You probably know I’m a writer, but did you know I’m a ninja?
I’m not using the word in the popular sense—as a synonym for awesome or as a generic term for any skilled martial artist. I’m using the word in the literal sense to describe someone who has studied, trained, and earned a master’s rank in the modern evolution of the ancient art of the ninja. Yeah… it’s pretty heady stuff.
The reason I’m sharing this tidbit is because I’m writing a novel that draws on this experience as well as on my multi-cultural heritage. And before you ask… no, it’s not an autobiography. Although my protagonist and I do share quite a bit in common.
We’re both ninja. We both have Norwegian fathers and Chinese mothers, which makes for a richly complex family culture. We both dropped out of prestigious universities, albeit for dramatically different reasons! And we’re both addicted to tea. But mostly, we share this core belief:
Women should feel empowered to pursue their interests, meet their challenges, and overcome their obstacles.
Simple, right? Not always. And not just for women. Many people hit a wall at one point or another where they just don’t feel that empowered. But since the heroine of my novel is a protector of women, I want to share some thoughts specific to the ladies.
The following is an excerpt from a roundtable discussion I did back in 2012 with six senior kunoichi (female ninja), including Rumiko Hayes, the co-founder of To Shin Do Ninjutsu. We were discussing why more girls and women don’t train in the martial arts. I’m sharing it because I think my comments were and continue to be relevant to all women, regardless of their interests or lifestyles—not just sword crazy ones like me!
Sharing the past interview is also my way of posting a Mindful Musing without taking undo time away from my novel writing! Shhh… Don’t tell, but I’m on a roll, and like a ball player on a winning streak, I don’t want to do anything to break the momentum.
So without further ado…
Here are some thoughts on Ninja Girl Power:
TORI ELDRIDGE: I think it might be interesting to consider two questions in regards to why more girls and women don’t train in the martial arts:
- What do girls/women enjoy doing?
- What do girls/women feel prevented from doing?
You see, I think there are many females out there who are brave, committed and athletic but simply would not enjoy the type of physical activity, interaction and environment that we all enjoy in martial arts. And you know what? I think that’s okay.
There are lots of activities that would improve me physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually that I would not enjoy, or at least not enough for me to dedicate my time, efforts and resources. Training to climb Mt. Everest would definitely fit the bill. But, hey…not for me.
While I believe, wholeheartedly, in the benefits of martial arts, I also acknowledge that there are many ways to get from here to there—and that “there” is also a matter of personal perception.
I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with more females participating in dance, cheerleading and gymnastics, and fewer participating in hockey, football, basketball, etc. All of those “more female” activities involve a broad range of body movement, grace and athleticism. They also require grit, courage and commitment. I know because I’ve done all three. Well, truth be told, I didn’t get involved with cheerleading until I coached a varsity team at my son’s high school. (laughs) But hey…I demanded commitment!
My point is that there are activities that females tend to enjoy that still elevate us—and that’s okay. We don’t need to participate in typically male sports to achieve this. I’d also like to add that there is such a strong male presence in dance, cheer and gymnastics, and such a strong female presence in other sports, that I think those stereotypes are already dissolving. Yay for that!
So, I think the more relevant question is not how to turn females away from the things females like to do, but rather how can we make martial arts more inviting for females to consider?
Tori Eldridge holds a fifth degree black belt in To Shin Do (Way of the Heart and the Sword), the contemporary evolution of the ancient art of Ninjutsu founded by Stephen K. Hayes. It has been her great privilege to study, train, and teach these comprehensive strategies for physical and emotional protection.
— Tori Eldridge (@ToriEldridge) August 26, 2015