Here is an interesting article about five hurdles most women must get over in order to learn fighting. It is written by Duchess Elina of Beckenham of the Society For Creative Anachronism. She is talking about fighting with swords, maces, shields and armor--but everything she says is brilliant anyway:
I can be hit, in fun: 90% of the times men have been hit have been in team building, camaraderie and fun. 90% of the time females have been hit have been in discipline or as a shock. Discipline as a child was associated to shame, even if it did not hurt, we cried, because we were ashamed, we had done wrong. So, he and she go to the field, he gets hit and says “Wow, a new game!” she gets hit and says “I’ve done something wrong."
As you can see this kind of thinking is just as important for men to consider because anyone can unconsciously "hook in" to a conditioned gender pattern that will hold someone back. (hat tip to: Chiron)
UPDATE: The website I originally linked to is down, which is unfortunate because there was other good stuff there. If anyone knows where it went, let me know. Until then I'm posting the entire article below, enjoy:
by Duchess Elina of Beckenham
Men and women think differently, we react differently, we have been conditioned differently in a prejudiced world. How can we expect men and women then to approach fighting the same with the same training and style?
I have found five hurdles that most women must overcome before they are on the same playing field that the male counterpart is. Because of the differences society has exposed us to, men, in general, do not experience these hurdles and may have some difficulty in even seeing them at all. For those gentlemen who wish to understand but do not have the reference, look at the stunned faces of the women reading this and you will see that it does make sense to her. Take it on faith, the hurdles are there, even if you have never experienced them. For the ladies who have been fighting for many years and have overcome these hurdles in the distant past, you may not recognise them for what they are. I firmly believe that I could teach someone in two years what it took me 12 to learn in trial and error. For those who were raised in a nontraditional fashion, without corporal punishment, possess a different sexual orientation or any outlook contrary to the established "norm", you are not immune to the effects of these hurdles. These conditionings were imprinted between the ages of 1 and 6 by parents, church, friends, day care, school, TV, commercials, public and so on. Even if your parents brought you up to believe one thing, "society" made up over 90% of the conditioning in your life and believe me, it imprinted.
That early conditioning is left behind in what I call the Lizard Brain. It's the reptile in us, the one that never forgets. It is concerned with only the basic needs in life and does not think about cause and effect. To the Lizard Brain, things just are, and it learned how the world worked by the time you were 6, and nothing has really changed. The saying "Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten" is true. For those of us who are interested in changing the world, we must change the way we think first. Fortunately, the Lizard Brain can be overcome, with practice and understanding. To do this, however, you must understand what the Lizard is thinking if you are to overcome it's prejudices
Briefly they are:
1) Getting out on the field: Women spend on the average 7 times longer, getting the armor together than men. No matter how much help they receive, they will not go to the field until the battle between the ears is won. We have been conditioned to believe that boys do not compete with girls, (Look at the cartoons targeted at children--when boys and girls play together a boy always jumps up at the end and says "I win!". When is the last time you saw a girl play "Rock'em Sock'em Robots"?. Even the competitive sports teams are segregated in school.) There are dozens of examples, but let's face it this is a message that we have been bombarded with. So, when they are ready to believe that they can compete with men, in a male dominated sport, then they will go to the field, not before. Trainers can help overcome this by tackling the problem (competing in a male sport) not the symptom (getting the armor together). One last note. When she does get on the field, recognise this as the accomplishment that it is. The shadow of this will rear it's ugly head in hurdle 4.
