Ask anyone who is involved in BJJ, man or woman, and you’ll likely get a laundry list of reasons to try the sport, ranging from the blatantly obvious (it’s a great workout!) down to the more abstract, philosophical reasons (it’s great for unwinding and forcing yourself to relax!). As with most people who’ve spent a few years involved in a hobby or sport, it’s very easy to become enamored with it and forget about some of the aspects that may seem strange or even uncomfortable for absolute beginners. Of course, as any woman in the sport will likely tell you, there are a number of aspects of BJJ that only women will ever have to deal with and here’s five of them:
Say Goodbye To Your Nails
This one’s pretty trivial and if you’re someone who is already interested in combat sports or intense weightlifting sessions, it’s possible that it’s something you’ve already accepted anyway. But for any women coming into the sport as a complete neophyte, this is often something you won’t consider. Jiu-Jitsu involves a lot of gripping, breaking grips, and re-gripping all in quick succession and over lengthy periods when sparring. This kind of activity is really counter-productive to having long nails and they will even potentially cause damage to training partners if you miss a grip and catch a bit of skin instead. As a result you have to accept that if you want to do the sport, even just as a hobby, long nails have to be the first thing to go.
You Have To Set Realistic Expectations
Your average woman going into BJJ is likely attracted by the concept of the smaller and/or weaker person being able to submit the larger and/or stronger person by pure technique alone. It’s important to remember though that getting to that point takes years of practice and at first, size and strength will be a massive factor in determining who submits who. There are hundreds of women across the world so incredibly proficient in Jiu-Jitsu that they can twist men two or three times their size into pretzels with minimal effort. Every single one of them spent a long time being on the receiving end of the pretzel-treatment however and you will too, but anyone can get there over time. This kind of advice isn’t just exclusive to women however, as even men who are lighter or weaker than average will experience the same thing.
Value Your Fellow Woman In BJJ
There aren’t a whole lot of us in Jiu-Jitsu which, like any combat sport, is naturally pretty male-dominated. Some of you might be lucky enough to find a gym that holds women-only classes that can be invaluable to your development as it allows you to get regular practice in with people of a relative size and strength capacity. For those that don’t have access to them, it’s likely you’ll be one of a small number of women in the gym and it’s important for your own development that you encourage any other women to stick with it. As you get better, it can be tempting to smash the newer person into oblivion, but that may very well reduce the chances of them coming back. If that newer person is the only other woman at your gym then congratulations, you just scared off what could’ve become the best training partner you’ll ever have.
Learn The Techniques That Give Smaller People The Most Success
As we mentioned earlier, Jiu-Jitsu is often marketed as the sport that allows smaller people to defeat larger opponents through the use of superior technique. That isn’t something that’s universal to every single technique however as there are some that rely on a measure of strength, or that can be shut down quickly by stronger opponents. That’s why certain weightclasses tend to favor certain techniques, and most female competitors have similar styles to the lighter male competitors. John Danaher himself even points out that he sees women having the most success with attacks from the back and heelhooks, as these most effectively negate any strength advantage.
Don’t Be Shy, And Pick Your Partners
When it comes to sparring, don’t be afraid to walk up to people and ask them to roll. Standing by the sidelines waiting for someone to approach you is a recipe for disaster, as the only person free might be the white belt who’s three times your size and doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “relax”. It’s likely that any experienced women in the gym will help you get settled (thanks to number 3) but the men closer to your size will also be good partners to spar with, so don’t be afraid to seek them out. If you do end up with nobody other than the aforementioned awful partner, there’s nothing wrong with just sitting this one out. Try to put politeness to one side and be selfish, because this is a combat sport and injuries can happen. Minimizing them is just good practice.