I'm reading through this thread with some interest. First... I have the physiology background to understand the first principles. And second, I've been enormously successful (relatively speaking) in teaching women vs. my fellow Uechi male counterparts. Mostly I believe it's because I saw the light long before others did. Now I think men are more comfortable with women in the gym., and - more importantly - women are more comfortable with THEMSELVES in the gym.
It wasn't for a lack of trying on my part that I had difficulty getting the women to find their athletic voices in the 1970s and 1980s. I was on the bleeding edge perhaps because I grew up with 6 sisters. Three of them were/are life-long athletes (softball, track, triathlon, dance). Actually this goes back many generations, as my great aunt Bonnie was a pre-Radio-City-Hall Rockette. My mom was a wonderful athlete before rheumatoid arthritis hit her in her twenties.
So we look at the literature, and it tells us the obvious.
- On average, men have more muscle mass (by any metric) than women.
- On average, the greatest difference is in the upper body mass. What isn't included (yet) in this discussion is how that difference is largely triggered in puberty when the testosterone hits. Upper body mass is a secondary male sexual characteristic.
- A weakness of one of the studies above is the age range (45- to 78-yr-old) of the study. I frankly was shocked, and wondered why such an age range happened in the first place. One suspects a motivation to show little to no difference between the sexes, as testosterone levels peak at age 17 and decline from that year forward. And yet... the differences remain. (Men still produce testosterone in their very latter years. I should know, as a testosterone block is one of several therapies being used on my 88-year-old dad who has metastatic prostate cancer.)
Two posts here impress me enormously. First is the following.
Largely out of necessity, I have reinforced and learned this strength-technique difference , which is somewhat optional in the strong adolescent and adult males--who seem to exert their force with just the use of their arm/shoulder/upper back.
She gets an A+ in my book. I hope I'm on her next dan test board so I can pass her with flying colors. That kind of perspective is rare, and shows a deep understanding of what we do.
When we evolve from practitioners to teachers to teachers of teachers, it's important to step out of our bodies and be able to understand the style from the perspective of any random student. As Dana put it, "Train everything." As a teacher of many, I needed very early on to get comfortable with the idea that a good teacher doesn't create a classroom full of clones. It's important to draw out the unique qualities in each individual, and then have said individuals express their individual strengths in ways that will exceed your own. That being said, it's important then for the teacher to learn to do EVERYTHING in at least a passable fashion so you're good enough to pass the torch on. And you know what's happened to me because of this philosophy? I've ended up being able to do things (e.g. "Uechi pointy things") that as a 19-year-old with feminine piano-player hands I never thought I'd be able to do. Now my students curse me as I poke and gouge them with ease. That ability just... happened. I had faith in process, and process delivered beyond my wildest dreams.
Backtracking a bit now... It's "chernon's razor" that caused me to take my super female students and use them to teach my young males who relied on their upper body strength. Why? Because said males were not realizing their full potential. The women meanwhile learned principles of core muscle strength and SSM early - out of necessity.
In baseball today, pitching coaches do the same. They get a hold of promising athletes early, and teach them to use their whole body to throw a baseball. Same with batting coaches. In doing so, they extend the athletic careers of their superstars, as technique lasts longer than strength and technique preserves the joints in the extremities (shoulder, elbow, knees, etc.).
Meanwhile... I love going in the gym today as the only "old fart" doing exercises like freeweight squats and Olympic clean-and-jerks. With my recent goatee and abandonment of Clairol (or Just for Men), seeing this man with dark hair but a shocking white goatee do these exercises causes a most strange reaction. The young studs start calling me "sir" (I HATE that...) and the athletic trainers are all befriending me. And moi? I'm just preserving and lengthening my athletic career.
Meanwhile... Do you know how funny it is for yours truly to watch the "bench and curl" crowd? Young bucks working on their peacock feathers.
And yet... this is what a functional athlete and life-long coach sees.
The real athletes know this, too. They see it in the way you move and the way you carry yourself. You can't help but exude "it." And there are no shortcuts to "it."
But boys will be boys...
A few more comments...
- One has to be very careful comparing practicing female karateka to practicing male karateka. There's a tremendous selection bias going on here. Far more women than men quit, leaving a very non-representative group of women as the prototypes for women in general. In my opinion, most of that is mindset relating to hormone action on the brain and not the body per se. But physical attributes come into play.
- Mostly both the men and women need to get over themselves. Speaking of a superstar woman, I can't tell you the joy it is working with the likes of a Dana. I believe we've had discussions about this as well. Dana has been in both grappling and striking arts, so she's worked the spectrum. Not all her partners have treated her with the respect she is entitled to. Condescension is the operating word here. Me? I have a blast with here for many reasons - not the least of which that she is insanely good. There are other nuances at play here that lower our barriers wrt each other. That is what it is. Whatever it takes, go with it.
- I think I have my greatest difficulty female-wise with adolescent women. When the bodies start to change, both boys and girls become very self conscious. And being the hypersensitive person I've become with years of teaching experience, let's just say I pick up on it. Again... you need two very good people working together, and both need to get over themselves. But those transition period have their moments. I'll never forget adolescent Elizabeth pushing 30-year-old Crystal square on the boobs in Kanshiwa bunkai. Elizabeth immediately blanched. And Crystal? She replied "Oh don't worry about it. There's nothing there anyhow." A sense of humor and a righteous heart helps.