Blog Articles


As a professional writer, Pink Belt Project Founder Kristy Hitchens produces regular blog articles on martial arts for women and lessons learned during her own journey to Black Belt as a middle-aged martial artist. We hope they increase your knowledge while inspiring your own journey of learning through the martial arts.

Opinion Piece

What three years of connecting victim-survivors to martial arts has taught me about violence prevention.

5 Surprising Benefits

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Something which also forced you out of your comfort zone.

A secret super power

How many people feel inspired, set a goal and then stop well before the finish line? Is there a secret to motivation success?

What three years of connecting #survivors to martial arts has taught me about violence prevention.


OPINION

By Kristy Hitchens
FOUNDER
Pink Belt Project

One woman a week is murdered in Australia by her current or former partner. Police attend an incident related to domestic abuse every two minutes. And one in 5 Australian women has experienced sexual violence.

Experts in the space talk of drivers related to gender inequality as the core of the problem, and achieving gender equality as the heart of the solution. A wrestle for change is occurring on all fronts from workplaces, to sporting arenas, news rooms, board rooms, houses of parliament, schools and online forums.

How about in the dojo or martial arts gym though?

Wait… What? About now you could be wondering how a sporting environment still battling (admittedly out-dated) stereotypes around hyper-masculine boys’ clubs that encourage aggression, could possibly have a role to play in preventing violence against women?

My own journey to Taekwondo Black Belt in my 40s combined with three years of connecting dozens of women healing from the trauma of domestic abuse and/or sexual assault to martial arts, through my not-for-profit, Pink Belt Project tells me martial arts has the potential to play a hugely impactful role in this space if given the elbow room.

And the reason is something I like to call “The Martial Arts Effect”.

It’s a documented phenomenon that occurs when a woman starts practicing martial arts. And it’s got such potential for personal development and treatment of trauma that researchers and psychologists from around the world have been driving the steady emergence of a new breed of therapeutic programs grounded in martial arts.

I’ve seen some game-changing personal transformations take place through my Pink Belt Project firing a battle now to see more widely recognised, the untapped potential of martial arts as a therapeutic tool for recovery from violence. And beyond that! A powerful tool for preventing violence from even occurring in the first place.

Change I have seen in survivors of violence following 12 months of martial arts training provided through my Pink Belt Project mirror the raft of international studies demonstrating the uniquely empowering effects of martial arts training for women.

What happens, you see, is women learning martial arts very often experience a kind of internal shift as they work through this process of learning to defend themselves. A gradual achievement of mastery over their bodies takes place as they move kick by kick through the martial arts coloured belt rank system.

In amongst this sometimes messy development over time of power in kicks, punches, blocks, strikes, shouts, disarms and takedowns many women experience a fundamental change in how they act, feel, see themselves and move through the world.

MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT PREVIOUSLY DISCONNECTED BY VIOLENCE-INDUCED TRAUMA, ARE GENTLY DRAWN BACK INTO ALIGNMENT.

My own study of more than 400 Australian female martial artists this year (many of whom reported having been impacted by violence in the past) showed participants felt their sport made them feel stronger, safer, less-stressed, more confident and more effective at work. What other kind of sport or hobby can tick all of those boxes?

One particular study reports women trained in self-defence and/or martial arts have an enhanced ability to recognise red flags in behaviour and will also confidently express their personal boundaries.

That’s a really critical point in preventing and resisting assaults by acquaintances and intimate partners. This is where martial arts slides into not just a tool for recovery from violence, but also violence prevention.

Maybe you haven’t ever noticed them before. But be assured there’s one and usually several martial arts clubs in every town and city across the country. That’s a veritable national army that could be mobilised to help drive this change.

Equip them with specialised instructor training in trauma-informed martial arts practices ensuring optimal outcomes for survivors of violence and they could very well help with the healing but more importantly, they could also help prevent the need for the healing in the first place.

Many who teach or practice a form of traditional martial arts carry a deep commitment to community service. You can bet they are an army ready for action. Harnessing their collective power might just be the catalyst for change we need right now.

5 Surprising benefits of martial arts


When was the last time you did something for the first time?

And no! Deciding you’ll eat all the Turkish Delights (*gag) in your box of Cadbury Roses chocolates BEFORE the Vanilla Fudge ones is NOT going to cut it.

So I’ll re-phrase. When was the last time you did something for the first time which ALSO forced you out of your comfort zone?

Think about that while you read the next line by Canadian writer and motivational speaker Robin Sharma…

Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.

I entered my 40s recently with a determination to try new things, change life up a bit – nothing specific in mind!

Probably not an unusual state of mind when your birthday present comes in the form of a brand spanking new ZERO on the end of your age. (*humph)

This bright enthusiasm for fresh experiences was (I’ll admit) tempered by my serious aversion to roller coasters, sky diving, bungee jumping – anything seriously eeeeeeek (!!) of that nature.

Me: “I like to live dangerously by occasionally sticking my foot out over the edge of the bed at night”.

