This is one of those things I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain, but here I am explaining it. And I’m explaining it because time and time again, I get met with questions from male jiu-jitsu practitioners who either feel awkward rolling with their female teammates or simply have no idea how to adjust their jiu-jitsu to be more suited towards them.
For those who are new to grappling, I get it. Jiu-jitsu is, after all, a contact sport, and many men are thankfully taught from a young age that they shouldn’t beat up women. Plus, having someone sitting on your face to land a kimura is awkward at first no matter which gender that butt belongs to. It’s understandable that as you’re getting used to it, rolling with a member of the opposite sex might feel even stranger than rolling with someone of the same gender.
At some point, though, you’re going to need to get used to it.
From my experience, there are still lots of blue and even purple and brown belts out there whose brains seem to short-circuit when they get partnered up with a woman. I get comments like, “Sorry, I’m not used to rolling with girls, so I don’t know what to do here,” or worse, “I went a little easier on you than I do with the guys.”
Jiu-jitsu doesn’t change just because the person you’re rolling with is packing a little more boob than you are. Yes, each gender may have different physical attributes that are beneficial or detrimental to their game, but just as you’ll find ultra-flexible women or super strong men, you’ll also find guys who can put their feet behind their head and women who can bench more than you can. If your strategy changes based on these factors, cool, but if you’re going way too hard or way too light just because your partner is female, neither of you is going to get any better.
Obviously, men are generally heavier and stronger than their female training partners. It’s completely understandable (and appreciated) that a guy who weighs 250 lbs might not want to put all his weight down while stacking his way out of a 110-lb partner’s armbar. But again, this should be true for either gender. You should generally be training in a way that’s suitable to you and your partner’s size, strength, and experience levels. If that changes depending on your partner’s gender, you’re doing it wrong.
A common complaint I hear among male practitioners is that they “don’t know where to put their hands” or feel awkward when they accidentally touch a training partner’s chest or butt. I can absolutely understand how that might be uncomfortable for either athlete if they’re new, but more experienced grapplers should be used to this by now. Unless you make a big deal out of it or are actually being creepy, I can almost guarantee that the woman you’re training with didn’t even notice that you kinda punched her buttcheek while trying to take her back. Just as you’d probably be able to tell if one of your teammates was trying to fondle your balls or just struggling out of a triangle choke, the women you roll with are going to know pretty quickly if you’re groping them or simply grappling with them. Nine times out of ten, these situations are only uncomfortable if you make them uncomfortable.
Unless we have extenuating circumstances (experience with sexual or physical assault, injuries, etc.) that we tell you about beforehand, all jiu-jitsu women really want is to be treated like the guys. We are few and far between in this sport, and if our male teammates aren’t pushing us, we’re never going to get any better. We know what we’ve gotten ourselves into, and you’re going to be doing yourself and us a disservice by acting like you’re rolling with a delicate alien creature instead of, you know, a human being.
Personally, I’m grateful that so many men I’ve trained with are concerned with being respectful towards me, but everyone is going to benefit if we can remove gender as a factor for how we train with our teammates. If you ever find yourself bumping fists with a jiujiteira and wondering how you should roll with a girl, the answer is simple: stop “rolling with a girl” and just f***ing roll.