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Who is is stronger, men or women?

The most obvious and common answer is men.

The more precise answer is it depends.

One of the most powerful ideas I have learned in martial arts is that strength is relative. As great grand Master Helio Gracie, one of the founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, once said: “Jiu-Jitsu is the triumph of human intelligence over brute force”.

It is true that with no prior training, men are on average stronger than women. However, when women are properly trained in self-defense they can effectively manipulate the fight to become stronger than men.

I have been teaching self-defense for women for over 10 years now. It is always an amazing experience. It usually only takes one or two classes for them to realize how powerful they are.

Once their eyes are opened to the possibility of being able to protect themselves against a much bigger and stronger attacker, something really special happens. Their body language and facial expression changes from lacking confidence and/or skepticism to standing up with their shoulders back. They become confident they can indeed learn what it takes to protect themselves.

Women grow up being told a lie. From an early age culture teaches them to believe they can’t do this or that because they are women. They are slowly and sadly convinced they are inherently inadequate for certain things, including, for the most part, self-protection.

This is brutal, but it goes unnoticed.

When I watch a little girl walking into my Jiu-Jitsu academy in her dancing shoes to watch her little brother’s class, I always take the time to have a conversation with the parents to why she is not training. Their response is always similar:

“Well, she loves to dance! Fighting is not really her thing. We want our son to learn self-defense so he can stand up for himself and his sister”.

Well-intending parents always want the best for their children. We do the best we can to make them understand that their daughters need to develop fighting skills as much as, or even more than, their sons.


Because they are more vulnerable. Because again, all conditions being equal they are physically weaker than man. They are facing a culture that insists on telling them they are inadequate for certain things because they are women and that’s is simply not true.

Moreover, the statistics for violence of men against women are outrageous.

  • On average, more than 1 in 3 women in the U.S. report experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Worldwide, reports estimate that nearly 35% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
  • 1 in 5 female college students are victimized while living on or nearby a college campus.

Empowering women to stand up for themselves should be a priority of every parent, every college, and, in my opinion, an important element ingrained in our public and private education system.

I honestly believe every women should be well trained in self-defense. That would lead to more change than most proposed changes in legislation in the ongoing battle for gender equality.

I am the father to two daughters and a husband to a lovely wife. These three women are the three most important people in my life. I have seen Jiu-Jitsu do wonders for them. The realization that they are much stronger than they think immediately affects their confidence to deal with battles on and off the mats. It empowers them to stand up with their shoulders back ready to chase their dreams and overcome challenges that come their way.

It also empowers them to define clear boundaries, as they know the transgression of those boundaries can lead to verbal, mental, and physical abuse. They are not supposed to put up with the violation of their rights and integrity under any circumstances.

Martial arts for women is not just a new trend. It should not be embraced or promoted just because it is fun or helps women get in shape and develop a strong body. It should be embraced and promoted because it empowers women to stand up for themselves, define clear boundaries, and establish a shift in power that is beneficial for women, men, and society as a whole.