|My fiancee and two my favorite female jiu-jiteiros striking a fighter pose |
with a knight at the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival.
For much of my career, I have given little thought to women in jiu-jitsu. I trained with female jiu-jiteiros at home and abroad, and I read interviews with talented female competitors and watched instructionals featuring gifted female instructors, but I never paid much attention to the challenges that they faced. My thought process stopped at, "Oh, it must be kind of awkward to be a female in a male dominated sport like jiu-jitsu--Oh, sweet. A new armbar video."
Recent months have changed my perspective dramatically, and now something seems very clear to me: Jiu-jiteiros everywhere, we have a problem, and that problem is how we treat the women in our sport.
|Emily Kwok working with Stephan Kesting on their|
collaborative DVD set, a unique resource for the
BJJ community. http://emilykwok.com/
It's very easy to say that rape and violence are wrong, so easy in fact that we miss the many small battles that can make jiu-jitsu a welcoming community for everyone.
A recent article from Pedro Sauer black belt Keith Owen titled "Can Women Really Handle BJJ?" stirred up great deal of controversy and highlighted just how far we are from having a sport that is truly open to women. Owen, according to his Facebook, maintains that the article was designed to motivate women to stick it out, but the ensuing comments (around the internet) reveal that many jiu-jiteiros have no idea how hard it is to be a woman in this sport.
Disclaimer: I am a dude (just double-checked) that teaches and trains with women. I can't pretend to know what it's like to be a female jiu-jiteiro, but as an instructor I can relay the lessons that I have learned from the women in my mat life.
If you are a male jiu-jiteiro, some things that you should remember:
|Valerie Worthington is quickly becoming a thought|
leader in our sport. Visit her blog to see why:
- You have a responsibility to maintain a positive community standard for jiu-jitsu, both in your gym and at large.
- Men that are nice and respectful to other men are not always nice and respectful to women. A training partner that you know and trust could be a closet creeper.
- Any degree of creeper behavior directed toward any student should not be tolerated. If "that guy" insists on drilling with one of your female training partners, address your concern with your instructor immediately.
- Women can handle jiu-jitsu just as well as a man when they are given the chance. See the examples of Kyra, Worthington, Staack, Kyra, Kwok, Dern, and Rousey.
- New female students not only face the challenge of jiu-jitsu but also face the challenge of centuries of gender stereotypes, so be patient. For example, a young boy may pick up grappling faster (initially) because he was encouraged to wrestle and play contact sports from birth, while a young girl may struggle (initially) with the coordination that grappling requires because she may not have ever been encouraged to pursue athletics.
- A small women's program is not indicative of a failing women's program. In many parts of the U.S., women's BJJ is a relatively new community within our community. It is growing rapidly, and it should be nurtured so that we can benefit from additional perspectives on our art.
- Provided that you live by the tried-and-true motto of "don't be a douche," you should not train with female jiu-jiteiros any differently from male jiu-jiteiros. Adjust your approach to rolling by experience and by size, just as you would (or should) with a male jiu-jiteiro.
- Your gym should not be a frat house. Making fun of someone for getting beat up by a girl or making sexist/discriminatory remarks is not conducive to a positive training environment.