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Old 06-Apr-2008, 09:28 PM
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Rhea Rhea is offline
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A Woman's Experiences in BJJ

So why did I decide to start jiu jitsu? Watching UFC? No.
I'd never heard of the UFC when I started training, and that was a year ago.
After studying judo and traditional ju jitsu, the groundwork side was just too much of a thrill. I didn't even acknowledge that the competitive side of BJJ and MMA existed. It was vaguely there, not something I thought I'd do, after kickboxing didn't really appeal any more.
What's it feel like to be a woman in the art, dominated by the male population, and sometimes in more ways than one?
For a start, the vast majority of them are bigger, stronger, taller, the lot. If you're lucky enough to have another woman in the club, then you're laughing. But unless there's a division at competition for you, most of your time will be sparring men.
As someone who's approaching two and a half years in a modern ju jitsu system with a fair amount of sparring, and a one year white belt in BJJ, I thought I'd offer my experiences and views on my time so far.

Starting off in ju jitsu, I felt like a complete novice in martial arts all over again, despite a few years of experience in other systems. Never have I felt so useless as when I rolled for the first time. The guys were all over me, I could barely even move. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, and the "macho newbie" I started with made things even worse. It was as if he had to prove something to everyone in the room by beating up someone half his size for at least 5 minutes. But by a lucky stroke, something in my memory triggered and I managed to get a choke on. He never came back.
Although when I continued over the next few months, I never managed such a fluke again, there was something there. A smaller person can use that to get out of tight spaces, and be faster than someone with a larger mass.
Learning more, this has always been part of the fun. As I've improved, it's got more frustrating to the bigger guys, as they often can't keep up.

Starting BJJ a year ago, I found only one other female in the whole club, and I never met her until I went to a seminar. There's noone really in my weight category, so I have to go higher. So began a whole new era of getting squashed.
I've come across several different types of male training partner, I guess they're common to all clubs. As a woman, you may be stared at rather strangely when you walk in for the first time, maybe they're not used to women wanting to roll around on the floor with a load of sweaty men, I don't know. In a class that wasn't my private sessions, my way of dealing with this was when it got to sparring, find the biggest and highest graded male in the class and ask for a roll. Usually works, and if you have some experience, it can also be really good fun. I found it gave me some respect in the club, not afraid to work hard and get beaten. Because as a novice, it happens a LOT. I don't know if other girls get the same problem, but the macho guys who will go hard on you whatever, seem to me to be the reason a lot of smaller people quit. Because it can make you feel useless, and quite often it will make you feel you will never learn anything at all. Like never having a compliant partner during techniques practice.
Then you've got those who don't want to partner you because you're female. I've found in striking arts, they don't want to hit or hurt you. I've not yet found the reason about why they won't roll. Afraid of squashing you perhaps? A way to deal with that? Stay on top and submit them from there!

Another thing you have to be aware of, is the fact you are in a close contact sport. You may well be touched in places you wouldn't want to be. Accidents happen, but groping on purpose needs to be stopped. To the guys out there who are guilty of this, I suggest you stop. I've seen someone leave an MA class because of it. Women are there to train, same as you. You may well get the odd ones who are there to find a cute boyfriend, but it still doesn't mean they're asking for something like this.
But if it is an accident, girls, you're going to have to realise it will happen. If you are uncomfortable, I suggest either doing something else, or wearing a groin and chest guard.

As you improve in techniques and your game, you'll be able to hold your own, even with the bigger guys. My last grading partner in ju jitsu was twice my weight, and a foot taller. I'm quite often in this situation. Get around it by learning how to use the weight you have, and your best assets, your smaller size and speed to defeat your opponents. It may be difficult, but you'll get respect for at least trying. In competition, there's weight classes anyway, so practice against everyone you can. I've now been able to tap the bigger guys, and come close to winning against people with a lot more mass and experience because of playing to my strengths. Learn what you're good at, and use it to your advantage at all times. Then if you meet Mr. Macho, you can do what I did, (hopefully with knowledge and not luck) he can learn his lesson for a change. You can do it!

In closing, everyone has something to teach you, and you'll be in an amazingly fun martial sport. We need a bigger female presence in MMA and BJJ! Let's give the men a run for their money.
No thank you, I would not like a sig. I don't smoke.

