Can Women Fight?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: karate
14 Sep 2007

This topic sounds like I’m being sexist but please hear me out. First let me point out that many women in my life and women I have observed can fight. I have many self-defense stories involving women! I have also seen examples of women that were apparently trained but did not have the heart or the chin to win their fight. 


The positive examples were mostly self-defense where women trained hard and then applied what they learned. I had one student that did not think much of techniques or forms (also called katas – dances with karate moves) but she wanted to learn and do sparring (controlled fighting). I worked with this student for several years and did not take it easy on her. If she dropped her guard, I would reminder her with a jab during sparring sessions. I would swarm her with punches to verify she knew how to cover up and the let up to see if she would counter-attack. She was what I would call an above average fighter.


One day she was with her male cousin at a party location in East San Diego County. The cousin was accosted by an aggressive male but my student stood up for him. As the aggressor attacked her, she kicked the guy in his nuts – only to discover he was wearing a cup (groin protector)! The guy was apparently a karate bully on the prowl during the weekend hangouts. My student was quickly out-classed but knew how to cover well. She tried to fight back but mostly took kicks and punches. The guy was not caught but she pressed me for more sparring on the next weekly lesson. I think her desire to protect herself put her in a good position when she had to defend her cousin (who ran away). 


One negative example of women fighting was a fellow karate practitioner at the main school. She was going to an exhibition contact fight soon and was match up against another top female fighter. I had worked with this women sparring and stressed the importance form (in punching). I watched the exhibition bout and noted that all of the beginning punches and kicks looked great for both women but when they (the women) started exchanging punches – the form was lost. What I mean is the jabs, crosses, and hooks were just flailing. I could not believe that all the work in the studio was lost.


Now I will give my opinion about women fighting. I think that women can fight just as good as men if they have a burning desire. I have seen women in boxing and karate matches that have kept their form and game plan when things got rough! I have seen other matches between women that I would have labeled a cat fight (no discipline)! I think the difference is not gender but rather training, physiological acceptance of fighting, and desire.  Women have a natural advantage in most attacks… men do not really believe women can defend themselves. That advantage will be explored in future posts.

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14 Responses to “Can Women Fight?”

  1. james Says:

    I think its true that women have some advantages in fighting, but I think for the most part its all up to the will, ability, and tactics of the fighter be they male or female.

    I think women need to be trained to fight differently then men, because their bodies are just different.

    I have seen many instances of women being able to fight better then their male counterparts but this did not mean she was able to defeat him, because she was not necessarily using his weaknesses and her strengths. many times the male would simply be able to use his strength to win.

    many women especially well trained women in martial arts tend to try and “fight like men” in my opinion. I think this is a mistake and women need to use their advantages.

    while men usually have stronger upper bodies, women tend to have at least equal strength to men in their legs. Also women have better balance because of a lower center of gravity (hips). Women also have a groin that is less vulnerable to damage then a man’s. You can not grab a women’s groin.

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Great insight James – I too agree that women should focus on their advantages in a fight.

  3. ekondo Says:

    Hi John,

    I have a website that has quite a bit of content on the issue of self-defense against a physically superior attacker, I think you may find it interesting.

  4. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Erik,

    Good information on your site. After I researched some more I discovered your stair-climbing viedo in your wheel chair. I think you are a great example of a person suceeding at whatever you set out to do.

    I did a quick review of your site in my post of December 2nd.

  5. Angie M. Tarighi Says:

    Well written. I’m always surprised when a 6’2″, 200lb male gets taken down by me (5’2″) and wonders what happened. I strictly teach women’s self-defense and personal protection. And there is a truism to the fact that men don’t believe we, as women, can actually beat them. If you fight like a man, you won’t. But if you fight like a girl, you will.

    Angie M. Tarighi
    CEO & Founder
    Women’s Self-Defense Institute

  6. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Great point Angie!

    Karate came about as an answer for monks having to defend themselves against highway robbers (or so the story goes). As long as the will and skill level are there – a women is every bit a dangerous as any man! The woman cannot show her hand before her attack. That would be like me telling an attacking giant – hey – my hands are registered weapons – a very foolish move.

    I’ve added your site to the blog roll and I’ll review it soon.


  7. john Says:

    yes of course anyone can fight but james your comments are bull. Women do not have the same power as men on lower legs that is the most ridicolous thing i have heard, so women can squat more then men can they, run faster lol, men as short as 5 foot 5 can slam dunk! while women basketballers at 6 foot 5 plus CAN NOT. And lol women having wider hips is one of the reasons why they cant run as fast u [explicative deleted] so no it doesnt imprve centre of gravity, it actually makes it harder! U [explicative deleted] the biological reason for women having higher hips is so it is optimal for childbirth while male structure is optimal for use e.g. sports, fighting and activity. Young boys, yes young boys can reach the same level of skill, power, strength as ELITE OLYMPIC ATHLETES, yes young boys. Teenage boys as young as 12 or 13 can run 100m ELITE womens times. Also women have less muscle mass so a blow anywhere is more painfull and dangerous, their groin is slightly more protected but as they have breasts that cancels out and also as female groin is immobile and cannot absorb impact like men and also as women have much softer pubic bones (and a solid strike their will EASILY cause unconciousness and possibly death). Men are taller, stronger, faster, more pain tolerance and actually feel less pain in the first place

    HOWEVER, of course I am not taking anything away from women, I’m just refuting your ridicolous claims. Women should be able to defend themselves but their not supposed to be fighting generally

  8. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hello John,

    I take it from your post about James’s comments that you do believe women can defend themselves but not last in the ring. If you are speaking say middle weight full contact matches, pitting a woman against a man of the same skill level – I would have to agree because the man’s muscle.

