Creating Your Place in Jiu-Jitsu: Karen Miller Peterson 3

karen4Many of us wear several hats. Karen Peterson is one of those women who wears them well. Black belt Karen Peterson has been training since 2004. She began training because she was bored with running and although she liked to workout and be fit, she get bored quickly working out on her own. She found Jiu Jitsu and was so intrigued by how challenging it looked and that it was such a great self-defense art. Once she started she was hooked. She trains at her academy in Montclair, NJ, North South BJJ.

Coming up the ranks Karen says being a white belt was the hardest because she had to adjust to having people (men especially) so intensely in her personal space. For Karen it triggered a lot of childhood wounds and caused her to feel panicked when rolling. Once she got to blue belt and knew a little technique, she felt more comfortable.

karen2She says the biggest challenge for her was the same for many and most women in Bjj, which was creating the place for herself in Jiu Jitsu, wherever she trained and with the mostly men that she trained with.

“It is such a complex journey and makes you tougher, but can be really hard. Sometimes I think back to the first handful of years and things I experienced and I can’t believe I stuck with it! But I’m so glad I did and that I can now create the spaces for women that weren’t there when I started.”

As more and more women have found Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the East coast, Karen has played an active role in creating opportunities for women to train together through open mats. She says there are so many good reasons for women to train together, regardless of where they train. She says the obvious physical benefits in training with mostly men is that women are always on the defense. She says it’s not til you get to late blue and purple that you’re able to train offensively. However when you have a room of women to train with, you can get so much out of it.

“It can get so gritty and tough and such awesome battles in rolls that are so back and forth, it’s fantastic. Another reason training with women is so great is that we don’t have to carve that space out to fit in, it can be such a boys club and in women only open mats and classes and events like GIG, it takes out a degree of effort that comes with our day to day training.”
Karen is a gym owner, a wife, a mother, instructor and practitioner.  It can often get challenging to wear so many hats. However according to Karen, having your own own academy allows a little more flexibility in taking on all of these roles. She says since she can bring my daughter with her it makes training easier and it helps that her husband trains Jiu Jitsu too. This affords her the opportunity to not only get in some personal time, but family time as well. However, when her daughter was a baby she says they didn’t have their own place and it was definitely more challenging.

“You just go with it and do what you can and somehow it all (mostly) comes together! My advice to other moms is that being pregnant and having a baby is SO MUCH HARDER than anyone ever talks about, so be kind to yourself and know that with time it gets easier.”



 Shama Ko

Girls in Gis staff writer

Shama Ko is a brown belt with Gracie Humaita out of Austin, TX.  She has been a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner since November of 2003.  She is a photographer, writer, community organizer and activist. She heads the Girls in Gis organization or as she calls it the “movement”. She describes herself as both a lover and a fighter. She loves to laugh and not take life too seriously.

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