Why Some Women Who Train BJJ Don’t Like Rolling with Men
Updated: Mar 1, 2022
Here are some reasons why women don't train or roll with men during jiu-jitsu classes.
Nowadays, women are killing it in BJJ. I remember the days where I was the only girl on the mat to a time now where the women sometimes outnumber the men in a jiu-jitsu class. I am always very happy to see more women choosing to try BJJ. When it comes to a sport that requires you to be in such close contact with your training partners, it can get quite uncomfortable, especially for women who are new to the sport.
I remember my first class where the owner of the gym told me to get on top of him before I knew what “mount” was and how I went completely nuts in my own mind thinking about what this man’s wife would think or say if she saw me on top of him. Of course, I’m a long way from that first class but I can understand the sentiments that go through a woman’s mind when you first need to get close to someone (cue the uncomfortable giggling).
Women both new and familiar with Brazilian jiu-jitsu have their reasoning for not rolling with men, but here are the instances I’ve heard of when I’ve talked to my women jiu-jitsu friends about why they specifically choose not to roll with men.
1. BJJ with guys can be gross, smelly, and sweaty
In my experience, men tend to sweat more in the gym. Also, depending on the dude, they might be smelly. There are also some instances (that I have specifically been in) where guys don’t wear rashguards and their chest hair might hold sweat and drip on you. I think women tend to be more cautious about smells and odors because no one wants to be a smelly chick. To me, it goes with that overall idea of femininity. So, if you’re a woman who is overly concerned about some big, sweaty, smelly dude being on top of you, potentially dripping sweat into your mouth (again speaking from experience here), you’re going to be like “…no thanks, I’m going to roll with someone who I know doesn’t sweat that much and smells nice.”
I’ve talked to one of my best friends Ana, who I’ve brought to many a BJJ class about this and this was her main concern (and cutting her nails… she was out when I said her nails had to be short.) She has seen how I’ve rolled with dudes and how I sweat and how the other dudes sweat. I can understand how that could be a deterring factor for someone new to the sport of BJJ.
2. Men can hurt you during BJJ sparring
As much as I am an advocate of women being able to do just as much and maybe even more than men can, the reality is that men are generally bigger and carry more muscle mass than women. Of course, when you’re more comfortable with your partners and your partners know how to roll with people of all sizes, the idea of them hurting you is far from your mind. But sometimes when it’s an intense roll or someone is moving too fast or is too strong, people get hurt.
This fear is all too real for beginners in BJJ. If you see some guy who is maybe 45-80lbs/20-40kg bigger than you hurt someone, you’re most likely going to avoid them. Add double the fear if you see a woman who has been training longer than you (i.e., any upper belt) get hurt by a guy. To avoid the risk all together, they will deny rolling with any man.
3. Their significant other has a problem with it
I would like to think that most people know there is nothing sexual about jiu-jitsu despite the close contact between people. But, for people who don’t know about it, some of it looks crazy. For the guys I’ve dealt with who don’t understand bjj, I’ve gotten snide sexual comments such as “wow, I wish I was on the bottom of you in that video” when I show and/or tell them about jiu-jitsu. I usually follow these comments up with an eye roll and the comfort of knowing that I can choke the heck out of them.
I’m sure for any guy who doesn’t really understand what jiu-jitsu is will feel uncomfortable with their girl being under or on top of some dude. Also, if the guy does understand BJJ, maybe it goes back to my previous point of them not wanting their girlfriends or wives getting hurt by another guy. In most of the cases of my female training partners and teammates, their boyfriends and husbands understand their love for the sport and trust them completely. But for some guys, it takes a bit longer to get that trust.
To keep a happy home and healthy relationship, some women will just avoid men in the gym. Also, it might be a happy medium between them being able to train when some men don’t even want their significant other to train in the first place.
4. Some men make stuff uncomfortable/sexual comments on and off the mats
Going back to my original comment of men making sexual comments about me doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I think I know how to deal with these kinds of men because I’ve been doing it for so long. Also, when it come to my guy friends who make jokes, it’s always been in a context where we understand each other’s humor and we’ve built a rapport where I know they are not being inappropriate to me. Unfortunately, there are some dudes that don’t know how to act around women, and they make comments or do or say things that might not make a woman feel comfortable at the gym. Going beyond that, there has been instances of sexual harrasment and assault in the jiu-jitsu world that has come to light in recent years.
I’ll always refer to the creepy older man I dealt with back in my early days of training. I think that if I didn’t have such a supportive community of dudes and great coaches that made me feel protected, I would have thought that most of the dudes in bjj were like that and would have probably quit.
Some women aren’t as lucky to have this type of community or another gym in their area they can go to, but they have passion for jiu-jitsu and a goal within the sport, so they just have to keep training. Just to stay safe, they decide to just roll with the women who are available at their gym.
Comfort and safety for everyone
When it comes down to it, everyone should feel safe and comfortable in their gym. Although my belief is that everyone should roll with everyone despite being big or small, a competitive athlete or a bjj hobbyist, man, or woman. If you’re serious about bjj, this is one of the ways you can expand your knowledge of the sport. But of course, when it comes to being comfortable in a place that most people choose as their sacred space, they want to create an environment that will help it stay that way. When it comes to women in a sport that is mostly male dominated, we will do what we can to make it stay safe which may include avoiding training and sparring with men.
Although I have been lucky to mostly feel comfortable in an environment where I will train with everyone, I understand why some women don’t train with dudes. For any women reading this post, do you choose not to roll with men? Why is that? Comment below or let’s discuss on Instagram @blackgirlwhitegi_bjj.