Friday, February 28, 2014

Does BJJ really work for women?

A couple of months ago, I went to class.  Fabio has several classes most days, and I generally only go at night since I home school my kids, but every now and then I go to morning classes or afternoon classes. 

That day I went to a class I have only gone to a couple of times, and was approached by one of the newer guys, and he said, "I know you teach a women's class, and if you don't mind I want to watch you grapple today.  I have a wife and daughter, and I want them to learn BJJ too, but I don't understand how this will work for a woman.  No offense, but I don't understand how you could overpower a man."  ... or something to that effect.  

He was in no way being rude, or condescending, just honest.  And being that he is new, and had never grappled a woman, it's a legitimate concern.  

I however went into, oh my gosh, how I grapple today is going to form this man's opinion of ALL OF WOMEN'S BJJ EVERYWHERE FOREVER! panic mode. 

I immediately scanned the room.
No girls.
Mostly white belts.
Big ones.

More Panic.

Big white belt men generally give me the most 'trouble'.  When a guy uses just brute force and no technique I really have to work.  Technique is the only thing that I have to combat brute force.... and when you can mush my guard open with just your arms.  Ugh.

I have said before, that I don't grapple to win, I grapple to grapple.  But that morning, with the fate of all of women's BJJ in my hands, I started every grapple with the intent to prove to the world, or you know, just that one guy, that BJJ works for women too.  

And being that I am the instructor of a women's class, I felt extra compelled to prove myself, not just prove that BJJ works for women.

My first grapple was an older teenage boy, and I was so nervous I was starting to question whether or not I could take this kid.  So, I started to psych myself up, more so than when I am competing in the finals for gold.

The resulting grapple was probably a little more unpleasant for that innocent man-boy than it should have been.

I should probably have felt bad that I unleashed on that kid, but I didn't.  I smiled, thanked him for the grapple and walked back to the wall without making eye contact with the guy I knew was watching.  I wanted to look like I wasn't even trying, or that it didn't matter.

But in my head I was jumping up and down, See it works! It works!  Send your wife and daughter to my class!

But in reality, I just beat up a kid.  Oopsie.
(In my defense however, we go there to grapple, not hug, and I grappled him with my sanity in tact, I just took every opportunity I could to put him in a bad spot and submit him.  I unnecessarily unleashed my inner Leonidas on him.  But he went on to grapple another day unscathed.)

Next grapple.

Another white belt... but this was white belt with man strength.  A big giant man, with man strength.

I went straight back in to, omg, can I do this mode.

Turns out, I was worried for nothing.

Every grapple that morning I was able to remain dominate and submit my partner.  Except the grapple in which I grappled a 230 pound purple belt man.  I am pretty sure that grapple looked similar to this..

My last grapple of the morning was with the man in question.  I was not expecting to grapple him.  I had been feeling pretty confident, and proud of my self for repping BJJ decently for women everywhere. (Because, clearly that was what was going on.  lol)

He was very nice and complimentary though.  He said, he had watched me grapple all morning and was impressed, and he was pretty sure I was about to beat him up.

And I went into that grapple with every intent to show him just how effective BJJ was for women.  Or at least, as as effectively as I could.  There are plenty of other women who could prove that point SOO much better than I can.

Anyway, I submitted him several times, and afterward he seemed legitimately happy.  He said he was now excited for his daughter and wife to train, and how grappling me was completely different that anyone else he had ever grappled.  He said, no matter what he did he could shake me off, or get a decent hold on me.  And that made him happier about training BJJ in general because it does in fact work.

The point of all of that, was not to talk about how I beat up boys, or pat myself on the back, but to let anyone else who might be wondering, if BJJ is effective for women, it is.

That experience made me more confident in myself, and happier about teaching BJJ to other women. I hadn't ever really grappled a man with the intent to subdue him, or at least that had never consciously been my goal.

All of that being said, I want to add that I have been training BJJ for 3.5 years, and I believe it will take a couple of years for your average woman to be able to subdue and submit your average untrained man.  But, BJJ can be live savingly effective as early as six months into training.  Escapes and defense come first in the line of skills sets you find with BJJ.  And I always, always, always tell my girls, if God forbid, they were to find themselves in a situation where they have to fight for their lives, to fight to escape, not fight to win.  Get them off of you and get away.  And BJJ can absolutely teach you how to do that.



BJJ works for women.

The end!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Red is still my favorite color..

Monday night Fabio gave me my purple belt.

I feel very undeserving and nervous about it, but I've come to realize how I feel about the color of my belt matters zero.  All I need to do is grapple like I think I deserve it.  I think it was
Royce Gracie who said, 'The belt only covers two inches of your ass, and the rest is up to you.'  (Or something like that.)  Turns out that's highly accurate.

When I started BJJ I was an out of shape, awkward, bookworm with absolutely no aptitude for BJJ.  I am still an awkward bookworm but thanks for Fabio and the rest of my team the other two things no longer apply.

Obviously Fabio has played a major role in my getting to this point.  His instruction and encouragement have been invaluable, but my teammates have been just as important.  They are the ones who sacrifice their time, emotion, energy and their bodies for me to practice the sport I love.  Without them, I couldn't train at all.  Outside of all the wonderful things BJJ brings into my life, it can be mindbogglingly frustrating and physically painful.  Sometimes, I think we forget that the rest of our teammates have similar struggles, but still train, help and encourage others. ... and they count just as much as Fabio.

While every person, and every grapple has helped me get to where I am, a few people have helped more than others, and some of them for nothing in return.

Erica is literally my perfect training partner.  She is my weight, my height and my same skill level... And motivated like no other.  She pushes herself always and in turn pushes me.  She is humble, and always has words of encouragement.  Every grapple with her is challenging yet still fun, and being that we are the same size, she is my ideal partner for getting ready to compete.  I love her on and off the mat, she is a good friend and great training partner.  I am so thankful for her!

Jimmy has probably endured more questions from me than anyone else.  If I get stuck on anything, which is often, he is the person I ask.  I am fairly retarded, so sometimes it's not so easy to help me over my hurdles, but he always find a way to make me understand.  And he is really good at helping me translate things to my own body type.  Obviously my gangly girl body is going to go about things slightly differently than the way he would go about doing them, and he helps me to see what will work for me...something I still struggle with.  We have all body types in our women's class and I wish I could as easily tweak techniques to make them more applicable to the individual girls doing them.  His brain understands BJJ about 90 billion times better than mine does.

 And these guys, are always willing to help me out in whatever way I've asked.  Whether I needed a special guest in my class, or I needed to pepper them with questions, after class... or sometimes during or before class, they have always done so happily.  

Anthony! Congratulations on your brown belt!  It looks so nice with your brown face!  ha! 
Brian, and his annoying armbars makes me strive to suck less at escapes.
And Doug I consider to be man version of me.  We have kinda similar body types, so I like watching him grapple.  A lot of what he does will work for me as well.. You know, if I could stop sucking at turtle guard.  Plus, he is my fellow BJJ Jew... and lets face it.  That matters.  lol  

And of course, all of the women's team.  Teaching BJJ has probably helped me just as much as it helps the girls I teach... if not more.  Having to think over every last detail, and walk them through every step helps to burn them into my own memory.  And their new honeymoon type love for BJJ gives me so much joy.  Some of them have already hit that inevitable wall, but endured the frustration and tears, and broke through the other side.  It inspires me, and makes me want to be better for them.  I want to be the best teacher I can be.  They deserve a teacher as dedicated and committed as they are, and I hope I can be that for them.

I love my team!

And here are a bunch of pictures of my post new belt bullying.