Girls combat fear of ridicule with karate
A FEAR of being judged and ridiculed has been identified in the Girls Make Your Move Campaign as a main barrier holding girls and women back from exercising.
Geoff French and 13-year-old Maddie Langan want to combat this fear and encourage more women to get off the sofa and into the fresh air to exercise.
Mr French said he understood why girls grew up to believe sport, fitness and overall power belonged to men.
"I think a lot of it comes from Hollywood," he said.
"The men are shown to be the protectors and more powerful than the women.
"But it's time we showed women can step up and be standing side by side, and giving it to the boys."
The karate and fitness instructor said he was this week surprised by some changes at Karate 4 Kids.
"Our normal numbers are around about four boys to one girl," he said.
"But now our 13 to 17 age group is about three girls to four boys, almost 50-50.
"That's probably only changed in the last six months."
He said the number of women now outnumbered the men in the 25 to 45-year age group, and the number of girls continued to climb in the seven to 12-year age group too.
Mr French said Karate was seen as a male dominated sport for a long time, but that had changed.
"It's for everyone, and especially great self-defence for women," he said.
The karate sensei said his 13-year-old student Maddie Langan was one of his best athletes.
"It's great to see a girl putting it on the boys, it really inspires other girls," he said.
"It doesn't matter whether it's a boy or a girl on the field, and Maddie's breaking down those barriers."
Maddie, who started the sport eight years ago, said it was a passion of hers.
"I'm sort of obsessed with it," she said.
The second-degree black belt holder and top five competitor in Australia for her division said she also noticed changes in the sport.
"The ratio (of boys to girls) is almost half and half," she said.
"Not so long ago it was very male dominated."
Today is International Women's Day, and Geoff French urged women to seize the day and get fit.
He said women were often more prone to certain health conditions in later life including osteoporosis and bladder problems, and exercise was the key to manage them.