Monday, November 20, 2017

the unicorn tracker

I've been called a lot of things over the years. Not all of them complimentary. Sometimes it bugs me, because I have a monkey brain and it likes to be liked but for the most part, I realize that if EVERYONE liked me or supported what I stood for then I'd be doing something wrong.

Recently, someone told me I was a unicorn. He meant it. He said a female self-defense instructor who:

1) wasn't trying to be a "guy"
2) wasn't operating from a "we are victims" mindset

was a unicorn. Typically, I wouldn't take being called a fairytale creature a compliment per se, but I get it and I know this guy and I understood what he meant.

There are a number of women who are martial arts instructors. Not a plethora, but there are definitely more female martial arts instructors than there are female self-defense instructors.

And no, they're not the same thing. Martial Arts and Self-Defense are not synonymous. There is crossover and sometimes a significant amount of crossover. There are elements of martial arts training, including the combat arts, that can be applied to self-defense. These truths do not; however make martial arts and self-defense synonymous.

I have seen what the Unicorn Tracker identified. I have seen female instructors being really 'male' on the mat. Posturing, dominating, moving and walking with a more male gate....and not because they relate as a male from a gender perspective...but because somehow they must have felt it was necessary to be respected and effective.

I have also seen female instructors with a victim history making everything they teach about the victimization. A war of sorts. Us v. Them. I get this perspective too. There is a passion born of experiencing the sensation of utter powerlessness when being physically and psychologically overwhelmed by violence.

I could be either or both of the above. I'm not entirely sure why I'm not. And the only reason it matters is that I would like for the Unicorn Tracker's statement to become moot. It would be great if there were enough female self-defense instructors to meet the instructional demand. I have a deep respect for the guys who reach out and ask for help, direction and insight into the landmines they should avoid when teaching self-defense with women. They are taking on a task they have to shoulder because there isn't much of anyone else to do it.  Good on you, gentlemen.

I don't know how to do it - and I don't know if it's really actually possible. But it would be cool as shit for Unicorns to loose their designation as rare - it would be fantastic to look out across a room full of self-defense instructors and see as many women as men...more even.

Maybe in the generations to come. In the meantime, I'm noodling around on what the catalyst would be - what it would take to transform the mythic connotation from meaning rare, to meaning fantastically abundant.


  1. It still makes me smile that you teach an overwhelmingly "male" martial art while remaining feminine

    and I taught a "female" martial art while remaining masculine.

    Balance, balance.

  2. Any thoughts as to why so few Unicorns?

    1. hmmm, Sue - good question. Off the top of my head? I would say we don't have a solid paradigm for the Unicorns. We don't have a generally accepted role or model for women as 'warriors' - the idea of a Shield Maiden for example isn't a norm - it's an exception. I think that mixing into this the aspects of violence that are highlighted regarding women, sexual/intimate violence, and all the cultural weirdness around it - we end up with just a mucky swamp of expectations about women who want to learn how to hit stuff (and people).