I’ve been going to Girls in Gis for ages now, maybe seven years? I’ve mostly been a volunteer/ambassador as of late, spending less time on the mats. I greatly enjoy helping put on these events, but I wanted to remember what it was like to be simply a participant. So recently I simply participated, and it opened my eyes to how beneficial and rewarding these all levels events can be specifically for higher belts.
Cross training and showing support for local girls teaching classes is extremely rewarding. You learn new things and how these other women may view a move. Every school and every person has a different background. You may have seen the technique a million times before, maybe it is even your favorite, but did you know the girl you competed against last year also loves it? Taking her class you can learn aspects of the technique she really focuses on and observe how she shares the information. Teaching and simply knowing a move are two completely different things. As a higher belt, you are often going to have lower belts ask you questions, whether you are an instructor or not, so it’s extremely beneficial to observe different teaching styles.
You are also building a network. “Strength in Solidarity.” Supporting those around you shows you care. In turn, these people will be there for you. I’ve often ended up at tournaments without a coach, and the most heartwarming thing is when someone from another team is in my corner. I want to make sure they know that I am there for them too. We may compete against each other in matches, but in the world of brazilian jiu jitsu, even in the world of competition bjj, we are in it together.
Inspire and help others:
As a higher belt you can help reiterate, translate, simplify, or expand on a movement to the lower belts you partner with or those that are having difficulty near you. While this is giving back, it is also beneficial to yourself, and fun. You get to problem solve! You have to better understand the move to help others learn and comprehend the mechanics. Everyone learns and it’s so satisfying to see things start to click with those you are helping.
Get your Roll On:
The last part of these events are sparring. The sparring is optional but at this last event I realized how important it was. It opens free interaction. Some girls do come in wanting hard training even if that isn’t the focus of these events. They just need to be clear with their partners and respect them if they are not wanting that type of training. Often it’s higher belts rest day, so they don’t want to have to prove themselves to this newbie. They’ve done their time.
I say roll with them. I say let them move, don’t crush, but give them a roll they would have a hard time finding with the men in their gym. The kind of roll where you roll like a woman, someone with the experience of knowing what you need to get better. Give them a roll session where you aren’t going crazy, that you let them work, but you practice trying to stay clean and just a little ahead. You aren’t holding back your weight or strength, you’re giving them realistic resistance, but you are also showing them how being just a little cleaner, just a little smarter, can get you ahead. It will light a fire under them, or maybe it’ll light a fire under you!
At the start of the event I went to a young blue belt woman pulled me aside and asked me to roll. I could tell she liked to compete, so I grabbed her lapels back and told her “it’s on.” She came after me and we had a good hard roll. We kept making jokes and kept the roll fun while still sparring. Seeing her so happy afterwards due to getting to spar with a higher belt was a great start to the open mat. I never think of myself as anything special in my own gym, I’ve been there so long, but it reminded me of how excited I was to go against higher belts when I had the chance at tournaments.
Then there are those afraid to roll. There are the older ladies, the young girls, or just the generally more timid less athletic new practitioners. They don’t want these competition hungry girls breaking them. Roll with them. As a higher belt you can give them a roll they will have a hard time achieving with the men in their gym. You as a woman have experienced how hard it can be to get a good roll while early on in your learning. It can be hard to have an active roll with a man. No matter how good of a place they are coming from, they have a harder time balancing being a deadfish and coddling vs forcing techniques.
A white belt lady came up timidly asking for a roll, asking me to not break her. She wasn’t looking for a hard roll with some hungry competitor in her 20’s, but that doesn’t make her desire to train any less valid. It was one of the most heartwarming things when after the roll she looked happy and said that she had a blast. That she had fun during the roll. Because isn’t that why we keep doing BJJ? It takes a higher belt to be able to offer those rolls, and teach the next generation of how you can have fun and challenging rolls. If we just let the white belts thunderdome it together, we’re building a scary generation with little self control.
So higher belt ladies! I want to see you at these events. They will help in a way that is much more difficult to find than a typical competition class. They can renew your love of bjj and give it purpose.
Honestly, being attacked by a couple of little girls after they were offered a candy bar for passing my guard is a memory I’ll always cherish.
About the Author:
Ketra Bartek AKA the Cuddly Killer is a brown belt based out of Austin Texas. She loves to aggressively cuddle for fun and competition. Her favorite way to relax after training is snuggling her dogs while finding cute pet videos to inundate her friends.