Saturday, 15 August 2009

Women in Martial Arts

For many generations, the Chen family produced highly adept female martial artists. For it is commonly known that Kung Fu is about skill, rather than brute strength. Women - like men can be equally skillful at anything. But one incident was to shape Chen family history for many generations:

Chen Ziaoniu had two older brothers, and trained along side them diligently, until she became better at the Chen family form of Taijiquan than they were. When she became old enough to marry, the son of a wealthy family made advances towards her. Ziaoniu's parents rejected him in favour of an honest young man called Zhao.

The spurned wealthy young man possessed considerable martial skill, and proceeded to persecute and harrass the Zhao family, damaging crops and attacking individual members. Before she married, Ziaoniu had made a promise to her father that she would not show her martial ability to her new family - and she stuck to this promise for a good number of months. But a person can only bear so much torment, and finally, she drew her sword and dealt with this bully and his entourage with considerable ease.

Now, if Ziaoniu's husband had any self-respect, he would have thanked her for helping his family out, and cherished her as a valuable asset. But instead, he blamed her for causing the trouble and waited until his father died before sending Ziaoniu back to the Chen family - disgraced. It is hard to believe in these modern times, but back then, this was the ultimate dishonour to be brought onto any woman.

Vowing to never practice Chen Taijiquan, Ziaoniu broke her sword in two. She was inconsolable, and after an extensive period of mourning, hung herself. She was buried with her broken sword. Following this horrible incident, Chen Xunru decreed that Chenjiagou Taijiquan would not be taught to women.

There are many things wrong with the way women are treated around the world - but looking at this tale reminds me that we have moved on a great deal.

London olympics will now hold women's boxing - for the first time. I am overjoyed. Up until now, the given reason why women weren't allowed to box in the olympics was "Women are unstable and cannot control themselves."

Perhaps we haven't moved far enough - yet.