Daily Archives: February 20, 2013

Women and Whether They Can “Handle” BJJ

I know everyone has probably put in their two cents at this point, but when I first read the heading to Keith Owen’s post, “Can Women Really Handle Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?” my first reaction was to recall a scene from the movie 300, which I have (painfully) recreated for you with a free gif generator, so sorry for the poor quality:

“Clearly you don’t know our women…”

Granted this guy doesn’t make his living writing, he makes it teaching  jiu jitsu. Also granted there is an expectation that as an instructor he should have a little more open mind and less sexist attitude when it comes to recruiting women students into his academy. 

Maybe it’s just me, but in his post the instructor creates an “us versus them” mentality, which may also reflect in his teaching at his academy. In an attempt to not scare women away, he in fact is creating a segregated culture by putting women to the side where they won’t be”harmed” or “made uncomfortable” by rolling. By putting women to the side you create a double standard; a perfectly healthy man is pressured to train, where the “delicate flower”of a woman is not pressured to try her new skills out on the mat. 

Aye, but there’s the rub: to try something new, jiu jitsu or not,  is about getting out of your comfort zone and being challenged. And while we know the joys of overcoming those challenges in the art, they can be immensely frustrating and practically a deal breaker for ANY beginner. It takes time and patience to get a new student through that first obstacle, regardless of gender.  I’m sure if this is he notices a lot of women walking out the door, there’s a good chance a lot of white belts in general are walking out the door, frustrated with the experience: it’s just women are the smaller group and so their absence is more noticeable. While you will find a few exceptions to the rule, your white belts aren’t quite “in love” with jiu jitsu up to the first 60 to 90 days-you have to share that passion, that enthusiasm with them. Challenge them, but also make sure someone isn’t smashing the living daylights out of them the first week in.

I do find the mention of the married men a bit out of line though. I could be totally wrong, but to mention it as an issue means there’s a good chance someone is making it an issue on the mat which would make any female uncomfortable no matter how much they love training.

I never thought I had to be Captain Obvious, but women don’t think about sex when they are training with male partners. We are there to learn and improve, not to “get our grind on”. Just….ew. And if the wives of these guys are complaining about women training with men, encourage them to try a few classes to see what the whole thing is really all about. Who knows? Maybe you’ll have a few women sign up that way.

My point is treat everyone in your academy with respect, encourage that respect among one another, have  relatively little to no double standards (guys in our academy are not allowed to wear a shirt under their gi, but women are allowed- that sort of thing) and most importantly share your passion for the sport with your students. That is how you will get women to stay: by focusing on the sport and everything you love in it, and not a woman’s perceived “delicate sensitivities”.

I’m linking to Julia’s post on the subject, mainly because she was the one that brought the whole thing to my attention, and also I don’t want to give this guy any more publicity than he already has gotten in response to the article. If you are going to read it, read Julia’s analysis first, and like her post so she gets the readership traffic boost.


Filed under bjj, Training, women's bjj