What follows are my observations from nearly a decade of hard fight training in Core JKD as a female.

Now, the bad-ass part of me wants this guide to be essentially gender neutral. That bad-ass would pretend women are just smaller versions of men, and I would address issues of fighting and technique.

But let’s face it; we are not the same.

We live in a society with different expectations for female bodies—especially when it comes to appearance.

These are my experiences with cauliflower ear, broken teeth, clothing that hindered training, insecurities regarding my body, and false perceptions about what I do and why I do it.

I want to help you avoid some of that pain, worry, and misunderstanding.

Anna one arm Handstand




Clothing, Hair, Hygiene - What I wish I knew

Ok, let’s talk about some things I usually loathe discussing: clothes, hair, makeup, and nails. Part of me wants to go full out and shave my head; the other part likes being more traditionally feminine when I leave the training studio (well…as feminine as this tomboy can muster). I’ve come up with some ways to deal with “fashion issues” in training, so I can keep my mind in the fight and not on what my clothes are doing.

Get Some Compression Shorts ASAP

compression-shortsI’m embarrassed to say this, but I spent my first year of training with soggy cotton underwear bunched up in all manners of places. Then I tried training without underwear. Or a thong, which comes with its own problems.


When grappling, your pants often shift (a drawstring fixes this - see clothing section below) OR get stretched so thin during movement that they become semi-transparent. (I have seen many a lady-bit in my years from that happening to other folks.)


Eventually, I noticed what the guys were wearing—compression shorts. They work for women too, and they are much easier to find now than when I first needed them.


They are great for wicking sweat; they can be worn under pretty much anything; they don’t shift during hard grappling; and, best of all, NO panty lines. What woman doesn’t like that? Do yourself a favor, and get a good quality pair. 

What I Look for When Buying Training Clothes

1. Synthetic Dri-Fit Fabric - It dries faster than cotton, lasts longer than cotton, and doesn’t retain smells like cotton. These clothes are usually a larger investment upfront, but they will pay for themselves after a few years. I spent 2 years stubbornly trying to get cotton to work because it was cheaper, but found myself soaking wet in the summer, often throwing out shirts from the smell (usually from other people’s sweat), and in the store frequently buying new shirts.


2. Ease of Movement - When trying on clothes, I will jump, kick, punch, squat, sit, and contort in the dressing room. Fighting will put you in positions you would never imagine. You want your clothes to come along for the ride.


3. Draw Strings - Pants and shorts have a habit of inching down when grappling. A good draw string eliminates this issue, and you can keep your mind on the fight instead of your pants.


Jim Kelly - Enter The Dragon


Train with it in your face, or cut it off.

In a street fight, you won’t have the luxury of stopping and putting up your hair. So either find a hairstyle that won’t impede your vision, OR train how to fight with hair in your face.


You would be surprised how much you will learn when you don’t have the ability to see.


In clinch-range and grappling, you don’t need to see your opponent to be effective. Get used to training that way. You will be a more effective fighter for it.


If training for competition, braids can work, but after about 30 minutes of typical ground training, those are usually completely undone. Also, I just had to get over trying to have good hair during training.


Don’t worry about it. We’re all in the same messy-hair boat at the end of a session.


Bruce Lee Enter The DragonI cut my nails (fingers and toes) before every class. I recommend both men and women do this. Scratches are also just plain hard on your training partners.


If you insist on having long nails, please wear gloves.


Otherwise its like training against a wolverine.


Fingernail scratches usually heal slowly on the person you scratch because bacteria collected under them is pushed into the skin. And really, in a street fight, what opponent is so wimpy that a fingernail scratch will incapacitate them?

They can mark up your attacker for the police later—get a little DNA under the skin—but not incapacitate them. 


As for trying to keep your nails painted—if you’re training regularly, resistance is futile.


I tried keeping my nails painted for a while, but there’s nothing like a mat to mess up toenail paint.


I get more benefit from training than I do from painted nails.


I eventually found that no polish worked for me (and my husband didn’t even notice when I stopped wearing it).

Nail polish is just something I found I could live without. 


Please, just don’t.


Your face ends up on somebody else’s shirt in the first 10 minutes.


Trust me, you are just as attractive without it as you are with it. 


I often walk in the door at home after training and proclaim

“I need to go wash, like, 5 dudes off of me, RIGHT. NOW,”

Febreze Odor Eliminator
(Click Image)

and march straight to the shower.


Other people’s smells and sweat just come with the territory of physical contact.

Most of us who have been training a long time make an effort to come in to class as clean as possible because we know it’s more pleasant on our training partners.


Sometimes though, smells are unavoidable. Especially in summer, when clothes and equipment are constantly wet.


A good way to zap lingering smells is Febreze laundry odor-eliminator

It has saved many a shirt for me. Clothing I used to throw out now gets a good soaking in Febreze and becomes useable again.