Masculinity & Martial Arts

Man Up Buttercup

There’s lots of positive talk in martial arts about resilience, toughness, standing up for yourself, overcoming adversity and so on

All good stuff, all essential things for life we believe, or at least all things most of us would benefit from

  • But what about boys vulnerability?
  • What about masculinity?
  • What about boys bonding with boys?
  • What about overcoming cultural norms, all of us?


We believe martial arts, taught well can not only teach young boys toughness (reminds me of a cartoon called Moschops where the dragon would turn up and take the flower for fierceness lessons, always stuck with me)

Martial arts can teach young boys essential lessons like vulnerability and Male bonding, something thats often looked down on, not cool, not manly.

Growing up a young man there is a lot of pressure to “man up” not only from peers but parents and mum is not getting off scot-free here. Of course not all, but it’s very common. 

We all know the slurs that as a boy, choosing ballet or music or crying and so on attract. “gay boy” being a favourite, which is simply a way of calling a boy a girl in a low brow lack of thinking kind of way. A cultural norm, less and less we hope as the years go by, but still too often. 

Boys growing into men don’t really have that bonding that young girls have together, bonding between men is rare and men bottle most things up so as not to look vulnerable, it’s not healthy.

We here at Function First believe we have an important part to play in this extremely important area.

Look at Jiu-Jitsu for example, boys learn to be in very close contact with other boys, they soon get over the “oh its gay” nonsense, more common in adults actually, who will say it out loud with no awareness of how ridiculous they look, but we don’t punish, we educate. They soon discover how tapping out over and over to someone dominating them is perfectly fine. This is forever humbling and when coached well, teaches us how to be vulnerable and that it’s ok. 

They soon realise that being in such close contact in compromising positions is all part of being human and as the ego dissolves over time its normal, not only normal but addictive and essential. Human connections are vital, hugging and touch is a beautiful thing and sadly in the modern world, we are becoming disconnected from each other. Thats like pulling trees up from their roots, we are withering as we disconnect. 

Now imagine after a year of Jiu-Jitsu, a young boy has spent a hundred hours with hundreds of other boys (and girls) sat on him, legs wrapped around him, laid across him. Now imagine that boy off to ballet and his peers calling him “gay boy” be like water of a ducks back, it would mean absolutely nothing (hopefully) rather than causing internal conflict and trying to fit in with peers and continuing the cycle, right there it’s broken as it simply doesn’t make sense anymore. Now of course we need to get those calling the names in class too, a work in progress, a cultural shift. 

We often get tears on the mats too and this can be an important lesson,  again not of your coach is shouting “suck it up buttercup” and that does happen. But we sit down and through the tears, we playfully explain “it’s fine to cry, we all cry” it’s the perfect time to get the child to laugh through the tears and a moment of realisation that they are not going to be mocked or asked to man up. It’s OK.

Eventually, everyone realises this is club culture and this is how we treat people


Peers don’t mock, peers encourage and support each other, and the fact that nearly all of us will shed a tear at some point in front of everyone, we build a culture of showing vulnerability, and that’s huge for young men and boys.

Revolution IS Internal – it’s also on the mats at Function First
Culture Is King