by Professora Alicia L Pavia Sandoval
Traditional gender norms are systemic in our society and will take time to overturn
Whenever I meet someone in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) community and they find out I have my own academy, they are usually pretty surprised. As if, here I am, a woman and I HAVE MY OWN ACADEMY. Then, the assumptions start…. The first is usually that I have large women’s only classes, and the second is that I only teach the women’s classes.
Well, here’s the reality – outside of the occasional all women’s class I add on a Saturday here and there, we do not have any women’s classes on the regular class schedule. Yep, that’s right. I have my own academy and no regularly scheduled women’s classes. Well then, if that is the case what classes do I teach you ask? I teach any of the co-ed adult and/or kids classes on the schedule. My husband and I work together and divide up teaching. Wondering why? Well, I’m more than happy to explain my rational.
The numbers just aren’t there. I am part of the last generation of women that came up the ranks only having men to train with. Yes, the occasional women would come into the academy I was training at, try class, maybe even sign up. Unfortunately, they very rarely lasted a couple of months, much less made it to blue belt. Historically from the start of opening my own place the numbers made it really hard to justify having a women’s class on the schedule.
Self-Defense is the Core of BJJ
Some academies are successful at attracting female students via a women’s only class on the schedule. It is great when this happens. When I put a Saturday women’s class on the schedule it is usually packed and some of the girls (when they are included) bring their moms in to try class. However, one of the benefits of training BJJ is that is the most effective form of martial arts style for self-defense. When a woman is attacked, it is usually by a man and not another woman. Training with men will better prepare a woman to defend herself if she ever needed to.
Benefits of Women’s BJJ Classes
With that said, I do believe there are benefits to having women only classes on the schedule for academies that have numbers for it. These benefits include a female only environment to introduce BJJ to a woman who is not comfortable training with men; a gateway environment for women to pick up some techniques before transitioning to co-ed classes; and its an excellent way to supplement co-ed training.
These reasons sound great, don’t they? But there is an even more important reason – the strength we give and receive through the bonds we build when we support each other in perusing endeavors outside our comfort zone. In today’s world women are still fighting unseen battles. Glass ceiling challenges still exist and over the years we have taken on roles outside the home but have not given up our traditional roles spreading ourselves thin. We are still mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, etc. Now more and more women are crossing into what has been traditionally men sports like Mixed Martial Arts and Wrestling. If BJJ was easy, everyone would do it and have a black belt. Women’s only classes and events provide a ‘sisterhood training environment’ where women can come together and enjoy some girl time surrounded by those experiencing similar challenges.
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