Friday, May 13, 2016

Why Women Should Train With Other Women (It's not men that make them nervous)

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a male-dominated sport. It is growing in popularity for women but most academies have more males than females training. Being one of these many females, I learned to fight with the big guys. I was never afraid. I gladly launched my five foot frame at the 250-pound bruisers. People thought I was really tough. They would cheer when I would choke out a new guy or marvel when I climbed someone’s back like a spider monkey. I felt special and was fearless.
I was fearless, that is, until I went to an all-female open mat.
All of a sudden I was surrounded by women that did jiu-jitsu. I was nervous and had no idea how to act around them. We seemed to notice everything about each other:  hair, makeup, new gi, old gi, new belt, old belt, patches, nail polish, braids, embroidery, no kids, lots of kids, big chest, small butt, weird lips…. I was not in Kansas anymore.
It became even more evident when it was time to train.These ladies rolled completely differently. They were faster and more technical. They were also very focused and didn’t fool around. I was out of my element. I was slow and smashy.  I knew how to use my weight to make my 120 pounds feel like 200 but it didn’t matter because I wasn’t getting the opportunity to get top position anyway. I couldn’t use the same techniques on the women because they played a completely different way.
I got beat. Bad.
I had to make a decision. I would either have to start training with women or come to terms with the fact that my jiu-jitsu education would not be complete without female training partners.
What I really wanted to do was run away because I realized one very painful truth.
I was afraid.
I don’t know why it is – whether it is a primal response that is coded in us from the caveman days that tells us women to be wary of other women but over the years I have learned that I was not alone. It happens in neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, households and on the mats. Women often feel an immediate and irrational competitiveness with other women. We prejudge their personalities, talents, abilities, and jiu-jitsu skills based on their appearance or our first impression. 
It happens in competition. The same pony-tailed sprite that would gladly take on the HULK in the gym trembles when a 110-pound white belt with pink toenails and frosted blonde hair steps up to the mat. All of a sudden, all the bravado and confidence that we had shrinks and a rapid heatbeat and sweaty palms takes its place. 
Men often tell the few women in the gym, “Oh, you beat all of us guys up all the time, think how great you are going to do when you fight women.” 
Women know other women. Women are fierce. When women compete with other women they are often not just out there for the joy of “just being there.” It takes a lot of courage to compete in a male-dominated combat sport so many women devote a lot of time and energy into preparing so that they are not embarrassed. Many women fight differently than their male counterparts. Women’s bodies and minds are different.  
No matter if you have one female in your gym or ten, find open mats and look for female-only events or seminars.  Pick out a female that you don’t know to roll with when you train or visit another school.  If you are looking for a new school or want to compete try to find one with a strong women’s program.  You can sit around with the one or two other women at your gym and train only with the guys or you can face your real fear and put yourself out where you feel most vulnerable. If you are going to compete against women, it stands to reason that testing yourself and learning in the gym with other women will give you the best education. Males are great teachers and training partners but training with males-only may not be sufficient enough preparation for competition and competition is the best way to test your jiu-jitsu.
Your jiu-jitsu will never be the same.  And that will be a good thing.  

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  1. I think when men sparr with women they don't put a lot of effort (At least that's what I do because I feel a lot stronger).

    1. If you are not putting a lot of effort into your rolls with women then you are hurting both your training and theirs.

  2. Agree with above. Often other women are the only ones who'll roll you full speed.

  3. I feel like the point could be made just as well under the title "Why we should train with as many other people as possible." We learn different things from different body types and different personalities and particularly from those who train at different gyms. As far as women go, I forcefully reject the idea that we somehow have this deep-seated biological desire to compete and compare ourselves with other women. That is a farce that society has convinced us to believe and to live - in the same way society has successfully convinced many of us that combat is not our domain. The tournament mat is where the competition should begin and end. Whether you kick my ass or I kick yours, I've got a big smile and a hug for my bjj sisters at "Parou." So yes, train with everyone. As much as possible. 💋

    1. Thank you for your perspective! Sadly, for many women, the tournament mat is not the only place for competition. There are schools who have women that fiercely compete with each other every day in training. And, believe it or not,there are even some coaches that deliberately pit the women against each other in an effort to get them to be fiercer in a tournament!You sound like you would be a good example in your gym and someone that encourages others. I agree, let's train with everyone!

  4. Jiujitsu isnt popular here. In my area there are only a few gyms and each gym has one maybe two females. What does a girl do then? Its impossible to hop from gym to gym because they make you sign lengthy contracts. The events and seminars are always in other states.

    1. That is a tough one! What it means is that the few females that are around have to set the tone for any other women that may want to join. I hope you get the opportunity to meet more women in bjj as it is a great community. We have a long way to go in the sport so the more we can band together, the better. Best wishes in your jiu-jitsu journey!

  5. As i see it as a man, women should train with women due to all of that...we usually dont fight with all we have so we could not harm them with our weight or any other some cases trying not touching them due to bad reactions of thinnking in a sexual way. I always push them to work hard on trying to pass my guard and make them work really hard..but its not the same...I agree strongly that women should fight with other womens 90% to help their technics flow...

    1. This actually pisses me off to the point I would just ignore you.
      Seriously? You are doing no one any favors.
      First of all, "you make them work hard"? Get over yourself.
      Second, as a self defense, do you really think that they are training to beat some female attacker? Technique wins before "weight or some other stuff."
      Third, if you are thinking sexually while grappling, you need to examine what you are doing. Do you think sexually while you are being put to sleep in front of your male cohorts by a female? Cause that is what is going to happen. How's that for your ego?

      Every Person should not hold back. This false sense of superiority is what will be your demise. You can say it was because you "let" the girl win but I look forward to the day that you are gasping for air and she is just rolling on by like it's no big deal, and you 'let' her win.

  6. I really enjoyed this. I'm a small woman. The majority of the time I'm rolling with big guys plus I'm older than everyone at my gym. The first time I traveled and rolled with a woman my size It was both amazing and humbling.