Man vs. Woman Karate

Men are larger, stronger and more aggressive. Women can exhibit greater flexibility and agility. What do these differences mean in karate?

There are obvious differences between males and females physically, and nowhere is this more apparent than in combat sports. Men are typically larger, stronger and more aggressive. Women can exhibit greater flexibility and agility. But what do these differences signify in a co-ed dojo?

Differences In Physical Strength

According to this 2005 study in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, men are, on average, both larger and stronger than women. Although this can confer particular advantages athletically, karate is a different case.

The foundation of karate is repetitive, skills-based training. Karate requires intelligence and coordination. It’s a fact that there are no differences in intelligence between men and women. Women also exhibit an equal degree of coordination and agility. Women can, therefore, train in the same fashion as men in karate.

Read more: 9 essential strength benchmarks for men

Do Men Have a Weight Advantage?

Although males are heavier than women on average, this won’t influence how females practice karate. A karate class won’t pit students against each other during sparring in a way that makes weight an advantage. Unlike a wrestling-based discipline like Judo, karate uses skillful kicks, punches and blocks to overcome an opponent.

Many modern karate dojos have done away with sparring altogether and focus on developing focus, physical fitness and athletic ability.

Difference in Focus

While a mixed class full of adult students will typically exhibit the same level of attention and concentration, a children’s class may be different. Pre-pubescent or teenage boys may be more likely to wander, engage in disruptive activity or simply lose interest. A class of young girls will typically be calmer, easier to instruct and demonstrate a longer attention span 1. The advantage, at least when children are involved is definitely with the women.

Read more: How do men and women differ athletically?

Sparring Between Men

In an all male dojo, aggression and a tendency to show off may increase the rate of injury; self-inflicted or done to another student. Men in groups will usually try to establish a pecking order that can create friction. This can make sparring sessions particularly risky.

Away from the moderating influence of women in the class, men may tend to become to rough with each other, causing otherwise avoidable injuries.

The Challenge of Coed Sparring

In a co-ed dojo, men and women can spar with each other. This can have benefits for both sexes as the male is forced to exercise greater control and a woman can enjoy learning how to handle a larger, stronger opponent.

However, there are drawbacks to this approach. A man may feel uncomfortable striking and blocking a female partner. A woman may feel overwhelmed by a very large opponent and be unable to focus on technique and strategy.

An idea may be to mix up the sparring partners so that there are more opportunities for single and mixed-sex sparring. This might help men learn to control their aggression and focus on technique, while women will have more opportunity to practice their skills on the kind of opponent they may face in an actual fight.