How to Keep Women Training in Your Gym and
Avoid Creating a Perpetual Man Cave
My name is Leah Taylor. I’m a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu under Matt Thornton and Travis Davison. I’m a coach and competitor out of Straight Blast Gym of Montana.
I’m writing this in response to a face book thread based around this shared article:
The article was written by a female purple belt about some of the benefits of a women’s only class, which I thought were pretty much common knowledge.
I was a bit shocked by the comments related to the article. I started to write a response on the actual post two or three times and it just got too long; hence the blog. Here are some of the misconceptions about a women’s only bjj class that came from that post; some were even from other women.
- A women’s only class would be less difficult than a class that included men
- A women’s only class would not allow the female members to fully learn jiu jitsu – in other words women have to roll with men to learn bjj
- There could be a lowering of standards in a women’s only class
- As an upper level female practitioner I won’t be pushed in a women’s only class
I would argue the following points based on women’s classes that I have started at both our Portland, Oregon location and in Kalispell, Montana.
Women that have a chance to roll with other women in a ladies class during the week get better faster.
The women I have coached also have the benefit of a very strong beginner level class that is composed of both men and women. I will say that right off. Some of them also roll with men at open mat, some of them don’t. Their reasons for doing so are varied. I see those that do roll with men roll more aggressively with women. They are more likely to try to hit submissions or be able to play on top. There is much more of an exchange of positions during this class. In the process these women begin to develop the timing and the pathways to make these things happen against larger, stronger, faster partners.
Women can learn bjj by only rolling with other women.
I agree that it is good to roll with many different training partners in terms of size and strength. However, it is important to consider the reasons that women train jiu jitsu. Many of them want to feel more confident, get in better shape, and do something fun to gain these benefits. They also don’t want to get hurt. I’ve had women in my classes that are in their late 40s starting jiu jitsu. Should they have to roll in a mixed open mat if they don’t want to? I don’t think so. I also think that they can get really good at bjj rolling with other women of different sizes and shapes. If you have no women’s class it also excludes women who have had a history of being assaulted. This is a demographic that could truly benefit from learning jiu jitsu for self defense purposes or to be able to work through some of the things that have happened to them. Let me tell you from experience, if you take a woman who has a history of trauma and throw her into a mixed open mat it is like trying to teach someone to swim by throwing them in the deep end of a pool full of sharks. It doesn’t go well. You lose another student that could truly benefit from learning jiu jitsu. Yes, these women can learn jiu jitsu only rolling with women. I think that can derive the same confidence and skill set as their counter parts that roll with only men. Maybe they get to the point that they want to train with men, maybe not. It should be up to them.
I think that women are actually often held to a higher standard of technique in terms of belt ranking. This same standard would definitely apply in a women’s class.
It is difficult to rank women in jiu jitsu. It is helpful if there are other women of similar size and abilities in the gym, which is rare, or if they compete. If neither of these things are present the women are expected to begin to give the men closer to their weight difficult matches as they progress through the ranks. They will always be at a size and strength disadvantage. Therefore to pull off a sweep or technique the timing and positioning has to be nearly perfect. If it is off a little bit, you can rely on your attributes – wait no – you get smashed over and over and over again until you do it perfectly. When women have other women to roll with you can “see” their jiu jitsu technique more clearly.
Women’s class becomes a place to iron out little details of each movement. The women that roll with men come in each week with technical problems they have been having, I help them to solve them so that when they do encounter that position again, it goes better.
Ladies class is typically a smaller so I can give each student more assistance than I could in a larger group setting. This type of class will also attract athletes that want to compete in addition to those who simply want to learn and improve. They have tough matches with each other each week. They will be the first to tell you there are no easy rolls on that mat.
An upper level practitioner can be pushed by a women’s only class if they know how to roll.
As you progress in jiu jitsu you start to be able to submit most newer partners. That is a good thing. Nice work, you’re getting better. However rolls with those people are not wasted. You can work on new technique. It is beautiful because you can try these things and start to understand the timing and position without getting crushed. Coincidentally, this is what all of the other newer women are doing in the class also. There are certain guards and submissions from the bottom that are just not great to try on bigger stronger partners. You really do risk injury. Ladies class becomes a lab to pre test these things in.
Women who have the community and camaraderie of a women’s only class will train jiu jitsu longer.
If you are a more experienced female practitioner and you ignore the other new women that come into your gym to train, you will never ever have any other high level female training partners. There will always be about 1-3 women in your gym. Maybe that is what some women want? Slow clap for the alpha females that hang other new ladies out to dry. Some women feel that if they came up through the school of hard knocks and zero emotional support, everyone else should too. You will be the only girl at your school forever. Maybe someday you will receive a mean girl medal for your efforts. Sounds like you might have something to prove. Read this:
The women who have this class are far more likely to make it through that first year. Their friends and training partners will help them. They will be excited to train each week. They will appreciate the extra coaching and attention to their perspective. A male instructor could definitely do this. The original article above has a short quote from one who has.
This may sound like an urban legend at a jiu jitsu gym. You may ask yourself, how do I even get women to give jiu jitsu a try? I’ll write a follow up blog on this. For now, believe it! We even have a women’s locker room!! The number of female blue belts has grown exponentially since implementing both the beginner classes and the women’s only classes in Oregon and Montana. We also started a women’s only seminar that happens once a year. It is coming up soon. That event has more than doubled in number since we began only 3 years ago. Women from all over the world come together to hang out and do what they love. They make friends for life. I look forward to my ladies class all week. I will tell you it could happen in any gym. They always start small. Don’t be discouraged. Most great things do.
Women’s Camp 2017 : June 9thth www.sbgcamps.com/register