Karate: Fighting for empowerment

Karate for girls?

“Not every girl dreams of being a princess” , Jesse Jane McPharland 11 year old Karate student and winner of Britain’s Got Talent

This week we will focused on the art of Karate. It is a martial arts practice created in the Okinawan Islands as a form of self-defense during a time when weapons were banned by invading Japanese forces. The earliest written history of karate in Okinawa was a mention in the late 1700s. 

Near the beginning of the 1900’s permission was granted to end the secrecy for those who wanted to learn martial arts. This helped move Karate to Japan in 1922. Women were not fully accepted into martial arts until much later. In NYC in the 1970’s women only Karate classes were offered with a focus on self-defense. At the time the city was not as safe as it is today and learning self-defense techniques was important for protection but it also helped women become empowered and strong.

In 1970 NYC, Annie Ellman and Nadia Telsey created the Brooklyn Women’s Martial Arts (BWMA)—a women’s dojo teaching karate and self-defense. During the 1970, NYC had a high crime rate and often women felt unsafe. Self defense, especially in women only classes were a great way for women to feel safe in their bodies and their environment. The feminist and anti-violence movement was new at this time and these classes helped women develop skills, strength, and community. Later the BWMA became the Center for Anti-Violence education that today helps provide education and violence prevention programs for individuals and organizations. CAE provides underserved communities throughout the New York metropolitan area with skills to break cycles of violence.

Today more girls are taking Karate not just because they need self defense but instead because it is fun and they feel strong while practicing it. It teaches discipline, breath, stillness and yes self-defense and strength. It is extremely empowering for girls to learn they have power and can control and focus that power.