Typically, a girl will start because she is lacking in confidence. Whether she is being bullied at school or just plain shy, her parents will see martial arts as a magical solution to help with her self-esteem.
On the other hand, a boy will typically start karate because he is seen as too aggressive or uncontrollable – in such cases the discipline of martial arts appeals to parents who are desperate to find a way for their child to ‘channel his anger’.
So, what does this mean for martial arts? Well, it depends on what element of martial arts you’re concerned about.
When practicing, you tend to see girls demonstrate near perfect technique. By the time they’re ready to grade for the next belt they will have memorised all the steps and moves. And as a result, girls will often pass the technique side of their exams with ease.
However, in order to progress to a new belt, you are expected to show competency not just in your routines but also in your fighting.
This is (obviously) where boys have a natural advantage. At this point, the boys who bluffed their way through their routines will redeem themselves with their eagerness and fighting spirit.
This is far from ideal as one of the main goals of martial arts is to achieve a perfect balance between power and technique. As a result, no matter which element you originally favoured, you have to constantly work towards a middle ground.
So how do we deal with this imbalance? Should we be teaching children separately based on their individual preference for either technical perfection or aggression and power?
I would actually argue that more is gained from practicing with people who do things differently. Training with the two extremes side by side gives children the opportunity to see what they can aim for, making martial arts even more desirable as a way for children to practice learning from each other and gain the valuable skill of cooperation.