It's an honest question. I'm a black belt woman and I have only women in my class. I'd love to understand what happens with them or why men feel uncomfortable with the idea of taking martial arts classes with a female instructor. I hope to have some answers with no offense.

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    What were the experiences with men in that class? How long did they come, did they ever adress it, did you ever adress it? It would help if you could add some of this and your feelings about it, otherwise the answer has to be very broad and general. Jan 13, 2016 at 22:45
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    I don't have a direct answer to your question, but I would just like to say that there is nothing wrong for a man to take martial arts classes from a woman. As an instructor you must keep your distance from the male students, like how a male instructor keeps his distance from the female students. Students must always have the passion to learn above everything else, and the instructor must always be willing to teach.
    – paperclip
    Jan 14, 2016 at 5:15
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    While sexism may be an issue, I think the style that you teach and the culture of the area in which you teach may play a role here as well. Is it a wrestling style or a striking style for example. I will admit I find ground drills with women embarrassing although any other kind of training with women doesn't bother me at all. As for culture, is there much integration between men and women in daily life generally where you are?
    – Huw Evans
    Jan 14, 2016 at 9:36

9 Answers 9


First, men who know nothing about martial arts may see a woman leading the class and immediately think that they (the men) could beat up the female teacher. So they think there is no reason why the woman could teach them anything about fighting.

Second, some men might not want to train with women at all (students or teachers), because it would be awkward for them. There is physical contact, for one thing. For many young, immature males, accidentally touching or striking a woman's breast, groin, or butt is deeply embarrassing. Some religions also make it a sin for men to touch women at all, especially if he's married.

Third, males in many societies are often raised by their families to never physically strike or harm any females. They have deeply held beliefs that cause them to avoid any physical confrontation with a woman. And the thought of accidentally punching a woman in the face and causing a black eye or a bloody lip would be too much for them. They could always just hold back and only use very soft, weak strikes that don't connect, but they may not even want to risk it at all.

Fourth, an insecure man's ego can be very fragile. The thought of a woman beating them in sparring or wrestling would be so upsetting to them and their manhood that they would just want to avoid that as a possibility completely.

Also, it sounds like your class is 100% women. In that case, if a man looks at your class, the first thing he's going to notice is that it's all women. He's going to assume the class is only for women, or that men avoid it for some good reason. He's never coming back.

All of these problems (with the possible exception of the religiously motivated ones) can be solved. You will have to work hard on getting men to join your class somehow, despite their anxiety. Given the female momentum you have already, that may be a very difficult thing to do. As I said, guys get scared off pretty easily when they walk into a room with all women in it.

On the other hand, you could look at it as an opportunity to advertise women-friendly or women-only classes. You might get more female students that way, if they are assured that men will not be in the class.

My advice would be to make your current class an all-female class. And then add a second class that is coed (males and females). For the new class, advertise a month of free classes, and put advertising posters up at places where men usually are. You should try to get at least 50% men in this new class. Otherwise men will look at it and get scared off again.

Hope that helps.


Just focusing on the "How a woman can teach martial art for men?" aspect more than the "understanding why men might be uncomfortable" bit which has been well-covered in existing answers.

Steve Weigand also shared some good ideas how to get guys in the door and stop them walking out before they've even got an impression of you as an instructor, if you do get past that stage then the crucial things become:

  • project confidence; never act like you're uncertain what your students should be doing - don't invite them to doubt your ability

  • proficient communication and directed practice earns respect; you've either got to be...

    • directing a really good, engaging workout, with the right amount of warm up, stretching, cardio etc. to leave everyone feeling good and "high" on the health benefits of training, the muscular exhaustion, and satisfied with the interpersonal aspects of the partner exercised you've directed them through etc. (you don't have to be satisfying everyone's one-on-one practice needs personally), and/or

    • providing technical input (body mechanics, technique, applications, footwork, strategy, tactics, drills that directly address specific weaknesses you've noticed in your students) that's hard for them to get elsewhere, that they can feel making a difference to their abilities, and interactions with their peers

    • for me, having students say things like "I've been training almost exclusively in your class these last 6 months; when I was sparring against those guys from some-other-dojo again the other day I found I was setting the pace where before I'd struggled" - aim to be the instructor providing that faster pace of development and your students will appreciate it; to do so requires thoughtful, well-directed training, thought, research, experimentation, experience etc.

You may not be able to hit as hard as some male student, but if you hit more effectively relative to your weight, speed, and strength, that earns respect, and helps convey that you will be able to help him towards similar.