Also Me: “It’s time for a new challenge,” as I lifted myself off the sidelines of my son’s Taekwondo class (where I’d sat for five years) AND out onto the floor as a student.

There some magic happened.

Not right away. I kid you not. Initially there was fear, nausea, anxiety, pain, more pain and serious shame.

But not VERY long after, I began to experience truly incredible benefits to my life in general that I just NEVER expected.

So now I’ve made it my job to ensure other women like me, receive the support and encouragement they need to put their reservations aside and TRY a form of martial arts – like Taekwondo – and discover for themselves how it can make their life So. Much. Better.

And not just through improving physical fitness, weight loss or increased muscle strength.  Those guys are important but kind of the obvious ones don’t you think?

I want to share with you now 5 Surprising Life Benefits of Taekwondo – stuff that, like me when I started training, you would NEVER initially realise OR have heard about before without living the passion as I do now.

This is me kind of giving you a head start on things. Feel free to take notes. 

1. Builds confidence

I’ve always been pretty active. But the exercise I was doing before I started Taekwondo was more about fitness for fitness sake.   Group fitness classes, dancey moves. Kind of fun, kind of improved my fitness.

The problem with that kind of exercise when I think about it now though was there was no real tangible goal. I didn’t need to lose a heap of weight and there was no moment of triumph or rush of adrenaline like when you win a game or score a goal.

Now as I work my way through each of my Taekwondo belt levels, the sense of achievement is astonishing. Mastering a kick I could never do before, touching my nose to my shin in a stretch that I could never do before.

With every tiny little achievement, my self-confidence has bloomed. It seriously makes me feel like I can do anything if I work hard enough for it. It’s an amazing feeling.

2. Creates a sisterhood and they’ve got your back.

When you try something new that not many other people are doing, you create an instant connection with a whole bunch of amazing new people because you’re sharing an experience that’s totally unique.

You connect with each other in a way that you just don’t with other friends. I reckon there’s a couple of reasons why.

  • Martial Arts training makes you get up close and personal. Like RIGHT up THERE in people’s personal space. Ain’t nothin’ like a seminar on ju jitsu style ground holds for breaking down barriers and making new friends!
  • Only THEY can understand just HOW MUCH every little step on your martial arts journey means to you. They’ll help you celebrate that incredible little piece of white tape just added to your belt because they REALLY understand what it took to earn it.

3. Delivers stress relief

Lean in for this one because I NEED to whisper.

Punching and kicking stuff feels really good!

Like, REALLY. FREAKING. GOOD. If you have not tried it, I implore you to do so. RIGHT NOW.

Sorry. Too many SHOUTY capitals. But seriously.

Maybe you never felt like you were particularly sporty or athletic. Maybe you thought punching and kicking was more of a man thing.

Pfffffft.

The very first punches and kicks you learn in Taekwondo require next to no power, strength or skill.

Ya just gotta put your heart into it. I promise you will not believe how good it feels.

Especially when you picture the face of someone who made you cross. Not your kids but. Although…maybe that depends HOW cross they made you but I didn’t say that for real out loud.

And as for the man thing…here’s the scoop. Women the world over are discovering the REAL body, mind, spirit benefits of martial arts training and are flocking to it in droves. Martial arts is no longer dominated by men. My class is a perfect example. Equal numbers of men, boys, women and girls.

It’s time to get on board and find out what all the fuss is about.

4. Improves your parenting

The 5 principles or Tenets of Taekwondo are:

  • Courtesy
  • Integrity
  • Perseverance
  • Self control
  • Indomitable spirit

Applying these to your training and your life offer some incredible new personal insights and life lessons – even as an adult – and already I have been able to put these to very good use in my parenting.

Here’s an example:

My 12-year-old daughter started high school recently. She’s also quite tiny for her age but that didn’t seem to help her duck under the radar of a group of girl bullies.

In fact, her size seemed to be the reason they decided she’d make a good target.

One of the first things my Taekwondo Instructor taught in both his women’s self defence and Little Dragons classes is how to deter a potential attacker BEFORE they even strike with posture.

Learn to stand tall, look confident ALWAYS and regardless of how you’re feeling inside.

According to him, in the animal kingdom, when a predator goes in for the kill, they look for the easy target. The weakest one, the sick one, the smallest one. The one dragging its feet at the back of the pack.

Adopting a confident posture ensures you are not an easy target and can deflect a potential incident of bullying BEFORE it even occurs.

I shared this with my daughter and it really helped her.

5. It’s good for your brain

New published research in neuro science has found that practicing martial arts is good for your brain. The benefits are not just physical, but mental also.

In particular, research conducted at Bangor University and outlined in this article showed people who practiced martial arts had a better attention span and alertness than those who didn’t. Mind blown!

Just imagine how these cognitive benefits could assist in your ability to live a long and healthy life.

So there you have it. My best arm-twisting effort. I hope I have inspired you to do something for the first time AND just perhaps, to make that new thing a session with your local martial arts school.