Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From the WISE Guy: YOU could be a female black belt

This guest post is from one of CU-WISE's best male allies, Jeff Gordon.

I'm a big believer of healthy living with the aim of maintaining a good work and life balance. You probably spend a lot of time in front of a computer, a notepad, or a textbook. So, getting enough exercise is an important part of that balance. CU-WISE has presented yoga events in the past. It's a great way to improve your strength, balance, and flexibility. I'm an active practitioner of power yoga, so I can definitely vouch for its benefits. But my primary source of exercise comes from martial arts. I absolutely love it and you might too.

Martial arts are really a full body workout which not only works you physically but mentally. For anyone with an active brain, it's an incredibly stimulating activity that can challenge you in many ways. It's also a lot of FUN! You find yourself doing things you probably would never do anywhere else. In fact, martial arts skills are probably the closest thing I'll ever have to a super power. Not everyone can jump, spin 360 degrees, and break a board with their foot or drop down into the splits. Always useful if you need a party trick!

One of the biggest benefits of martial arts is an improvement of self-confidence. Even the strongest person (woman or man) has some self-confidence issues and martial arts can often address these in unexpected ways. It forces you to come out of your shell but in a comfortable friendly environment. A lot of martial arts involve working with a partner and these interpersonal skills are important to working with classmates, co-workers, and in a relationship!

There's TONS of literature out there on how to choose a martial art. And really, it's a personal choice. I study Taekwondo which shares many similarities with karate (and some similarities with kung fu). These are striking arts which focus on strikes with your hands and feet to an opponent from a distance. It's in these styles you'll see kicking, board breaking, as well as choreographed sequences of patterns or katas. If the idea of wrestling or flipping interests you, then you may want to consider the grappling arts such as jiu-jitsu, judo, and aikido. These styles involve using locks, holds, and throws to force an opponent to submit on the ground. Jiu-jitsu especially is the bread and butter of mixed martial arts and UFC.

While martial arts remains a male dominated sport, woman can and do excel at all styles of martial arts. I encourage women to give martial arts a try and apply the same resilience you have in science and engineering towards something completely different but equally as rewarding. Many successful women have achieved black belts including former U of O Dean of Engineering Dr. Tyseer Aboulnasr, Dr. Laura Schlessinger and actresses Lucy Liu, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kelly Hu, Tina Majorino, Evan Rachel Wood, Taryn Manning, Laura Vandervoort, and Brenda Song. Also CU-WISE itself has a number of woman martial artists among its membership.

Just like science and technology, I'm always very encouraged and impressed when women take part in an area that is predominantly guys. It's why I support initiatives like WISE. And if I've grabbed your interest in martial arts, I highly recommend giving martial arts a try. It could be the activity for you. Even if you tried it as a kid, consider giving it a second look or try a different martial art. I hated martial arts when I tried it at six years old but I gave it another go at 20 and I was hooked. So give it a try and see what happens. And if you do go to a class and some guys make you feel unwelcome, I will personally show you HOW to kick their butts!

Carleton offers programs in Aikido, Jiu Jitsu, Karate and Kung Fu on campus. Taekwondo is offered at private schools nearby campus and at the University of Ottawa campus. So now, go kick some butt! *bows*


Megan Holtzman said...

I definitely agree - try out a martial art.

I find the best part of going to Taekwon Do classes was the great aerobic and anaerobic workout I was getting. I did aerobic classes for years, but with TKD, I learn something at the same time and it does wonders for my balance and reaction speed.

(Female Black Belt in TKD and CU-WISE member)

Gail Carmichael said...

I agree Megan! (I'm also a TKD black belt, ITF.) I also love being able to turn the computer science part of my brain off for an hour a few times a week!