BJJ for women

I’ve been doing BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) for years. It’s a great sport and form of self-defence, but in Australia it’s dominated by men – probably putting a lot of women off starting.

This is unfortunate, as I think BJJ is one of the best forms of self defence women can do; statistically violence against women is less likely to be the “pub punchup” that guys get in and more likely to be a grab/sexual assault (either in public or in the home). In these situations, reflexively knowing how to escape from someone’s grips or fight on the ground with someone stronger and heavier on top of you is invaluable, and just by training with a stinky, sweaty guy on top of you you’re much less to likely to panic and escape the situation (The Bene Gesserit Littany against Fear – Dune).

But BJJ is also a great sport! You get a great workout (especially abs), it’s exciting and you need to think a lot (BJJ is often called “physical chess”). You share the pain and triumphs, the sweat and exhilaration, the interstate and overseas trips with your team mates, and form close friendships.

I’m now training at The Dojo in Bondi Junction with Daniel Sainty. Amongst the guys there’s 4 other women training – Eleni, Kunita, Laura and Sam. They’re all inspirational, but the one who really gets me back to training when my middle-aged joints are creaking is Sam. She’s a petite high school girl, self-described “girly-girl” and geek. She fights against the boys, gives (and receives) a good thrashing, is starting to win competitions, and is now blogging about her training. You go girl!!

BJJ is so effective that the US Army now uses it as the foundation for their Army Combatives course. Not because they want their soldiers to throw down their rifles and start up UFC-style fights with “the baddies”. Rather, they found that teaching a random collection of  moves (this kick, this punch, this other kick) was ineffective for learning a “combat mindset”. The sport nature of BJJ allows for “an avenue or the motivation for continued training” as well as internalizing the “concept of a hierarchy of dominant positions”. And knowing how to rear naked choke when someone jumps on you and hangs on to your rifle is kind of handy…

See you on the mat sometime :-)

PS a great website on Women & BJJ – Women << BJJ Girl (especially Resources)- thanks Slideyfoot.


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12 Responses to BJJ for women

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by MartialWebVideosFeed, Women Magazine. Women Magazine said: "BJJ for women « sonia hamilton life on the digital bikepath ….." Great Women on Twitter! […]

  2. Thanks for the blog visit! Women are still a minority in BJJ anywhere in the world, but I’m sure we’ll see more women doing it in the coming years (hopefully!). I think the main thing that turns off women about BJJ is the fact that it’s a full contact sport, and that you’ll have to overcome a lot of issues (mentally, psychologically) before you are able to enjoy it.

  3. Hey Sonia, check out this article I wrote on why I think girls are far superior in BJJ!!! (The guys made me tone it down, can’t believe it)

    • Hey Laura, yes it’s a great article. I’ve noticed with the guys (especially the beginners) that when they start to get a submission and get stuck (eg an Americana), they just muscle it rather than thinking “this isn’t working, time for plan B”. So they tap me, but when they try it against another guy it doesn’t work.

      Frustrating sometimes, but then I think “angles, technique, body weight, …” :-)

      • To an extent, it is definitely arguable that women and smaller guys can benefit from that apparent size disadvantage, because as a result they are forced to rely on technique. I’m 64kg, so tend to be one of the smallest people in class.

        Of course, takes a long time for the skill disparity to become large enough to compensate for some huge guy’s power. I look forward to the day when I can make up the strength gap with technique! ;)

        Speaking of articles on women’s BJJ, if you haven’t already seen it (and I’m guessing you might have, given she’s the person who alerted me to this blog), Leslie has an awesome post here.

        • Thanks Slidey for the comment :-)

          I think you’re right about the size disadvantage. I’ve noticed the stronger white belts just muscle through their grapple, sometimes they’re so tired they can hardly standup after one grapple. But no technique…

          On the other hand, I grappled with a blue-belt woman last night, she’s petite (about 55kg, I’m 75kg). At the end I commented to her how I couldn’t get out of her side control as she had technique, whereas with the guys I can get out easily (unless they muscle me).

          And how else does someone like Marcelo Garcia win ADCC open weight competitions? He’s about 70kg…

  4. Hi Sonia,

    Great post. I’ve kept up the judo and am now going twice a week, and getting much more from the classes. I’m starting to reach the point where my body’s in good enough condition that if something doesn’t work, it’s probably technique and not strength. I’ve also had many very educational defeats against women at our club, especially on the ground :)

    From the sound of things, ego’s not a problem at your BJJ school. I’d love to come train with you guys some time.


    • Hi Mark, great to hear from you! I’ve been watching your posts about stretching and flexibility – I have the same issues and started yoga about 9 months ago – it’s helped.

      No ego isn’t a problem – the instructors cultivate a great atmosphere. You’d be welcome to come and train with us sometime. I think you can do the first class for free as a tryout, then come casually – ring for details.

  5. Hey Sonia,

    Thank you for the mention and the praise. :)

    I didn’t know you thought so highly of me. I’m glad I help to enrich your training experiences.

  6. Hi Sonia,

    Learning BJJ is great for me. Backtime (around 2008), I didn’t find any BJJ school at my city. Now I can train BJJ in my city, and even I have been interviewed by one of the sports news site in my town. I am more eager to practice BJJ when I read your article. Waiting for the next article you write.

    Warm greetings from Bandung city, Indonesia.

    • Thank you Budi, it’s always great to hear from other bjj’ers, especially ones from Asia.

      BJJ is the sort of thing you can do your whole life, and you build up a great network of friends. It also keeps you fit, and is a lot more interesting than going to a gym to do weights!

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