Tag Archives: heavier women in bjj

Larger Women & Training in BJJ: A Tale from Both Sides

I’ve mentioned this before, but I was pretty big when I first started jiu jitsu- I was pretty close (if not over) 200 pounds, which isn’t really a great look for someone who is approximately 5’3 and had very little muscle definition at the time.

When I started jiu jitsu there were a few girls that took some classes- they were definitely smaller than me, and while they meant well, there were a few instances where a thing would happen: they would become frustrated while training with me and would either make some sort of back handed compliment about my size, or there was what I call the huff- unconsciously or consciously letting me know that it wasn’t my technique but rather my size that was causing a problem for whatever they were trying to do. I can’t recall what specifically was taking place at the time, but as Maya Angelou once said, people don’t always remember what you do or say, but rather how you make them feel. And in those instances I felt large and awkward and almost not welcome in the space.

It doesn’t really make sense to a lot of guys, I know- the dream for a lot of dudes is to be as big and muscular as possible (and technical, of course), to be a juggernaut on the mats. For women it’s a bit different however: a lot of larger women are made to feel uncomfortable about the space they take up on the mat. Do I think it’s an intentional act? No, actually- I think for the most part people just do stupid things without any real malicious intent: we’re just not so great at interacting with other humans sometimes (I sort of jokingly say this occasionally, ‘people-ing is hard’).

As someone who has been in that situation, and as someone now who trains with larger women, I am sensitive to that feeling and try to make women of all shapes and sizes feel welcome on the mat. I very specifically remember training with a woman who was a bit taller and heavier than I was, and I asked her why she wasn’t really going for certain techniques. It took her a moment, but she admitted that she was afraid that she was going to hurt me. I basically told her not to worry, that I would be fine, so just go for what she needed to and let’s roll.

And I hope you all do the same: welcome people as they are, and try to make them feel as welcome in the space as possible. As I’ve mentioned before here, jiu jitsu is for every body: tall, short, thin, fat and a wide spectrum of abilities (or lack, thereof). And while this is not always the case, I would hope that your mats are filled with all kinds of body types, filling your academy with variety and a chance to roll with those way different than you. Understand that while someone may be larger than you, that is a great opportunity to work a different kind of game- maybe you won’t be able to work the same kind of sweep in the exact same kind of way that you have been doing to everyone else, and that’s ok- in fact use the training as an opportunity to adjust your game that it can work on someone with a different body type. There’s practically never a reason to not have someone feel welcome on a mat space, especially when it comes to just their body size.

Have a great day everyone!

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