This is what all our kids – especially our girls – need in order to be prepared for the dangers they will face in life, as well as to conduct themselves as the mature adults we need them to be.