Last edited by Saz; 13-Apr-2010 at 06:57 PM.
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Old 06-Apr-2008, 10:04 PM
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Saz Saz is offline
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Nice article Rhea, always good to hear a woman's perspective on MA.
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Old 21-Apr-2008, 05:54 AM
blackarmchair blackarmchair is offline
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That's great. I think you make a great point, many martial arts are very male dominated and I think it'd be great to see some more female participation. I try to encourage anyone (male or female) who asks me about it to take up the hobby (I do so selfishly because deep down I just want another sparring partner) and I recently got my girlfriend to start training; she's a natural! I just think the entire field is so varied that anyone can find something to learn, and it's a shame that so many feel boxed out due to extenuating circumstances.
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Old 19-May-2008, 08:53 PM
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Sackett Sackett is offline
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Thanks for the article, Rhea. I've just had my first BJJ class and there were 2 other females in the class. I feel so fortunate because not only did I get to work with one of them, she is also one of the best in the class and is even close to my size. (Admittedly, she's less than half my age ) Still, what fun. I left bruised, scraped, and it hurt to swallow for 2 days, but I'm looking forward to going back. It's nice to know I'm not a freak. (Or, at least, if I am a freak, I'm not the only one!) Yeah, MAP!
background in ITF-style TKD
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Old 19-May-2008, 09:51 PM
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Brian R. VanCis Brian R. VanCis is offline
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Nice Rhea, I think once woman get past the initial strangeness of grappling with men and start to use body position and leverage and the ability to fit leg's, hand's into small spaces they really start to shine. It also seems that the females that I have taught pay close attention to technique and in the end that really pays off!

Keep at it!
Brian R. VanCise
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Old 20-May-2008, 03:37 AM
pauli pauli is offline
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Accidents happen, but groping on purpose needs to be stopped. To the guys out there who are guilty of this, I suggest you stop. I've seen someone leave an MA class because of it.
nobody caught on before it came to that? gah. that sort of thing bothers me immensely - i know exactly how inappropriate anything would be handled on the mats here (and at every jiujitsu school i know).
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Old 28-May-2008, 10:12 AM
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Rhea Rhea is offline
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Yeah, not enough females in the class for it to become apparent.
Thanks for the comments, guys. I really appreciate it.
No thank you, I would not like a sig. I don't smoke.
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Old 28-May-2008, 12:07 PM
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piratebrido piratebrido is offline
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Nice one. You might enjoy this blog:

A bjj purple belt blogging about her experience, with lots about being a woman in bjj.
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Old 28-May-2008, 02:59 PM
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Stevebjj Stevebjj is offline
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Great perspective. I read a lot online about this subject when my daughter started training. Here's another article I found helpful:'s-Gu...Grappling.html
Frakking Hell - All the Fraks of Battlestar Galactica - Season 1

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Old 28-May-2008, 03:41 PM
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Moosey Moosey is offline
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Great article! I really like BJJ but can't stand UFC fanboys so your viewpoint is an important one for the folks like me.

Originally Posted by Fish of Doom
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Old 28-May-2008, 03:51 PM
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piratebrido piratebrido is offline
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In regards to the touching, it isn't a female exclusive issue. I can't count the amount of times I have had my hands/arms/face in another mans junk, and vica versa. Whether it is a girl or a guy, move on and pass the guard!
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Old 25-Aug-2008, 12:17 PM
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Southpaw535 Southpaw535 is offline
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its something im haivng to get over myself. I've got no problem training with other guys because its part of the sport, but theres a woman with a lot of experiance who usually trains with me to help me out and I'm forever being cautious with where im putting my hands.
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Old 31-Aug-2008, 05:18 PM
DutchMaster DutchMaster is offline
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i think bjj isnt the best sport for a woman, i suggest something like self defense, more realistic in the approach.
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Old 31-Aug-2008, 05:42 PM
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Accidents happen, but groping on purpose needs to be stopped.
Gyms needs need to display signs such as "Please do not grope as a punch in the mouth often offends"

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime; give a man religion and he will die praying for a fish
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Old 31-Aug-2008, 06:40 PM
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Frodocious Frodocious is offline
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Originally Posted by DutchMaster View Post
i think bjj isnt the best sport for a woman, i suggest something like self defense, more realistic in the approach.
Rubbish! BJJ is an excellent choice for a woman, particularly if she is worried about self defense issues. Attacks on woman can potentially be with the aim of rape and taking the victim to the ground, so any art that deals with ground fighting, how to control an opponent who is on top of you and how to disable them (or at the very least get out from under them) is a perfect art for a woman.
"The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they've found it.
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