Women Vs Men, 7 Ways Fighting Styles Differ
In the past few years wrestling has really opened up to more participation for young girls. It’s an exciting time, but teaching girls how to wrestle may be unfamiliar territory for some coaches. Based on my experience, it’s not so much that the wrestling itself is any different from how boys wrestle, but in general women have different strengths and weaknesses to contend with.
Here are a list of 7 things to consider when working to bring out the full potential of your women wrestlers.
1. Girls rely more on technique
Girls, generally speaking, do not have as much physical power as boys do (particularly when boys are going through puberty). I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Boys will face similar issues when going against someone who is more physically gifted. However it does mean that having good technique is a must. Good technique can do wonders when it comes to fighting a tough opponent. Focus on teaching technique that relies more on speed, timing, and angles rather than technique that requires a ton of upper body strength. Be quick to correct any mistakes that could lead to bad habits since girls will not be able to compensate with strength as easily.
2. Girls appreciate softer emotions.
In a male dominated world where showing emotions can be seen as a weakness, women are a bit of the opposite. Women see emotions as a tool for connection. As a coach, if you only come across as strict, mean, and aggressive, you may find it difficult to connect with your female wrestlers (or any of your wrestlers for that matter). When your athletes don’t perform the way you would like, or if they are struggling in some way, tap into their emotions to try and feel what they are feeling. Ask them if there is something they want to talk about. Is there something going on in their life? Listen and acknowledge what they have to say.
I personally find that when I take the time to listen to an athlete I am able to gain their trust in ways that go beyond just being a good leader. They know that I know where they’re coming from and that I actually care about them and not just their performance. Even if I don’t agree with the ideas that my athletes are presenting me, I never shut it down right away. Instead I like to ask why they think that would work, what inspired them to have those ideas? When I see where they are coming from I am able to help them question their own thoughts and offer some suggestions that make more sense.
So don’t be afraid to show your softer side, when people see that you are an emotional human being they can learn to be more open and trust you. Of course, as a coach you still have standards and goals set in place for your athletes, but put the physical and emotional well-being of your athletes first. Women are much more receptive to this than men are.
3. More defensive wrestling
This has changed slightly over the years, but women have more of a tendency to wrestle more defensively. I think this is especially the case with newer wrestlers since taking a shot poses much more risk than just waiting to take advantage of someone else’s shot. However, if this habit continues then it can become their primary way of fighting.
I find that women are also less likely to attack because of their upbringing (women are generally encouraged to be more agreeable and not fight) and may not be used to using their strength to it’s fullest potential on a consistent basis. It can take a bit of mindset shift before they may be totally comfortable taking on a style that is more offensive.
4. Not quite as explosive
Women are not as strong as men (from a general standpoint). That’s not to say we can’t be strong. I mean for me personally, I have been gifted with strength that take men by surprise and that’s just how I’ve always been. But just from a general biological level we aren’t really designed to be as strong as men are. And that’s totally ok.
Our moves aren’t going to have as much throwing, slamming, or jumping as much as guys do. Instead, women are going to focus on maximizing angles, timing, and speed. Everything for women fighters is going to rely more on finesse than pure strength. I honestly think this is blessing in disguise because over the long run our technique will carry us farther as a fighter compared to just relying on pure athletic ability (which will naturally diminish as we get older). Our bodies will also thank us for it because we end up having to use less energy which allows our bodies to not wear out so quickly.
Girls are famous for this, we are flexible! Not all of us, but I’d say it’s pretty common to find some really flexible girls. It’s just another great tool to have to get out of a pinch or to just stall when you’ve got your back exposed to the mat.
If there is one main reason why girls can be difficult to pin we can point to extremely flexible shoulder joints (or a really flexible back!). It can definitely be frustrating for her opponent, but there are ways to work around this flexibility. If you are gifted with such flexibility, use it and make the most of it! It is a great defensive asset.
6. More variety of body types
Women have higher percentages of body fat than men do. It means we’re softer, rounder, and in general, we look different from each other based on where our body tends to store and collect fat.
When I was competing among guys back in high school, I would always try to spot the person who I’d be wrestling. Who around here looks to be about 130? And you could generally find him with some degree of accuracy. After a while, you get pretty good at judging how much someone weighs after having so much experience watching all the different weight classes.
But when I started to wrestle with women, it was nearly impossible to guess unless they were way outside your weight class. Some women are really tall and lengthy and other women are short and stocky. Some women’s bodies also hide a lot of muscle underneath a layer of fat which might make them heavier than what you would assume them to be.
Our bodies are just really unique and at this point it’s just something we should all embrace. Every body type comes with it’s unique advantages and disadvantages and regardless of what it can do they are all perfect in their own right.
7. Aim your attacks on weaker parts of the body
The weak areas that I am referring to are parts of the body with less muscle such as knees, ankles, and elbows. Attacking these areas require more finesse on timing and angles, but if you can get them you will be able to take them down with a lot less muscle. These types of attacks are also difficult to stop with strength alone. Your opponent must learn to fight you with other skillsets such as timing, anticipation, and scrambling.
8. Get Stronger
This might come across as the most obvious/unhelpful suggestion, but if you’re not that technical yet then maybe it’s time to start hitting the gym more. Continuously improve your strength so that you are getting muscled around less. It may take a while and you may or may not ever become stronger than opponent. But if you can become strong enough to assert yourself more and defend against their attacks that’s still a gain to be proud of.
If you do end up winning against a much stronger opponent, please don’t let it get to your head. All opponents deserve respect for spending the time to wrestle with you and help you become better. Wrestling is a sport that is very difficult to improve by yourself and this becomes much more apparent the better you become. Your partner will be your most important asset to your journey in becoming the best wrestler you can be.
And if you lose, don’t let it get to your head either. Everyone loses sometimes. It’s ok. The opponent you lost to will inevitably find someone who they will lose to. What will be most helpful is just taking the time to reflect and see what you could have done to change the outcome. What do you need to work on? In what moments could you have done better? Survived longer? Practice improving those areas and then the next time you go against the same opponent see if you do better.
If you have any other suggestions on ways to beat a stronger opponent please leave them in the comment section below as I’m sure other readers will find your suggestions helpful.
An artist at heart, Kelly is a San Jose based entrepreneur with a passion for wrestling. Starting wrestling as a sophomore, Kelly became a Girls' State Champion her Senior year in 2008. Her love for the sport has led her to create Distant Klash, an apparel brand to represent wrestling with fun comic-inspired visuals. Today Kelly is a one-on-one coach and is constantly creating new artwork for her fans.