I must admit, driving isn't the favourite part of my day. I think most people would agree with me when I say this, but one day, sat in traffic on my way to teach at one of my clubs, I drove past something a little different that really made me smile.
It was a billboard, advertising the "this girl can" campaign; the latest campaign trying to encourage female participation, body positivity and equality in the sporting world.
It made me smile, and gave me a lift, because instead of the usual shampoo adverts, or a poster trying to flog hair products or fast food, it was an advert that could really make a difference to the community that we are in.
Sport is for everyone but most people still find that it’s a male dominated activity. Sport England released figures that 31% of women participate in sporting activity whilst 40.8% of men participate in sporting activity. The difference between the genders highlight a possible issue with women and wanting to participate in sport, whether it is that women see barriers to participation socially or feel discouraged to do so.
The “this girl can” campaign is just one example of how society is trying to encourage female participation in sport, and I believe that the dynamic of male-dominated activity is beginning to shift from reality to myth. Almost all sports encourage female participants, and try and get women active in sport, but sometimes people can feel barriers that prevents them from taking the step into sport, whether it be a social barrier or fear of judgement.
That was why I was so pleased to see the "This Girl Can" campaign. The advert that I drove past had a picture of a woman in boxing gloves, saying "underneath these gloves is a beautiful manicure".
This leads me onto my next point; martial arts and women. Images such as the above advert create a positive representation of sports such as martials arts that are viewed as typically aggressive or masculine. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. Martial arts gives people the capability to defend themselves and increases confidence and self-belief, which is something that everyone can benefit from. Yes, there is the fighting element to it, but for those who believe that makes it a male only activity really haven't given Tae Kwon-Do a try.
As a Tae-Kwon-Do Instructor who believes in his students, skill and strength isn’t something you can attribute to sex. Over the course of 10 years I have had the pleasure of working with many talented women and there was one who stood out for me specifically. She was nicknamed “Flex” due to her superb flexibility. She was 4ft 11", and in class would take anybody on and win, regardless of size. She was a superb fighter to the point where you never felt nervous watching her compete in competitions, because you knew she'd come back with gold, she was that good.
She stands out as a great example that women can go on to achieve great things and Tae-Kwon-Do is a great tool to help people make positive changes regardless of gender.
Earlier, I mentioned the statistics of female and male participation in sport. In my clubs, 45% of my students are female. Whilst some may see martial arts as a male dominated activity, those figures dispel that as a myth and show that there truly is equal opportunities for all.
Although, even if my clubs had 90% female or 90% male participants, it wouldn't matter. Any club worth its salt would offer opportunities to everyone and anyone that wishes to participate. Gender shouldn't be an issue, and isn't an issue in more and more cases. That's how it should be.
In an ideal world, the "This Girl Can" campaign wouldn't have to exist because people should see sport and martial arts for all people. However, to see the world trying to actively encourage people into sports and activities is a fantastic step to truly making the male dominated view of sport to a myth, and not factual. Any campaign that actively encourages equality and participation in sport will always get the full support and backing of TSX Tae Kwon-Do.