"There is no sex (gender) in the dojo!"
When my Sensei (who is also my husband) said that to me, he was trying to make the point that the dojo is a gender neutral zone. Everyone trains the same, the rules and expectations aren't different based upon what parts are under your karate uniform. That equal treatment philosophy is part of the appeal of karate training to me and I am a huge fan of the gender neutral training philosophy at our dojo.
However, I still take exception to that statement. See, as a woman and a dedicated karateka I have trained through all nine months of two pregnancies, up to and past my due dates (both were late - of course!). I have trained holding my infant daughter, just doing stances and foot patterns when she didn't want to be put down. I have had to leave class when my son would push his play gate across the dojo floor to get to me. I have bowed out mid-class to change dirty diapers and feed a baby their bottle, and once a month for the majority of the past 13 years I have trained through the discomfort of bloating and cramps (sorry guys!).
I do not leave my gender at the threshold when I bow at the waist and step onto the floor, I wrap it around me and embrace it like a suit of feminine armor, because I am a woman, wife, and mother who is also a karateka. I bring all those elements with me onto the floor the same as when I step outside, I carry what I have learned in the dojo with me. I want my son and daughter to recognize and respect the dedication and drive it takes to continue to press on even when your physical state or life circumstances require you to modify your techniques. Just because something becomes more challenging doesn't mean you quit - you find a way to persevere and try to figure out a way to use it to your advantage if you can.
The study and practice of karate has made me a more confident and assertive person. This has helped me tremendously at work and also in following through with my convictions where my kids are concerned. When I was in labor, I correlated it in my mind to a belt test for rank. By the time you get to sparring you are physically and mentally exhausted, but you dig deep and push through it - stopping is not an option. I heard my dojo family in my head urging me to "finish strong". Thirty-six hours after labor started I held the best reward ever when my daughter was (finally) born. Conversely, when I'm intimidated by something in the dojo (like a jumping scissor sweep) I think about how I pushed out two babies and if I can do that, I can certainly handle a new technique! Physically training has helped me stay strong and flexible into my 40's, which is good for chasing the kids around on the playground.
Having a family did change my perspective and the way I train. Rank and physical coordination are still important, but I've slowed down my progress. They are only young once, so I'm making sure I balance time on the dojo floor with time spent doing activities with them. I learned that even when I was 9 months pregnant and physically unable to do certain things, it was no excuse to stop - I just learned to adapt and move on. That's part of the reason I love karate, I know it will be there for me no matter what limitations may arise.
So, respectfully, I say there IS sex in the dojo. Not in the sense my sisters and I should do fewer push-ups than our dojo brothers, shorter rounds, or lower expectations. That would be disrespectful. But rather in the sense there is tremendous value to bringing your life experiences and who you are as an individual into your training, including gender. The same goes when you leave the dojo, as you will benefit by bringing the lessons you learned in training and apply them to your everyday life. Which brings me to another thing my Sensei says, "EVERYWHERE is the dojo". That one, I agree with 100%.