A strong women’s team can provide a sense of community, life long friends, and ultimately better training for you and your academy. However, many jiu jitsu academies struggle to attract and retain female athletes.
If you’ve been looking for ways to get women to join your academy’s BJJ team, we’ve got you covered. In this article we are going to break down the common mistakes academies make and strategies you can take to build a women’s team.
Five Powerful Ways to Grow a Women’s Jiu Jitsu Team at Your Academy
While the average jiu jitsu academy is still majority male, times are changing. Many gyms boast women’s teams of 10-50+ women. Not to mention, female athletes are crushing it at a high level. Nonetheless, there are many women who find themselves the only or one of the few women in their academy.
Why is that?
Whether you’re a woman or a man, stepping on the mat for the first time can be an intimidating feat. It’s vulnerable to be really bad at something, it’s scary to roll with people who are much bigger than you, and it can be really disorienting not knowing what to do. All of that is amplified by being one of few women or one of the smaller people in the room.
When it comes to growing your women’s jiu jitsu team, you’ll need to help women feel comfortable about trying jiu jitsu for the first time and create an environment that makes them want to stay.
Here are five of the best strategies to do just that.
1. Culture Matters
Culture starts from the top with what coaches will and won’t tolerate.
You probably know that a safe, welcoming environment is important anywhere you go — but this is especially true for women in BJJ. Jiu Jitsu is a high contact sport and no one wants to feel uncomfortable or unsafe when they are trying to train.
In the vast majority of jiu jitsu schools predatory behavior from instructors or teammates is not tolerated. However there are schools where these are concerns.
Additionally, at some schools female training partners are treated differently. This usually comes from the top, what the coaches are saying about training with women in the gym. If the message is, treat them and their jiu jitsu like anyone elses you are in a good spot. If you hear things like, “you have to roll differently with women” or that the coaches “don’t like to or won’t train with women” it’s probably not the best environment.
Fortunately, you can help steer the culture at your academy. As a woman on the mat you can call attention to bad behavior and support women’s initiatives (like women’s open mats and classes) within your gym.
2. Consider Holding a Free Women’s Self-Defense Seminar
A women’s self-defense program or seminar can be a great entry point for women who aren’t thinking about training jiu jitsu to get started. These events get women into the gym and give them an opportunity to see what jiu jitsu has to offer.
If possible, try to have upper belt women play an active role in the seminar. This is a perfect time to start forming connections with women who are curious about BJJ. You can show them the ropes of self-defense, inspire them, and let them know that you’ll be there to support them if they decide to join your academy.
3. Host Women’s Open Mats
Women’s open mats are amazing opportunities to build a women’s community around your academy. If athletes at other academies start to see your school as a center for women’s jiu jitsu they may drop in to train more frequently or tell their friends about the school.
These events also allow women to build friendships other women who train and roll with higher level women than they may have access to at their own schools. There is a lot of value for women to be able to train with other women, especially if they compete.
So, if you want to grow your women’s jiu jitsu team, try hosting regular women’s open mats — and make it known that women of all skill levels are welcome. You might just find that the ladies who attend these events end up sticking around for the long haul.
4. Have More Women in Leadership Positions
If you have an upper belt woman in your academy, having her run classes can be a great way to make other women comfortable at your academy. It demonstrates that women are valued, taken seriously, and skilled at your school.
If you don’t have upper belt women at your academy, encourage some of your more advanced female athletes to train the newcomers on their first day. That can be a great way to increase the retention of new women in the school.
5. Use Social Media as a Tool for Community Outreach
Your academy’s presence in your community is essential for growing your student base. And as a practitioner, you can spread your love of BJJ on social media. Post engaging content — talk about your successes, challenges, lessons, and how jiu jitsu has changed your life for the better.
In particular, try spreading the word about the positive impacts of learning BJJ. From self-defense to empowerment, improved health, and a strong network of female friendships, the benefits of jiu jitsu for women are many.
When other women in your area — whether they be friends or strangers — see how this sport has changed your life, they might just be inspired to reach out.
Lead By Example
Jiu jitsu is more than a physical sport — it’s an avenue for people to build their confidence and become the strongest possible version of themselves. As you grow your women’s jiu jitsu team, you can cultivate lifelong friendships and connections with women who love the sport just as much as you do and your jiu jitsu will be better for it.
Remember to lead by example by establishing yourself and your academy as a safe place for women to learn, grow, and train. Aside from that, spread awareness through social media and by holding women’s introductory classes or seminars.
With your guidance and encouragement, you’ll soon have a new team of empowered female warriors ready to take on their sport and the world.