At our Jiu Jitsu academy we have a women’s program that was started a couple of years ago. It was created as a way to help women overcome the discomfort of training in a co-ed environment. One of the instructor’s at our academy is a female, and she thought it would be worth experimenting with a women’s-only program to see if there would be any interest in getting more women to train jiu jitsu. And there certainly was. That part of the school is now thriving. You can read about it here: Girls-in-Gis: The Power of Healing.
I’ve heard from a few women that have trained jiu jitsu that there is an initial discomfort to get over in training with guys. There’s the obvious gender difference that is a barrier for some women to get past, but there’s also the size difference. It’s physically demanding to train when you’re first starting jiu jitsu, and if you’re a woman starting out who has to train with guys much larger than them then I could see how it could be difficult to do the moves, at least in the beginning. Jiu jitsu was designed so that a smaller, weaker person can overcome someone larger and stronger, but when you’re first learning the techniques you don’t know how to apply the proper leverage yet, so you’re not going to be defeating size and strength from day one.
There are many reasons why women may feel uncomfortable training jiu jitsu with guys, I’m not a woman so I won’t claim to know truly what it feels like but a quick web search shows many articles that address this topic. The organization “Girls in Gis” was created to help women train together in a friendly environment. They host events all around the United States through their ambassador program and we are very fortunate to have a Girls in Gis event at our school. Girls in Gis also has a scholarship program to help offset the costs associated with learning jiu jitsu. If you check out the testimonials on their site you’ll see that Girls in Gis have had a positive influence on many women’s jiu jitsu journey.
So why should women train jiu jitsu? Honestly, for a lot of the same reasons that men do:
1) The Obvious: For Self-Defense
This reason is pretty self-explanatory. I don’t know anybody that didn’t get into a martial art that wasn’t interested in learning to defend themselves. I won’t re-hash assault statistics here, but suffice it to say that women have unique interests when it comes to self-defense. Jiu jitsu is beyond a doubt the best martial art you can learn for self-defense. Just being able to get yourself out of a compromised position (like being pinned to the ground) so that you can escape is a huge benefit. And that’s exactly where jiu jitsu excels. If a big, strong person tries to hold you down on the ground, jiu jitsu will give you the tools to get out. I’ve seen some smaller, but tough women on the mats who have had some time under their belts in jiu jitsu easily handle new guys that are much larger than them when rolling. If you’re ever in a bad situation where you’re being dominated by a larger person, jiu jitsu is the skill you want to own.
Anybody that has done jiu jitsu knows that it’s hard. It’s a full body workout that takes all the cardio you thought you had, chews it up and spits it out on the mat. It uses every muscle you have to push, pull, lift, throw and submit your partner. Imagine trying to lift weights, while the weights are also trying to lift you and you’ll have an idea of what a workout jiu jitsu can be. Even the warm-ups can be hard if you’re not used to them. There’s no good way to prepare to train jiu jitsu prior to starting, so it’s best to just jump in and let jiu jitsu prepare you for jiu jitsu. You’ll leave the mats dripping in sweat, and if you stick with it you’ll be in the best shape of your life.
3) It’s Fun!
Jiu jitsu is a ridiculous amount of fun. For starters, how awesome is it to learn about the myriad ways there are to manipulate joints in a matter that can submit someone to your will? It’s downright nerdy when you dive deep into learning how the body can move (and ways the body can’t move, but how to make it anyways). Add onto that all the rolling (sparring) that you get to do in class, all the cool people you meet, and diving into the jiu jitsu lifestyle and you’ll be having the best time you’ve ever had working out.
4) It’s Good for Your Mental Health
Look online and you can find countless stories of people talking about jiu jitsu helping them to manage stress, anxiety and depression. I can attest to this. I have a tendency to be depressed pretty often, but I haven’t had a bout of serious depression since starting jiu jitsu. There’s something about the “nowness” of the moment while rolling in jiu jitsu that keeps me grounded, lifts my spirits and gives me mental clarity. Whenever I’m having a bad day I know that if I just goto jiu jitsu then my mood will be completely turned around.
5) It Will Increase Your Confidence
The confidence that you’ll gain from knowing that you can defend yourself is invaluable. As stated above, jiu jitsu is hard, and working through all the barriers there are as you make your way through the jiu jitsu ranks is something to truly be proud of. You’ll have confidence in knowing that you not only can handle yourself if a confrontation occurs, but also in knowing that you are able to meet the rigorous demands of the art of jiu jitsu and prevail.
So those are just a few reasons that I think women should train jiu jitsu. Honestly, I think EVERYBODY should train jiu jitsu. There’s something on the mats for all people, all sizes, all levels of fitness, and all genders. It’s a healthy lifestyle that anyone can benefit from. The jiu jitsu community is welcoming, encouraging, and is a great bond to make. Don’t let anything get in your way of starting jiu jitsu. Find a reputable school, and let the good people there guide you on your journey!