Central Florida dojo sees more girls pursuing black belts in martial arts

While martial arts might seem like a male-dominated sport, the number of female participants is growing – and more girls are earning their coveted black belts.

Girls of all ages – from four-years-old to high school teens -- are learning martial arts. Their training includes stretching, strength, technique and sparring – sometimes even with their sensei. 

Abigail Kendrick started martial arts in first grade and now 8.5 years later, she wears a junior black belt and will soon be testing for her black belt.

"After my white belt I was so happy after I got a yellow, orange, blue – all of the belts," Kendrick said. "And I just want to keep pursuing that."

She’s not the only one. Several girls in her class at the Northwind Martial Arts Academy in Oviedo are working to achieve their goals.

Larissa Da Silva is already a green belt and is training to also one day get her black belt.

"I really want to get it," Da Silva said. "It’s just so cool to pursue something, you know?"

Owner James Taylor said his girls are shattering glass ceilings when it comes to black belt status.

"We have a success rate of 20% - which globally is 3-5 percent," Taylor said. "Seventy-percent are girls."

"I think it’s amazing how girls start standing out and doing what they believe they should," Kendrick said. 

"They know it’s difficult," Taylor said. "They know it’s hard. All tests are hard. They take the challenge. They embrace it and go for it."

While earning the next belt is part of the reward, the students are learning so much more.

"I feel like this place really grasps the importance of not only teaching kids how to be strong and how to defend themselves but also being smart enough to know when you don’t have to get into a fight or when you might not have to defend yourself – you can talk it out you know," Da Silva said. 

They’re building confidence, compassion and friendship.