My name is Sophie Newnes and I’m a former UEL student and Head Coach at the WOMMA Self-defence classes. We run free martial arts lessons for women at Sports dock in conjunction with “MY UEL Sports”. Open to all females that attend UEL, our classes are held in a fun, safe environment where you can learn a lot whilst having loads of fun.
At WOMMA, we are working to break down barriers to female sports participation by creating opportunities for all women to get involved. The room is closed off with “Women Only” signs on the doors – this helps us to create a safe environment for sisters of Islam to train without their religious wear if they wish to.
I think the reason why women continue to keep coming back to our classes is because the classes are so much fun. Everyone encourages and helps one and other and the classes are always full of laughter. Many of the women who attend end up becoming close friends outside of the classes – it’s kind of like a “girls night in” minus Ben & Jerry’s and a facemask!
My top tips for increasing female participation in sport would be; listen to what women want – not everyone is there for fitness and not everyone is there to learn the technical side. People come for all kinds of different reasons and it’s important to find out what they are, so that everyone is achieving their goals. If it is fitness, then that student can be pushed more, if it’s to learn technique – ensure they understand the moves and leave feeling sure that they’ve got it, if it’s a social thing –incorporate more group work and make sure they have time to have a chat with everyone during the session. If somebody just wants to work on their confidence, then build them up and give them the chance to shine when they’re ready. As a coach, ask yourself if your classes are suitable for all females to attend – some women can’t partake in sport in front of men for religious reasons or otherwise, so is there any way you can be more inclusive and hold some classes in an alternative space that accommodates everybody?
If you’d like to join WOMMA next year, come along either by yourself or as a group – we encourage all women to get involved, no matter your shape, size, religion or sporting background. You will learn so many practical skills from escaping an attack to how to do a backwards roll (which everyone seems to struggle with). Profits from our clothing line WOMMA Sportswear go towards funding these classes, so do check us out online, too!
Love yourself, love one another, love WOMMA.