As the new milennium arrived the male to female ratio in adult classes stayed about the same. However, a few more girls started finding their way into the children's classes joining the school with their brothers or on their own. The numbers increased incrementally, the boys still outnumbering the girls four to one. It was a hopeful sign. Yet years later, I was surprised when a friend decided to have her son's birthday party at our school and none of the girls that had been invited wanted to come to the party. The reason? Because martial arts was "boys' stuff and girls don't do martial arts."
That was seven years ago. How times have changed. Today, my classes are now even and at times the girls outnumber the boys. What was driving this change in the kwoon's demographic? Why are girls now attracted to learning martial arts? What are the outside influences creating this atmosphere of change?
The only thing I can think of is children's movies and children's television have had a lot of female leads in the last decade. Mulan picked up a sword. Lilo was no push over in Lilo and Stitch, Matilda, and neither is Miss Piggy from the Muppets. Other strong female characters, Susan and Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia, Katniss in Hunger Games, Tris in Divergent, Merida in Brave and let's not forget the Powder Puff Girls. Others show their adventurous spirit and their fascination in exploring their world or worlds unknown, Rupunzel in Tangled, Ariel in the Little Mermaid. Harriett from Harriett the Spy. And now Anna and Elsa from Frozen. I haven't even touched on Anime or superheroes.
From television iCarly and Hannah Montana were wildly popular as well as Lizzie Mcquire, That's So Raven, and Wizards from Waverly Place all with savvy female leads.
Then there is Hermione Granger whose hard work, wit, skill, preparation, and level headedness has saved her friends over and over. She knows who she is and never apologizes or backs down to peer pressure. She doesn't let anything or anyone stop her. She knows that to be one of the best takes hard work and she works harder than anyone else around her. It seems she always has what anyone will need in her bag. The level of planning and preparedness is truly awe inspiring and admirable. She is brave and a true hero.
These are all recent examples of heroines in the movies and television. But there are many more excellent examples from decades past of positive strong female leads. Search for them.
But how about the real life role-models. When I was a young girl, it was watching the women in the Olympics. The stand out for me was the United States Women's Soccer Team winning the World Cup in 1991 and FIFA World Cup in 1999. They went on to win four gold medals in '96, '04, '08. and 2012. Our heros were Mia Hamm and Michelle Akers, and the rest of the team. Tennis star Serena Williams or race car driver, Danica Patrick challenging and offering a new perspecctive in their fields. So many more examples of women and girls finding their voice and re-imagining their place in society past and present.
So are these influences changing how girls think of themselves? Is this what has brought girls to the martial arts? And when they walk through our door, does it give them solace and confidence to see me in front of the class, a female instructor. Whatever the reasons are, I am very happy that they are here. I will do my best to help them become the positive and strong female leads that will inspire future generations of women.