2) I can be hit, in fun: 90% of the times men have been hit have been in team building, comraderie and fun. 90% of the time females have been hit have been in discipline or as a shock. Discipline as a child was associated to shame, even if it did not hurt, we cried, because we were ashamed, we had done wrong. So, he and she go to the field, he gets hit and says "Wow, a new game!" she gets hit and says "I've done something wrong". This is particularly true when the shot is sudden, and to the backside (head or butt, it doesn't seem to matter). The conversation with the Lizard Brain goes something like YOU'VE BEEN HIT YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED. I'm fighting, I'm supposed to be hit, it's ok. NO, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED. But I'm fighting. NOT WELL, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED. I want to be hit. SO YOU'RE ACTING LIKE A BATTERED SPOUSE, NO ONE RESPECTS THAT, YOU ARE ASHAMED. There are lots of variations of the argument but the end result is a flood of unexplained tears. The Lizard is sure it knows the way of the world and is just as sure that you have done wrong. Understand what the Lizard thinks, and combat it with reason when it appears. Continue to fight, recognise what created the tears and continue. Trainers, you may have to tell the student what conversation just took place, it went by very fast and they may not have noticed. Sit down and talk about it, face it together and continue. Running away from the field or the stimulus will not solve the problem, it will just give a victory to the Lizard and he will continue to use this tactic to help her see the error of her ways and return to the norm (non fighting) after all, the Lizard believes he knows the one true way and will help her realise the right path.
3) I can hit without hurting: This is often seen when she hits the center of the shield, or won't swing at someone who is not swinging at her. This comes from the conditioning that we are nurturing creatures, not hitting ones. We were all taught not to hit, and then we see a boxing match. This is rationalised as it is ok to hit in some places, not others. Hmmmm, says the Lizard, all those places that it is ok to hit are between guys, so girls are not suppose to hit/hurt. The front brain can overcome this belief, but the Lizard will insert itself, particularly when she is pressed in a fight. Trainers, fight the real battle. The real battle in this case is not just hitting, but hurting. The Lizard does not want to hurt, that's wrong. Let her hit the shield, and then drop it at the last second and let her tag you with a hard, unblocked shot. She will apologise profusely, and ask her why she is apologising for hitting the mark. To overcome this hurdle she needs to know that she has not hurt you. It often helps to have her get into some rough and tumble fights to let her see that the armor protects her (and you) and that she is doing no harm.
4) I can't do this: This is a particularly vicious one. Every fighter comes across something that they can not do right away. A block, a shot, something. When she comes across it she will try and try to overcome it and if she can't there will be a building pressure, panic and tears. What? Let's slow it down and see what happened. The Lizard Brain has been thwarted a number of times so far. It has tried several times to return to the non fighting way it should be, and she has consistently overcome every attempt by demanding that the Lizard be out logiced or ignored. Well, here is something that she can't do, everyone can see that she can't do it. Lizard says "See, I told you this was a guy's game, here is proof. You've been wasting your time, you have failed, and everyone can see it. You're embarrassed, you should leave the field. You can't play this game." Trainers, if you see this moment, STOP! Pay attention, this is the most important point in the early training to dedicate to her. She does not want to give up on the point she does not understand, so explain it differently. If that fails, explain that YOU do not have the right words and have someone else explain it. NEVER use the phrase "This is easy" for men this translates to "With practice you will have this down" for women it translates to "You are a stupid idiot for not getting it." (More on language differences latter.). Move on to something else, but promise that you will return to this before the end of the evening, and then do. Remind her that all fighters have problems with a particular thing and show her what yours was and how long it took you to overcome it.
5) Go out and play: Men have a tendency to see where they are compared to all other fighters so they go out and fight every style and person they can get to. Women seem to be more content with knowing where they are on a given scale. As a result, they like to fight the same people over and over again. This suits the Lizard just fine, after all according to it, she should not be fighting and tells her that the people she is fighting are only being nice to her, because they know her. She is not really fighting on equal ground. Stick to the folks that know you and like you and won't let you get hurt, you can't really play this game, so don't go bother the big boys. (This is one of the reasons that women will fight in wars far more than tournaments. She has the protection of those who know her and will not let her get hurt, around her.) Trainers, point out someone else she should fight. The stronger the fight, the better, provided the other fighter does not fight with his ego and need to pummel everyone. Find someone who will fight a level or two above her and send her out, watch for a bit and then go elsewhere. Warm up with her, pick her next fight, then have her pick fights with others. Wean her away from her chosen group and insure that she fights someone new as often as possible.
After all of these have been accomplished, she can start to compete on the level that most men have when they walk on the field. Unfortunately, the Lizard wins far to often and she gives up completely. These five steps are not absolute and some will not experience each step in as great a depth as someone else might. It may take several months or years to overcome each of these. Don't rush it, each step will show in its own time, conquer it when it gets there."