When I started karate I had long hair. This led to me braiding it out of the way before class and this turned out to be very meditative for me. As I braided my hair I put away the day and got mentally prepared for karate.

Then I cut my hair short again (I only planned to grow my hair out for about one year) and could no longer braid it. I was genuinly distraught over loosing my little ritual, but no worries! I very soon decided to put on some mascara and maybe shape my eyebrows a little before class instead.

Not too long ago I would have never done that out of shame. For years I was ashamed of my femininity. If I ever put on makeup or wanted to do my nails or felt like doing anything that is considered girly I’d feel ashamed and I’d make excuses for myself. Like so many other girls I’d come to believe that I was somehow less for being born a girl and in an effort to overcome this I rejected anything feminine. Like so many other girls I’d come to believe that I was somehow less for being born a girl and in an effort to overcome this I rejected anything feminine.I was proud when my guy friends didn’t think I was ‘like other girls’ and would think myself somehow better than the girls in my class cause they liked pink and I didn’t. I would roll my eyes when they giggled or shrieked over something.

There are many things that helped me get out of this way of thinking and one of those was actually the admin of this blog. While I had already mostly stopped looking down on my fellow girls for being, well, girls. I still felt somewhat guilty every time I put on makeup or wanted to do my nails. Sarah has helped a lot with this. Following her blog on tumblr and seeing examples again and again of how it’s totally ok both to be a girly girl and not to be that. Seeing how doing girly things some days don’t mean I can’t do things that some consider masculine (like martial arts). It’s all fine!

I no longer use doing my makeup before class for meditation. I normally put on makeup before I go to work now. Putting away the day and mentally preparing for karate takes less time than it used to and I can do it during meditation at the beginning of class now. I no longer have to use makeup for that.

Still, when I put on my makeup I feel like I’m putting on war paint. That’s what it is. It’s my war paint! I am confident both with and without makeup, but I guess that for a short moment it reminds me of that confidence (once I step away from the mirror I nearly forget what I look like, so it only works while I’m actually looking at myself. The world is too fascinating for me to go around remembering how I look that day).

The reason I started writing this post is something that happened just before Easter. A woman was talking to me before class. (They accidentally arrived half an hour early. I had done it intentionally planning to warm up and stuff.) We talked about whether it’d be too late in the year for her daughter to join us now. I naturally told her she was welcome to try, but she might fall a little behind. As we were talking I took off my hat and she discovered the pretty little flower clip I’d put in my hair. She was ecstatic. I’m not joking. She was so happy and pleased to see that I was bringing my femininity into my karate. She was thrilled to see that I could be both! It clearly meant a lot to her and it got me thinking. If such a small thing can have such a great effect on some people then I honestly think I should do it more. Originally I did it just for me, but now I do it more than a little for others.

Most people probably won’t notice, but come to think of it, maybe they sort of do anyways. There are some girls and a lot of boys in our kids classes. While I want karate to be about karate and not gender, it’s still relevant because of the sexism that so many encounter in martial arts. I used to think that you had to be a certain kind of girl to do martial arts (and I didn’t think I was that kind of girl) and I never imagined how you can wear mascara and still be serious about karate. I used to think that you had to be a certain kind of girl to do martial arts and I never imagined how you can wear mascara and still be serious about karate. Maybe, by watching me and the other older girls in our club these boys will never be surprised to see girls being just as strong as boys in martial arts (and life). Maybe, by watching me and the other girls the young girls we have now will know that you can be both pretty and strong and there’s nothing weird with it. You can be a princess. You can be a martial artist. you can be both, or neither. It’s all fine!

And so today I have bruised, sore knuckles and pretty painted nails and I finally know that those two things can fit together.

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4 Responses

  1. Jenn says:

    I love this! It’s got me thinking…what can I do to express my style of femininity? In BJJ, we cannot wear makeup for fear of smearing it all over someone else’s gi (or my own) so no go on that. I’d use prettier hairbands but I’m pretty restricted with my thick bundle of hair. 🙁 I’ll keep brainstorming.

    • Sarah Sarah says:

      I always liked matching nail polish on fingers and toes! Sure, it chips off after one session, but it still feels worth it sometimes. I have a gun-metal colored polish that makes me feel like Lady Deathstrike. 😀

    • Deven Bagwell says:

      I allllllways paint my nails, and my gi has cute pandas on it ;]

  2. Melanie says:

    Lovely article! I am my most sweaty, red, and disgusting in taekwondo class, but I still like little reminders of my feminity, even if it’s just a pink elastic holding back my hair. I actually stopped wearing makeup to work for a number of reasons (unless I have an importat meeting), one being because I was tired of having to clean it off afterwards and still ending up with raccoon eyes in taekwondo class. 🙂 However I always put on a little mascara and liquid eyeliner before my belt tests, and when I’ve coached students at tournaments I wear makeup and earrings. I prefer to wear dresses and skirts most of the time to work, so my colleagues have gotten used to seeing me in a pretty skirt with bruised shins, ha ha.

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