Most adult martial arts classes are male-dominated, kind of the mirror image of yoga, dance and aerobics classes. I think that this reflects cultural norms and pre-conceptions, rather than anything fundamental.
Oral tradition has it that the techniques of our school of jiu-jitsu were formalized by a group of Chinese buddhist nuns living in Japan in the 16th century, a group that no doubt would have needed effective self-defence! Consequently, our art is well-suited to women, although men can learn it too.
Melanie demonstrating the Nurse's Grip Gooseneck
Generally speaking, having girls and women in the class benefits the blokes. They bring grace, rhythm and a lower center of gravity. Usually not as strong, and often smaller, women and girls need to work hard on their technique from the outset. Their presence also helps diffuse the macho vibe that you tend to get in all male groups.
Conversely, girls and women benefit from having males in the class. If they are ever attacked, chances are that it will be by a male, and they need to feel and practice with the generally stronger and larger sex to achieve self-defence proficiency, and confidence in their own abilities.
A further argument for a mixed class is the same one for co-education in general: That we live in a mixed-sex society and that spending time together is good for our social development.
* * *
My own class has tended to follow the usual pattern of more males than females, although my senior student is female, and acts as a role model for other women who join the class. Lately we have had an influx of women, so hopefully we can keep 'em.
When I was working my way up through the student ranks I was part of a core group of 2 gals and 2 guys (Melanie, pictured above, was one of the gals) who trained together for about 5 years, and I found the mix beneficial.
What's the gender-balance like at your school? What would you like it to be? What are the factors that influence the balance?