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Strength in numbers.

Something exciting is happening in the women’s grappling community where I live.  Since this past spring, I’ve seen more and more women from the various jiu jitsu schools reach out to each other to build a network of super women. Jiu jitsu, and my other love, judo, are male-dominated sports. And on one hand, I don’t see anything specifically wrong with that. I love the guys I train with. My guy instructors and training partners serve as my BJJ and judo dads, uncles, watchful big brothers, annoying little brothers, and partners in crime. So I am grateful they are in my world. On the other hand, there are indisputable physical differences between men and women. When I compete, I don’t fight men. I fight women. For me, it’s beneficial to get a women’s perspective on training and get a feel for the physical differences in their approach to the game. In addition to the physical aspects, there is simply some mental comfort that comes from having other girls on your team. When you’re the minority, you can’t help but get a little excited when you meet someone else like you who can understand your experience.

I’m pretty lucky at my club. I’m not the only girl and I never have been. As my club gained more female members, we thought it could be fun and helpful to have a training night for women only. We also thought it would be cool to invite women from other clubs so we could get some variety in our training partners. As my club began to reach out to other female BJJ practitioners, we realized that several other clubs in the area had been offering women’s classes for some time. Soon, all these different clubs carved out women’s open mats, welcome to all girls. It’s felt incredible to show up to a room full of other girls of all ranks and body types, ready to work hard and have fun.

Undoubtedly, jiu jitsu is an individual sport. Sure, you belong to a club where others train, but it’s your responsibility to get to class. You are in charge of your practice. However, when so much self-determination rests on your shoulders, motivating train partners are essential. Since I’ve had the opportunity to train with all these other girls, I’ve experienced a surge of excitement and dedication in my training. I’m learning so much from these fantastically intelligent, disciplined, enthusiastic women. What I appreciate the most from this network we’re building is the spirit of camaraderie that drives us. Although we compete against each other in tournaments, the desire to keep women training and develop a welcoming environment for new girls takes precedent over grudges. We all want to win, but we realize if we are cold and exclusionary, we might not have any girls to compete against at all.

This past week, my club offered our monthly women’s open mat. We had eleven girls and we trained 10 six minute sets. I think we could have done more if we didn’t have pesky adult responsibilities to mind. We even had a female judoka join us, which made me happy because I hope this network of tough girls extends to the judo community.We also had two women from Delaware join us. Neither of them have any other girls at their club, and the one women had a three hour drive each way to train with us. That really floored me. After we wrapped up, I thought about how unique and extraordinary this things is that us girls our doing.  It might not seem revolutionary in comparison to other movements we’ve seen in the world, but I’m still proud to be a part of this little grass roots adventure.

 

Silly girls, friendly girls, tough girls.

Silly girls, friendly girls, tough girls.

 

Some other good reads about women’s training in the Tri-State area:

http://crawlatopmeandmeetyourdoom.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/lots-of-ladies/

http://blog.bjjunderdog.com/2013/12/01/girl-on-girl.aspx

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