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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Grappling with Guys, for Women

The world of fighting is predominately a male world. Traditionally, guys are the ones always going off to battle; or are quick to knuckle-up in at parking lot duster outside of your local watering hole. Now that's not to say that women are excluded, but it is to say that women who fight are the exception. Just check out your garden variety World Star Hip Hop videos, the majority of those fights are going to be guys, but you will find some ladies mixing it up there as well, but again, it is the exception to see females in such an aggressive state. Ironically, though, history is FULL of sweet stories and tales of female warriors. Joan of Arc, Shieldmaidens of Norse mythology, Calamity Jane, just to name a few (way more here).
"Joan of Arc in Battle" by Hermann Anton Stilke


In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, we do have a lot of great female competitors, and the female brackets are only getting bigger every year. So with that in mind I thought it would be good to revisit one of our most famous topics of rolling with girls, but this time explore it from the female perspective.

In our article, "When Hugs Get Dangerous: Guys Rolling with Women," we looked to help guys in training with women by having a (real live) actual female, Rebecca Reuben, tell us guys that women--essentially--aren't made of glass.  But today we're going to flip the script a little and have another guest post talking to women about rolling with guys, from the female perspective. BJJ Blue Belt Christine Fader weighs in this week. 

Christine and crew from Titans Fitness Academy
My name is Christine Fader.  I have been training BJJ for 3 years and am currently a blue belt at Titans Fitness Academy in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
I started my journey at a different Gym doing Muay Thai.  I used to see all the BJJ guys leaving their class so sweaty, exhausted, and happy--and I knew I wanted to be apart of it.
My initial foray into grappling was not easy.  While I have always loved competing in sports and working out I was not prepared for the all consuming mental and physical exhaustion that takes over from having zero technique and no knowledge of what to do.  I struggled a lot.  My first time rolling at open mat time I cried from frustration and vulnerability; and it wouldn't be my last time.  If I could offer any piece of advice to female white belts out there it is: to keep going.  You will get better--I promise.  Trust in the technique; trust in your instructors, trust in your training partners.    It is hard to go to class, day after day, spend hour after hour practicing techniques only to have your guard passed, get mounted and choked in 5 seconds by your larger, stronger training partner who just learned the choke that hour and the guard pass last week.  It feels as if you are wasting your time; or that you will never get it-until one day you don't get choked on 5 seconds.  The next time it takes much longer for your partner to get that choke; and months down the road, while your guard can still get passed you are surviving a lot longer.
As a female it can be especially frustrating because we are usually at a physical disadvantage, but I promise that the techniques work.  The harder you work, and the more you perfect them, you will see results--it just takes time.  Be stubborn.  Don't give up.
BJJ has brought me many close friendships and experiences I never thought I would have and it's only just begun.  I started at age 32, and if I can do it anyone can.  Just don't give up.
Christine in action


So let's keep some things in mind: as a female (or even some guys, I suppose) you're going to be at a physical disadvantage. Sure, of course, we can argue back and forth on the subject but science supports that males have more muscle and better bone density, thus making male bigger, stronger, and more physically dominate. But Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was designed to defeat that! As Christine points out, it's going to be frustrating. But I want to point out that you're not going to through anything any one else hasn't. 
Actress Kateryn Winnick as Lagertha in History Channel's Vikings

Being a female doesn't mean that you're not ever going to be as good as, or better than, the guys at your gym. I'm pretty sure Mackenzie Dern (love her) will ruin my life if she wanted to and I out weigh her by 100 pounds. Being female does, mean that you might be more fragile. It does mean that the guys you're training with will (probably) be trying to walk the line of technique and strength. So you're going to have to walk that same line, but in a more violent way. Set the pace. If you're looking to train harder with someone, set the pace. If you're more concerned about working technique, speak up, but also set the pace. You're going to train with men, that much is inevitable. So when the time comes don't be afraid to be aggressive, but remember to protect yourself from bad situations too. I know you're going to want to tough some stuff out (and you should) but don't be stupid and try to survive some things and get your ribs compromised by a bigger opponent. Trust me when I tell you: guys will always listen to girls on the mat. So even mid-roll if someone is going too rough--or too soft--speak up, joke about it, make them/us aware, but be ready for what comes.

I'm not suggesting that guys are going to be out there head-hunting or anything, but we're a dumb species and can misread suggestions. Finding a good training partner for yourself is a key. You want someone who's A) Comfortable with you & you with them B) Someone skilled enough that isn't new and thus can help you and C) Someone easy to work with so that you can roll, drill, or work out stuff together. That is a tall bill  to fill--like trying to find the perfect boyfriend/girlfriend--but they're out there. 
-and don't forget some other great sites from some female grapplers out there:

This week's sponsors:
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