To all the girls/ladies/women/she-beasts who are nervous about rolling with the guys, I see you: the jiujiteiras who only want to roll with women, who stick to the ladies-only classes. You could be new and not used to mix-gender sports. Maybe you’re just starting to notice that the boys are becoming seriously stronger than you. Or maybe you’re an OG, but the idea of rolling with the opposite gender is too overwhelming to consider. Perhaps you’ve had negative or even traumatic experiences working with boys and/or men. But sometimes, you don’t have the luxury of a ladies-only class, and the only option is to join the gents. How do we ensure our best possible experience?
You are justified in feeling anxious and scared; it’s completely understandable. It seems easier to get hurt or find yourself in an intimidating situation when your partner is bigger and stronger than you, and when they may not realize how vulnerable you feel. In the girls’ class, it’s a lot easier to feel safe and to communicate your needs to your partner. There’s solidarity and natural comfort among us. We deserve to have the best possible training experience as much as any dude.
A good training partner wants success for you as much as they want it for themselves, regardless of gender. They want to know how to help you best, as you do for them. Most men I have encountered on the mats have been not only helpful, but respectful and kind too. You should expect this from any and every dojo. Job number one for a woman in jiu jitsu: Find the right gym, with the right attitude, atmosphere and leadership. Look around at your next class. Are women respected and encouraged? Or merely tolerated? Do they receive the same quality of instruction? If ladies speak up and state a boundary, look to see how the leaders in the room react.
Stating boundaries can be hard for us girls. We’ve been conditioned by society to prioritize others’ comfort and feelings over our own safety. In order to survive and thrive in jiu jitsu, you need to use your voice. You have every right and, truthfully, every responsibility to speak up if something is not working for you. Your training partner can’t fix anything if they don’t know what is broken.
If there’s not enough intensity, just say so. Is there injury or trauma that requires awareness? Speak up. Someone asks you to roll but you don’t feel comfortable? A polite no thank you works. Clearer communication makes for better partners and better teams.
Mixed gender classes offer opportunities that single gender classes don’t. Jiu jitsu is for everyone. Expanding your horizons to include bigger, stronger, and differently-abled partners will only take your skills to the next level. Whether you decide to roll with men or not, I hope you choose what is right for you and continue to pursue life on the mats. To your continued success!
Guest Writer :
Carly Gauthier is a relative newcomer to jiu jitsu, after starting in 2017. She signed up despite knowing nothing about the sport and it was love at first training. Since then, she has earned her blue belt, tried her hand at competing and recently started teaching. Her goal when jiu jitsu returns is to finally learn how triangle choke efficiently. Her proudest moment in BJJ was stepping back on the mats after a serious injury in 2018. Previously she has been a runner and triathlete. In between training sessions, she loves spending time with family, being outdoors, exploring new places and things and training as much as possible. IG: @truthandgrit_