    But if you are making the claim that most men can beat any woman – I don’t believe that. Any woman, child, for that matter, man can learn how to use first self-defense and secondly karate, MMA or whatever (if they put in the time and effort) to increase their skill level and hence increase their chances of winning in self-defense or a fight!

    The main difference is the training, desire, and wit. A woman is already likely fighting against a man that does not think the women can fight… if the woman does not give away her hand – she has a good chance defending herself against any man!

    I agree with James general comments although like you – I think don’t think he chose the best examples to make his point.

    Thanks for your insight John and just because I may disagree with you, does not mean I am right… I welcome all opinions that legitimately argue a point of view. The proof is in the pudding my instructor used to say.


    John W. Zimmer

  9. music Says:

    very interesting.
    i’m adding in RSS Reader

  10. Fustrated Says:

    My name is not the correct one. I do not want any traces back as I don’t want more on my son. I have a problem. My son is in grade 7 very small school and being bullied in class by 4 girls and 1 boy twice his size. We did everything you are supposed to to reguarding the boy. Teachers, principal and his mom. Nothing has helpped. Mother said ” I don’t know what the problem is he didn’t break anything did he?” Well we have given my son permission to defend himself against this boy even though he is so big. We told him it is okay do what you must and don’t worry if you are expelled.

    Now the problem is the girls. My son can hold his own verbally as he is bright and witty. The one I am talking about is one girl who has become more physical. pushed, hit (Not yet punched) and kicks him yes that one was from behind when he did not know it was comming. I told my son this is an act of cowardice to strike someone who doesn’t know it is coming.
    Scince boys are not supposed to hit girls how is he to defend himself. I told him if she pushes so can he. I told him be aware of her feet. When she kicks grab her leg and pull her down (it was a side kick the last one I spoke of). I don’t know what else to say except use brute force just don’t punch. Any suggestions?? I have looked for 2 hrs on net and can not find anything relating to this type of a problem.

  11. John W. Zimmer Says:


    I certainly can see why you are worried. A couple of things… I don’t think you need to focus on self-defense here as much because as you said… you have given your son permission to defend himself and generally (boy) bullies go after easy targets… if you son is going to fight back, that won’t be a fun for a bully.

    As far as the girls, that is harder because on the one hand, you don’t want to teach your son it is ok to be physical with girls but on the other hand you don’t want to get your son hurt if one of the girls hit him with a brick or something like that.

    I had a situation in 5th grade that was similar… I took a bus to school and my grandpa gave me a deer skin jacket. Every day kids, especially one bullies use to pull the strands of the jacket off and push me down the steps and such… I did not tell my mom as I was ashamed and my dad was overseas in the military. This went on for about three weeks until one day I refused to get on the bus home. My science teacher at the time ordered me on the bus and I stood up to him in tears and told him I was scared to get on the bus and what was happening. He pulled the bullies off of the bus and told him in California the school was responsible for each child until that made it all the way home and if he ever touched me again – he would be permanently expelled from school. The harassment stopped right there and after getting mugged in the 7th grade – I had a burning desire to learn karate so that could never happen again…

    My advice in this situation is that you go the school and the other children’s parents and simply say you will be suing them if the bad behavior does not stop. The school at least will understand the cost of a lawsuit even if the other parents do not. If you had to get a restraining order against the girls – I’m not sure but that would probably mean either your kid or the other’s would end up having to go to another school. I hope this advice helps… one time when my former step son (who is a diabetic) was not allowed to have candy in the class (after she was told about the diabetes), when into insulin shock… the school played hard ball after we complained about finding him wondering the streets. We simply said the correct the situation or we would be suing… and they instantly understood their liability and corrected the problem with that teacher.

    I hope this helps some… I was small when I was a child and know full well that kids can be very mean. I like you want to make sure your kid survives this experience at this school.

    John W. Zimmer

  12. Fustrated Says:

    Thanks so much for such a quick reply. I contacted the school and spoke to the new principal. I explained that I am at a loss about girl and that she could really hurt my son by attacking him without his knowledge that is was coming. I told him that my son is allowed to be physical back to the boy. He asked for a few days to get this solved. He will talk to the class and tell them they will be monitered. No fingers pointed so my son doesn’t get more bugged about running to mommy. Thanks again !!!

  13. Rodneywrc8 Says:

    I think any woman or anyone with the proper training can defend them selves but I do not agree that a woman can fight as good or better than some or most males, there’s a lot of factors that come into play here. 1. About 99% of the time the male will always be bigger and stronger and lets face it most men can take a lot more punishment than a woman can, so even if she is very skilled she will have a tough go at it with a very aggressive male. 2. Any police officer will tell you that the ONLY time anyone should fight back is if the attacker is trying to drag you off to a car or dark alley or if they are trying to harm you, if it’s a wallet or purse just give it up…don’t be stupid. That’s just my two cents!!

  14. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Rodney,

    I agree with most of your points but I’d like to point out that if a women takes the time to learn how to fight full-contact Muay Thai or kick-boxing and get really good (a top rated fighter), she will be able to fight toe to toe with most untrained and moderately trained men.

    Think of it this way – a 120 pound trained man can take most any 200 pound untrained man. There is no reason to think a dedicated woman cannot do the same.

    Back in the day when I was 160 pounds and first got my black belt, I worked the door. I had no problem knocking out 220 pound men.

    You are spot on with the rest of your points in my opinion.

    Thanks for commenting.