Imagine being a woman trapped on the bottom of a physical altercation in a secluded area with a bigger, stronger man between your legs looking to impose his unwanted advances. Ask yourself this: would it be wise to struggle and completely exhaust all of your energy trying to push him off? Would you have been better served to convince the attacker that he can have whatever he wants, inducing him to loosen up his control, allowing you to escape your hips and landing a potentially life-saving kick to the face?
This sequence of events is a critical physical and psychological component of the female empowerment efforts of the Gracie University (formerly Gracie Academy), headquartered in Torrance, California. Coming up on their 100-year anniversary, it is only in the last decade that the Women Empowered program has become a formal part of their curriculum. While there exist many other women’s self-defense programs, Gracie University’s innovative approach plays no small role in expanding their global outreach, drawing over 300 registrants for their biannual women’s self-defense seminar last Saturday — a record number.
“We typically talk about an assault happening in four phases,” states Eve Torres Gracie, head instructor of the Women Empowered program at Gracie University. “This is the four-phase strategy committed by an aggressor. Phase one is to identify an unsuspecting target. Phase two is to subdue and isolate the target. Phase three is to control and exhaust the target, and phase four is to carry out the assault. As we know, where jiu-jitsu really thrives is in phase three, and that is where almost all other self-defense programs fall short.”
With over 200,000 registered users in 196 countries via their online platform and over 150 certified training centers around the world, Gracie University continues to update and expand their curriculum for everyday jiu-jitsu practitioners, law enforcement, children, and of course, women. Women Empowered is relatively new compared to the other programs, continuing to evolve since their release of the original Women Empowered curriculum in 2011. Gracie University is set to release an entirely new version of the program on February 1st, and Eve sees the differences in the original curriculum and the revamped version as ‘night and day.’
“When we originally launched the Women Empowered curriculum on DVD. We weren’t actually teaching women on a weekly basis due to the incredibly small number of female students we had at the academy. Eventually, we made it an official program and offered the classes multiple times throughout each week. Women finally felt like they belonged, and classes have continued to grow ever since.”
“After teaching the program for over seven years, we gained so much insight into the actual threats women face, and the ways in which they learn best, that we felt it was time to redo the entire program from the ground up. Women Empowered 2.0 features 20 new lessons, 63 techniques and five fight philosophies. We also created a jiu-jitsu-based fitness program called FITjitsu that women could use to get in shape while learning the basic movements of the Women Empowered program.”
One of the most significant differences between Women Empowered 2.0 and its predecessor is that it will serve as the basis for a completely new Instructor Certification Program that will enable instructors to teach the techniques in their communities even if they don’t own a martial arts school.
According to Rener Gracie, “There is no demographic that needs jiu-jitsu more than women, and there is no self-defense system that is more effective for women than jiu-jitsu, but for some reason, women are the minority at almost every jiu-jitsu school on the planet.” He continues, “If women aren’t going to come to jiu-jitsu, we need to bring jiu-jitsu to them. Through the Women Empowered 2.0 curriculum, graduates of the program will have the opportunity to enroll in an Instructor Certification Program, and upon successful completion, they will be authorized to teach the program at any fitness center, college campus, church, military base and beyond.”
“In the past, in order to become a certified Gracie Jiu-Jitsu instructor, you had to open a brick-and-mortar school, or Certified Training Center, and offer all of our programs. In this case, however, we’ve created this entirely new path to instructorship in order to make sure that women have access to self-defense in every city around the globe. It’s the only way, and we couldn’t be more excited about it.”
Eve thinks one of the most powerful aspects of the Women Empowered program is the degree to which it motivates women to continue on the jiu-jitsu journey.
“Besides learning powerful self-defense skills and all the confidence that comes along with that, women who complete this program become very intrigued by jiu-jitsu as a whole. Over 80 percent of the women who graduate from Women Empowered at headquarters continue training in our regular co-ed jiu-jitsu programs, and nearly all of these women openly admit that they would have never tried jiu-jitsu had they not had the opportunity to begin in a safe, women-only training environment. Our goal is that by deploying Women Empowered instructors all over the world to teach the program in places where women congregate, that they will build enough confidence and comfort with jiu-jitsu to sign up at a local BJJ school and give it a chance in a more formal setting.”
While at its core the mission of the Women Empowered program has always been to teach women self-defense geared toward preventing sexual assault, the global vision holds a far greater purpose.
“Women need to be taught that they are capable of far more than they are led to believe,” Eve says. “We have grown up believing certain things about our physical capabilities, and jiu-jitsu has the power to completely alter these limiting beliefs. Once your mind changes about what you’re physically capable of in a fight, there is a profound increase in overall confidence in every aspect of your life.”
Women Empowered 2.0 will be released on February 1 and is currently available for pre-sale at a 15% discount.