The Faces of Martial Arts Project (FOMA Project) aims to shed light and ignite a conversation on a diverse set of cross-cultural themes, explored through the lens of martial artists from around the world. While in subsequent months we will analyze other issues, with March being Women’s History Month, we decided to focus on violence against women and some of the ways that martial arts intersects.
According to UN Women, approximately 35% of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime and up to 70% of women in America have been victims to an intimate partner. The statistics alone are striking and it is particularly disheartening to know that this data does not account for the many incidences that go unreported. It is also important to note that not all gender-based violence means being subjected to physical or sexual assault; it can take many forms including: political violence, economic violence, verbal abuse, femicide, stalking etc . Unfortunately, we know there are female martial artists who are included in these stats.
As martial artists, we do not always have a conduit that brings us together to talk about these challenging issues. We are often on the mat and focused on the physical aspects of training, not always taking time to address the current social complexities that may be affecting us both internally and externally. Martial arts is unique in that it integrates a practice of defense and thus creates another layer to unpack when it comes to dissecting these issues. This includes a recognition that abuses exist within the martial arts community as well. This is one of the reasons why the FOMA Project facilitates a platform to talk about these kinds of situations together and to reflect on our roles as martial artists in society.
Over the last few weeks, we have interviewed several male and female martial artists who have revealed — how martial arts has made them feel protected against issues of violence. A few have noted how their experience in martial arts helped to defend themselves in dangerous encounters, while others recounted their training and how it encouraged self-control, self-discipline and restraint from partaking in acts of violence. These examples only introduce the extent to how martial arts can have a positive impact and influence for both individuals and their communities. As we deepen our conversations, we will further evolve our understanding of these intricacies and how martial artists can continue to effectively act on these issues.
After listening to the reflections from other martial artists, we summarized five exploratory questions to further the discussion. We’re not just having these discussions about violence against women today and tomorrow. We’ve been having them and must continue them. We invite you to engage with us, spark your own conversations, and reflect on our questions below:
- Was violence or self-defense a factor in your decision to learn martial arts?
- What impact, if any, does Martial Arts play in your physical and emotional confidence when it comes to dealing with issues of personal defense?
- How can men join the conversation and contribute to solutions that lead to an end of violence against women?
- How can we be more proactive, collectively and individually, at addressing issues of violence?
- How will we instill these ideals for the next generation?
Article by: Tara Arthur and Constance Francois