When people find out that I train jiu jitsu I am often met with a joking, “wow I’ve got to watch out”, an excited, “That is so cool! I’ve always wanted to do that!” or an approving, “jiu jitsu is so good for women, you need to know how to defend yourself”. While I agree that self defense is an important aclade of BJJ and the reason that many women step on the mat for the first time; there are so many other benefits garnered by women who train.
Jiu Jitsu has radically changed the lives of so many women it has touched, myself included. Here are 5 reasons why:
Seeing your body as a tool to master your environment
From the time we are little girls, women are bombarded with images of “perfect” women with nipped-tucked-and-toned bodies, air-brushed faces, and incredible genetics. We are told that this is the ideal to aspire towards, this is the woman that is loved, and to whom the world is wide-open.
Men face these unrealistic ideals as well. But, they are taught something fundamentally different about themselves; to see their bodies as tools master their environment. While women, uniquely, are taught to see their bodies as works-in-progress towards the ultimate goal of beauty.
Jiu Jitsu turns that on its head. In jiu jitsu, women learn the lessons that men grow up knowing. That their body is useful, powerful, and it’s merit doesn’t lie in how it looks or how many likes it gets on instagram.
For me personally, training has helped me reframe my insecurities. “My waist isn’t small enough”, has turned into “my core is so STRONG and supports me in everything I want to do.” “My hips are too big” has turned into “wow, my hips are so mobile and flexible, they help me retain an awesome guard.”
BJJ has and continues to help me love and appreciate the strong, capable, resilient body that I have. And that’s powerful, because life is too short to spend it staring in the mirror hating yourself!
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The Jiu Jitsu Sisterhood
There are few things I treasure more in life than the incredible female friends I have met through jiu jitsu. My theory is that because jiu jitsu is such a tough and male-dominated sport; the women that stick around in the jiu jitsu environment are some of the most interesting, empowered, introspective, strong-minded and resilient women around. That has been my experience at least.
I have been deeply inspired by the women I train with, how tough and what good people they are. Women in jiu jitsu support each other in a way that women in other sports do not; because we are few (but we’re growing) there is deep solidarity between jiujiterias across the sport and within gyms. We train together, we struggle together, we laugh together, and we share together in our jiu jitsu journey.
Tapping into your ferocious primal self
We all have ferocity inside of us--playful or primal aggression, anger, stress, frustration. However, many women struggle to express it in a healthy way. A lot of women fear being called bitch for expressing our normal, healthy, human emotions. So we repress them. And when when these emotions come out, they come out in ugly ways--a screaming match with our partners or kids, saying mean things to or about our friends, or walking around for days steeped in a tea our own anger.
Jiu Jitsu is where we can express these emotions physically; we move, we roll hard, we get out of our heads and into our bodies. In jiu jitsu, that aggression can be used as fuel to train with intensity. I don’t know how many times I have gone into training upset and come out smiling and exhausted, having forgot what I was mad about when I came in.
You will find that is the case with many jiu jitsu people. Jiu Jitsu people are some of the most calm, level headed people you will ever meet. You know why? They spend 2 hours every night letting their crazy out!
Shattering the stories you tell yourself about yourself
Culturally, we have taken on many ideas about what a woman is and should be. Ideas like, a woman isn’t strong, powerful, or aggressive; that she doesn’t have the same grit or ability to persist as a man. That she shouldn’t like fighting, competition, sweating, submitting opponents, and much less taking the shoulder pressure of a 200 lb dude.
As much as we reject these ideas as plainly untrue, I think a lot of women still have a little voice inside of them that whispers these lies in moments of self-doubt. To my suprise, I sure did.
Jiu Jitsu helps you prove that little voice wrong. In jiu jitsu women can honor all of their personas; the ferocious, competitive, aggressive fighter, the playful friend, the supportive teammate, the mother, lover, business woman, boss-ass-bitch, etc.
The point is, as women we are and can be all of it at the same time. Strength, ferocity, power, and aggression are FEMININE traits too! And jiu jitsu helps us learn to own them.
Being steeped in a culture of people who are trying to be better
We already touched on the awesome women in jiu jitsu, but there is something to said for the culture of jiu jitsu in general. Jiu jitsu academies are full of people who are trying to be better. They are trying to be better grapplers of course but, often times they are focused on being better in other areas of life too. Jiu jitsu seems to be a catalyst for big life changes like eating better, quitting smoking, drinking less, sleeping more, practicing self care and recovery, putting more emphasis on community, and following your personal dreams.
This mindset is CONTAGIOUS in the best way! It is often said that you are an average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Well, if you spend every evening on the mat with people who are trying to become the best versions of themselves, you can imagine what that will do for you.
Now we’d love to hear from you! What do you think is the best thing about jiu jitsu for women? What has jiu jitsu taught you?