Some instructors prefer not to direct suggestions at the students who really need that input, but instead to direct the whole class to work on the same things: that makes "criticism" less personal, less confrontational, and avoids some of the embarrassment / power challenge things Bankuei and Steve Weigand talk about; the people who're already good at something usually don't mind the extra practice; all up it's a good recipe for having students who enjoy training with you for decades, though some students will appreciate the faster progress they make if they're open to more personalised input.

(Apologies - this is a bit unfocused and ad hoc - written with one eye on a movie ;-P - but I hope some of it's useful)


Unfortunately a lot of martial arts is sold on machoism. Men who build their self image on machoism don't feel they can learn "how to be a man" (as opposed to, say, their martial art), from a woman. They may not say it, they may not even be self aware enough to acknowledge that's what's driving them, but it's true for a lot of men. When you add in the studies that show how men listen less to women, you can see where there's plenty of room for a failure of learning. Finally, there's the part of having someone more skilled than you overcome you, either in demonstration or in sparring, and that's a level of humiliation these sorts can't deal with well.

There's also the men who haven't been able to see contact with women in a fashion that's non-sexual, and so, they have problems with a lot of techniques and close proximity.

I wish it were more complicated, but it's really just usual sexist bullshit.


Well, as a student, I don't care about the gender of my instructor, just someone that really knows what they are doing and what they are saying.

I think that some men believe that Martial Arts or Combat-Related/Self-Defense "stuff" can't be taught by a woman. It's just a mind matter, closed or open minded.

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    Welcome to Martial Arts. Although I appreciate your feedback, you answer doesn't seem to really answer the question. Why would other men feel uncomfortable taking classes from a female instructor?
    – THelper
    Jan 17, 2016 at 6:21
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    As an addition to the comment of @THelper: We do have a group with women only and we do not know which art it is. As previously pointed out, it is a difference between e.g. Karate or TKD and Judo, BJJ or wrestling when it comes to training and sparring with women. I think this should rather be made a comment. Jan 17, 2016 at 11:10

I can't think of any martial art I have studied which required me to do anything rougher than light-contact sparring with my instructor. Sex/gender shouldn't make one bit of difference when teaching technique. As long as the skills are there (both in the martial art and in effectively communicating/teaching said art), I don't think there should be an issue. If you have students who are too sexist to learn from a woman, then they aren't students you should want to have anyway.


Not all men feel awkward about having a female instructor. Those that do should take a serious look at themselves. "judge ones self instead of others" and all that.

Our school is mixed. There are females that are younger than me, that are much higher grade. They are fellow students but sometimes get asked to take elements of the class. When they do, they are the boss. Anyone that doesn't like that is free to find another school.

Surely everyone is there to learn the art. That being the case, does it matter if the person at the front is a man or a woman?

If the students are judging the teacher by anything other than skill in the art, then they have surely missed the point entirely.


I have taken martial arts classes in which a woman is the instructor. I'm male and honestly, I knew the woman instructor could knock me out in a fight and I accepted it! Lol... I have also sparred with women black belts and in class (point sparring) and have been decisively defeated by all of them i.e. 5-0! I was a green belt in my style. Make your class very receptive and talk to male prospective students. Show them that you know your stuff. Put them at ease and than do a demonstration on them (but don't hurt them of course). The men and boys are also going to have to open their minds as well. Women can be damn tough!!


When I was still doing some traditional martial art with a side dish of strength training, there were plenty of female trainers. I am a tall, strong male; and all those females were much smaller, and definitely weaker in terms of raw strength.

At no point did I get into a situation where any of those factors played a role. Granted, it was more a kata-based art, and there was no sparring, but the role of the teacher was to teach, not to beat us up (or resist getting beat up). I would assume that most MA teachers do not spar with their pupils in any case, so your build or gender should not play a practical role.

I have never witnessed disrespect towards a trainer in the dojo(s) or seminars I visited, and particularly not based on gender, size, strength etc. I do not know the culture where you life, so unless you are in an area where machoism is very prominent, I would not worry too much.

If I were to witness a male to give a female trouble on the mat, this would be an issue in any case - no matter if the female is the trainer or not. Respect is generally the most important thing for me - any kind of disrespect, towards anyone, is an absolute no-no on the mat, in my opinion, considering everybody has to trust everybody else to take care of each other.


Don't be very harsh or very soft with men who come for the classes...

Some men will find your harshness more like being woman-dominated..

  • They will either stop coming to your classes
  • Very Few will take up the challenge to be able to win a match against you on a ring.. And end up getting fed up in few days if few men around

• Some men might come to just to check out girls... These types are likely to stay for long if you go soft on them... Now, it's upto you if you want to keep them... And note that these type might be good company to those who are serious about it.

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