I’ve read several articles recently about the varied things that suck about being a female in jiu jitsu. And for the most part, I disagree with them. For one, I don’t know that being a women in the jiu jitsu community sucks at all. There are things that are all around gross in the community, like having that drop of sweat fall from the tip of your partner’s nose and right into your mouth. But I think men and women alike would agree that’s something we wish we could avoid. 🙂 But it happens and you keep rolling.
But there are things that are different for women that I wish I had known that may have helped ease the transition into this exciting sport.
1) There are very few women that train
When I started, I knew that the female population was small, but I had no idea just how small. There were more times than not that I was the only girl in class. And when you start, that can be a little intimidating, especially when you haven’t gotten to know your teammates yet. There are positions that you will feel uncomfortable drilling with your male counterparts. North/South is one that as you stick around becomes less and less awkward, but at first has you thinking “you want me to trap his head where?” But I stuck it out and have gotten to know my teammates and feel that I have inherited a ton of brothers that want me to succeed. You can’t do what we do without getting close to the people you train with. Refer back to North/South. 😉
2) You will tap. A lot.
A lot more than most of the guys and that is ok. But it can be frustrating, too, and I want to acknowledge that. While I believe jiu jitsu is for everybody, every technique is not for everybody. And size really does matter. And being a woman that rolls with men, my strength is nowhere near theirs. Even if I could find a guy that was my exact size, he would still be stronger because he is a man. It is basic biology. So you will tap more. They will get out of submission attempts that you won’t. They will big boy out of things that you can’t because you are neither big nor a boy. An Americana will work on you. On him, not so much. And the whole thing will be frustrating. To be honest with you, there were many days that ended in tears and it was largely my ego breaking me. The tears flowed out of a frustration from “losing” during rolls. The word ego is everywhere when it comes to jiu jitsu and I will tell you that jiu jitsu is an ego killer. But only if you accept that gift. There are a lot of reasons that will make you tap, but they can all be positive. It’s all about perspective.
3) You determine whether that tap is a win or loss
I have come to the conclusion there is no “win or lose” in the rolls, because every time I tap, I win. I have learned something more than the day before. Whether it is perseverance, endurance, or an aha moment, I’m walking away with more than I had the day before. Tapping doesn’t mean that you lost. Big guy smooshed you for much of your roll? Don’t get underneath him and work on your top game. Guy blasts out of your spider guard? Find that hole and work on reguarding. There are lessons to learn in every roll. Unless professor is handing out medals at the end of the night, there is no losing.
4) It will feel that the guys are coming at you
But for the most part, they are not. Yes, there are some that will use you as an ego fixer but most of your teammates are doing jiu jitsu. Being a girl means you are smaller than most, if not all of your teammates and you will feel the weight of that. Literally. And in the beginning when you don’t even know what the term shrimping means, you will wonder why that 140 pound guy feels like he is insanely obese when he has you in side control. It gets better. And you get tougher. Because you have no choice. Just like the smallest guy in the gym, you will learn what works for you and what doesn’t and you will get better. It is better to have the guys roll you with proper technique than finding out at a tournament that they were holding back and robbing you on the many opportunities to fix the holes in your techniques.
5) But you will become very technical
When the majority of your training partners are men, you have to rely on technique. And like I said, you aren’t going to big boy your way out of much. So you end up being very technical because that is the only way you will make it during the rolls. Where a man may be able to use strength to get out, you will have to learn the proper technique and that makes your jiu jitsu very technical. And better. It will be a long and difficult road and you may stay at belts longer than your male counterparts, but rest assured, it will also be fun and rewarding.
6) Certainly not lastly, but lastly for today, there are no stupid questions
Ask questions. All of them. Ask your teammates. Ask your professor. Just ask questions. This is for everyone really, but it is good to have a reminder. 🙂 Like any other sport you do, you have to train your mind and body. And what I have found with jiu jitsu is that we have to train our minds and bodies to do things that are counter-intuitive to what we normally do. You can’t learn anything if you don’t ask the questions. And trust me, it is easier to learn it right the first time than to unlearn bad technique. Your teammates and professor are there to help you.
When I started, I was glad that I had some guidance from friends that were already part of the jiu jitsu community so I knew a little bit about what I was getting into but you never know until you are fully immersed. And even though I have been a part of this fun community for a bit, I still have hard days. There are still days that my ego runs amuck and I spend a few extra minutes getting changed in the bathroom so that I can pull myself together. I also realize that there is a personality type for those of us that become jiu jitsu girls. Only a bjj girl would find being told that “rolling you is like rolling an acrobatic gorilla” and “I forget you are a girl” compliments. We are a special breed. 🙂 And we are tough. Tough in our own different ways but tough none the less. You may not think so today, but you are!