Let’s Normalize Women

Women in jiu-jitsu. Lady beasts. We’re a minority, seriously outnumbered by our brothers on the mats. To top it off, we’re outgunned by the boys too as they’re usually bigger and stronger. It’s often assumed we show up because we want to get in shape or lose weight or for self-defense.  We are not always taken seriously as athletes, as jiu-jiteiras.  We’re just here for the workout, right?  Wrong, very wrong. Women can and do, excel in the gentle art as athletes, as competitors, and as teachers but representation is lacking. Numbers are exploding but how can we make female visibility and participation the norm?

It could be said that visibility and representation start at the highest level.  It could also be said that women’s jiu-jitsu is doing better than ever in this regard.  There are many high-profile women doing amazing things every day to advance ladies BJJ, around the world, and in your own back yard too.  It’s a great thing to be a part of, but we still have a long way to go.  We need to normalize head instructors, gym owners, and marquee fights for the girls.  We need to normalize the big academies amplifying women in jiu-jitsu leadership positions and leading livestream classes, not just conditioning classes. All those popular instructionals?  I love them but I would also love to see more from the ladies, who are such fierce athletes and role models.

Gym owners play a big part in contributing to women’s jiu-jitsu enjoyment and retention.  A gym that normalizes not only female participation but views us as equal participants who want more than aerobics and self-defense, is a gym that contributes to the furtherment of our sport.  So many gyms are doing their best to ensure that women are given equal opportunities and treatment, on and off the mats. What would be even better?  A dojo where women are teaching and active in leadership, and I’m not talking just the ladies-only program.  Mixed classes.  Male-dominated classes.  Competition training.  Advanced programming.  All of it, because we can.

Catherine O’Neill Photography

As women, we are a crucial part of success for our fellow sisters on the mats, especially the younger ones.  There have been nights where I didn’t want to go to class but couldn’t stand the idea of the juniors class not seeing a woman on the mats for the adult class, so off I went.  It’s not just the younger girls that need to see us, but the boys as well so that they can learn to see their female teammates as equals. Representation leads to participation.  When we show up, no matter how many or how few ladies show up, it’s crucial that we get out there to keep women’s jiu-jitsu front and center, even if it’s just our own local gyms and competitions. Every generation of jiu-jiteiras depends on the one that comes before to show what’s possible-how will you step up for women on the mats?

One Comment
  • BJJBear
    24 October 2020 at 11:09 am
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    I’m a bit confused here. Afaik, women were always normal in BJJ. We have a bunch of women in our class, my first sparring was against a woman, etc. etc. Women are present almost on all cards and whatnot, women teach when needed.

    Is someone holding women back from investing in a school, teaching class, etc? If I’m a black belt and I’m there with a blue/purple/brown belt woman in the class, should I teach or should she teach? Wouldn’t it be unfair if I just chose her because of her gender?

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