Recently in martial circles there has been a raging debate as to whether women warriors have ever existed. I find this kind of debate frustrating, sexist and reminiscent of the debate that keeps popping up (although less so now) as to whether there are any women geeks.
My Shaolin Gung Fu master, Shi Fu Xing Mu, wrote a great article about this with references to many awesome historical warrior women, and some reasons why the myth is just that. I’m in the process of researching and linking them now, but check it out if you are interested. Short quote from the article:
Those who are arguing for the myth viewpoint really seem to be winning. Their arguments are logical, well thought out and very reasonable and as a result they are difficult to refute. However, I feel that there is a tiny flaw in their argument that should be addressed, mainly that the entire premise is wrong!
I put my thoughts in the comments of his blog post, and have reposted them below.
I think that the reason many martial arts believe it is a myth, is because, as with religion, many martial arts basically have taken local cultural expectations of the day and enmeshed them into the martial style to maintain the status quo. It is no coincidence that many of the Japanese martial arts don’t recognise women as equals on the battlefield when in Japan itself, some schools still refuse to allow capable and worthy women to attain the black belt. It is no coincidence that many styles (particularly some European ones) only take into account brute strength, because for centuries or millennia the physically strongest _man_ would win. I think one of the strengths of many good martial arts (including many Japanese and European styles, as well as from all around the world), and certainly a strength of Shaolin Gung Fu is that there is an understanding growing that physical strength won’t win you the game. It takes skill, tactics, and overall the ability to know what works for you as an individual both on and off the battlefield. Each person is individual and has different strengths, whether they be male or female, big or small, fast or slow, and a good martial art or good martial artist should be able to easily facilitate anyone to be a great martial artist.
There is nothing masculine about martial arts, as they are fundamentally about knowing yourself completely, and being the best and most harmonious person you can be on the battlefield, but more importantly off the battlefield. With this in mind – plus the overwhelming historical evidence – the fact that there is a debate raging at all shows the utter lack of real understanding of these practitioners and how limited their practise is.