Lately, I’ve seen a lot of attention given to the fact that society tells young girls that they feel inferior to boys. I have three sisters and we have all been raised to strive to be the best persons we can possibly be because we were perfectly and wonderfully made by the creator of the universe. This is the greatest comfort I could ever know, but I also find much satisfaction when I take the boys down on the dojo mats.

Two of my sisters and I have been booking through season one of Naruto, and we’ve just watched the episode, “Sakura Blossoms” It was interesting to watch their reactions as they have a younger perspective then I do. The whole season, we have been yelling at Sakura for not sticking up for herself and acting quite wimpy. They expect so much of Sakura because she’s their role model. She’s a young ninja like them, but she constantly disappoints them.

My sisters and I do martial arts and as always, we are some of the only girls in our class. Our father was very involved in martial arts as he grew up and we’re all thankful he introduced it to us because it’s given us a confidence we’ve never known before. Mixed with the fact that our father loves the Lord and is a fantastic martial artists, he teaches us never give up, always fight for what’s right, on a very deep level. My favorite lesson he taught me was “You’re not having fun until you bleed.” I believe our family operates much like an episode of Naruto.

The Lord teaches us on an emotional and spiritual level that we are deeply loved and worth so much, but the Lord has brought martial arts into our lives to help us understand these principles on a physical level. You can understand why we have such high expectations of Sakura. Young girls latch onto the nearest female figure in any TV show or movie. To address that, the filmmakers try and create these amazing, kick-butt, characters who proclaim that they are better then the boys. Is that realistic? More importantly, is that something we should be teaching girls? We’re changing the definition of what it means to be girly. They’re trying to say that girls can be tough, but it feels more like they’re telling girls that they can only be tough to compete in this world.

Sakura had to come over this great battle within herself. She was told that she wouldn’t be able to survive in her world unless she matched or surpassed her team mates. Naruto and Sauske are the two most powerful characters in the whole show, making this battle even harder for Sakura. This gives Sakura almost an unattainable goal to reach. On top of that, she doesn’t receive any affirmation from her squad or Sensei. All she has to work on is the guilt and shame she forces upon herself. Like most girls, the battle is inside and we are our worst enemy. One of her greatest weaknesses is her crush on Sauske.

She may not have the ability to compete with her squad on a physical level, but she knows she has the duty as a member of their team to support them in her own individual way. She knows that she has different talents that don’t quite seam to be equal in worth, but she still finds confidence. It takes about 35 episodes, but Sakura finally learns that in order to truly live our her duty and love her teammates, (specifically Sauske) she needs the let go of her crush on him. Sakura embodies most 12 year old girls- boy obsessed and a little awkward. When it came down to it however, she showed the audience that she had the ability to transform herself into the person she truly wanted to be. Even though she was socially pressured to be something she was not, she did not let anyone rush her. When she was ready, she no longer needed her boy crazy-ness to define her. By cutting off her hair, she is symbolically reborn. Sauske liked long hair, so she kept it long, but in order to show him true love and devotion, she sacrificed a physical attribute that made her feel secure.

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There are many important lessons taught here. What’s important here is not that she taught girls that they don’t need their good looks to feel good about themselves. Sakura was a normal girl who wasn’t going to be forced to be someone she didn’t want to be. She found the strength to fine her true potential and be tough when she needed to be. Most importantly, she shows girls that they don’t have to be all of that right away. It took her a long time to come to those conclusions and that was the perfect timing for her. No one needs to grow up before they’re ready to, but you can still be a responsible person while your maturing.

It’s because Sakura closely embodies my sister’s and my journey through martial arts of gaining confidence and discovering ourselves that she is one of my favorite characters. In our world, the Lord has perfect timing. He brings people- like my father and journeys – like martial arts to shape us into the people he wants us to be in beautiful timing.

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~There are many different Martial Arts in the world. I take Aikido and my sisters take Karate and Brazilian Jujitsu. My father trained in Karate and Ninjitsu. Everyone in my family trains a little differently, but we’ve found the art that best fits us.~

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