5 Things You Should Know as a Woman Starting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Women new to the bjj world unite! And learn some of these tips when starting jiu-jitsu.
Jiu-jitsu is a great martial art for anyone who wants to learn a form of self-defense, get fitter, and challenge themself overall. But personally, I believe Brazilian jiu-jitsu is great for women specifically. God forbid there is a time where you’re attacked, especially by a bigger and stronger opponent, learning how to grapple to escape can be a major advantage. If you’re a woman who is just starting bjj or thinking about starting bjj, there are a few things you need to know.
When I started back in 2012, I was the only woman at my gym. It took some time to learn not only the regular grappling skills but also some things that challenged me as the only woman at the gym. So, that being said, here are some things you should know as a woman starting Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
1. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is Close Contact
Maybe you decide to go to a jiu-jitsu class, and you don’t know exactly what it is. If you’re like me, maybe you took a friend’s advice and decided to just try jiu-jitsu without looking it up (yea I know Google is free but sometimes you gotta dive headfirst into stuff). When I got to the gym and got to learn some of the basic movements you can do by yourself, I was thinking “yea…that’s easy.” Then when I had to get on top of someone, I got weirded out for a second. It was only when the coach told me that this is what jiu-jitsu is like that I realized that I was going to have to get over being close to people if I wanted to be good at it.
The aspect of being in close contact with someone, especially when you’re at a gym with mostly men, can be intimidating, icky, and weird. Just note that if you’re at a great gym where people are going to make sure you’re comfortable as a female beginner, you don’t have anything to worry about.
2. You Might Be One of The Only Women at Your BJJ Gym
As a lead in from the previous point, in my first two gyms, I was the only woman there. So, at first, I did feel weird, but I got used to being the “queen bee” of the gym. But I know sometimes, being the only woman can be intimidating when it comes to a martial art and if you see people going crazy during rolls or sparring. But, if you can get over the first hump of being the only girl, the men in your gym will be like your brothers. You’ll feel protected and like “one of the guys”.
I would suggest that you bring a friend with you to a trial class, so at least you know one other girl and you have a partner to go with, especially if all the men are bigger than you. If you don’t have a friend who is interested in training, I would suggest at least having someone go with you to the trial class to cheer you on and someone who can look out for you and make you feel comfortable.
3. You Shouldn’t Feel Obligated to Stay if You Feel Uncomfortable
With all the good that comes with jiu-jitsu, there are some bad. There are some instances, especially if you’re the only woman that you will feel uncomfortable. I’m not talking about not being able to do a certain technique or the fact that one day your body will feel great and then after training you’ll feel like you were hit by a truck. I’m talking about your coach, training partners or visitors saying or doing anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
I think all of us women have our own intuition when it comes to comfort and I’m not saying if one person makes you feel uncomfortable once then you should leave. I think there are a few factors that string together that will make you feel that you’re unsafe at that jiu-jitsu gym. I have talked about the creepy guy who trained at my gym and since that was one person in a group of many men who made me feel safe and comfortable, I didn’t leave that gym. My coach also took care of the problem as soon as I mentioned it.
I say all that to say, use your intuition to know if the gym is unsafe and if it is, just go. There are plenty of other jiu-jitsu gyms that you can go to learn.
4. You Don’t Have to do Jiu-Jitsu Competitions
Competition is a big part of the jiu-jitsu world. Many people kind of fall into competition because that is what the gym is doing, and they feel like it validates their training. While all this is happening, just bear in mind that you as a beginner or even as you go along your BJJ journey, do not have to compete.
I think competitions are great and it’s a good way to gauge your skills but if you feel pressure to compete and that doesn’t make you feel good, then don’t do it. The same thing applies here if someone says or does something inappropriate it you: if your coach is telling you that you NEED to compete, and it isn’t for you, and you feel like you can’t say no, just leave.
5. There is BJJ Gear and Equipment Made Just for Women
I know I keep harping on the fact that jiu-jitsu is male dominated. This just mean that sometimes the things that are offered to you might be made mostly for men. But there are many gis and rashguards that are made with the female form in mind. This might include smaller sizes that consider that you have a chest, hips, and thighs so you don’t have to buy child sizes or bigger sizes that are for plus-sized women that won’t be too long for you.
The secret fashionista in me likes this aspect of jiu-jitsu because there are some styles that appeal to the side of me that likes to show out in the best gear. In addition, there are brands that are specifically made for women by women that understand the issues we have with generalized training gear.
Taking the First Step on Your BJJ Journey as a Woman
Deciding to hop on the jiu-jitsu train is a big decision. Like anything else you decide to try that is life changing, there will be ups and downs. There will be also many things you’ll need to know and consider in order for you to have the best time and most success on your jiu-jitsu journey.
For the women out there who train, what are some other things women should know when they decide to train Brazilian jiu-jitsu?