by Samantha Schell
Leave the coaching to the coaches
A common topic I have seen all over the Jiu-Jitsu message boards as of late, has been an influx of complaints of what has become known as “mansplaining” or “blue belt-splaining.” This colloquialism has arisen primarily when women, usually those of the lower belt ranks, starts to get an upper hand in a drill or a roll against a man or someone who slightly outranks them by the smallest of striped margins. Sometimes, this can cause grievance to the guy she is partnered with if they feel emasculated at having a smaller lady or embarrassed by having an amateur-ranked person edge ahead. For this reason, many gyms emphasize leaving your ego off of the mat, no matter how much you think you know.
When it comes to Jiu-Jitsu, at the end of they day, everybody taps. The longer you are in the sport, the more you realize that it really isn’t that big of a big deal at all. Sometimes, you make a mistake, and sometimes, you just get caught. It does not mean that you suck or that you are unworthy of your rank. We all have good days and bad days and it definitely helps us to appreciate those good days that much more.
The more I started progressing in the sport, the more I realized it put a target on my back with people gunning for you. The first class after getting my blue belt, some guy came in and was going ape sh*t squeezing my face, desperately trying to tap me out through sheer strength. It occasionally still happened at purple belt, and then brown. Men wanting to tap or dominate an upper belt while conveniently leaving out the details that it is a 120 lb girl. Now, as a 4-stripe brown belt at the time of writing this article, they are often humbled quite quickly, but in my early days, things were much different.
There was a length of time where I myself had too much of an ego, Stronger guys (aka everyone) would put me in precarious and uncomfortable positions that caused great pain, and I wouldn’t tap from them because I had refused to tap to those muscling through stuff rather than using technique, especially if it wasn’t even a real submission, but just something like cranking my spine trying to get a sweep for example. I told my Professor that I didn’t want to encourage bad behavior when they weren’t using actual Jiu-Jitsu to get the tap. Then he yelled at me and told me I was risking my body’s health to prove a point. He was right.
Now, if something hurts I definitely tap. It’s not worth long-lasting tweaks and pains just because my ego was hurt at relenting to a lower ranked individual. On the contrary, nothing was more frustrating than when I had just started advancing in the sport and I would gain good position on someone only for them to start “coaching” me through the technique in order to alleviate whatever shame they felt from having a lower-ranked female finding themselves in that situation in the first place. I’ll elaborate.
I remember the first time it happened like it was yesterday. I was able to get an Americana grip from side control on a no-stripe blue belt, same exact rank as me. And then he proceeds to interrupt the flow of the roll to tell me “Now all you have to do is drag the elbow to the hip and raise it up and keep my fist on the floor and paint the mat like a paint brush.” I was flabbergasted. Like yes, thank you sir, that is what I was already doing. And I didn’t understand why this took place until much later when it happened several more times.
Sometimes people feel the need to soothe and satiate their insecurities by telling themselves that you only achieved that submission because they allowed you to and even helped you complete it. Fortunately, this type of behavior seems to dwindle down the longer they stay in the sport, but there are always a handful of bad eggs that permeate onward. Either they learn to accept that people get caught regardless of size or gender and there is no shame in tapping to anyone, or they don’t last in this sport.
After many years of practice and almost a decade’s worth of fights and competitions, the combination of my rank, my skill on the mats, and the fact that my name is on the door of the gym has all but eliminated this type of behavior with me personally. I am also very fortunate to train at a gym where everyone understands that the belt is primarily meant for keeping your gi closed and tied together, and not necessarily indicative of always being able to dominate those ranked less than you. Trust me, that’s not how Jiu Jitsu works and lower belts at my gym get me all the time.
If anyone tries to “coach” you through these positions and submissions (and yes, often times this happens to be men or blue belts with the false illusion that they know so much Jiu-Jitsu now) understand that it is coming from a place of shame and insecurity. You can thank them and move on, or tell them you have all the coaches you need, or sit back and watch them become tongue-tied with the embarrassment of falling over their own words to acquiesce their ego.
I shudder to think of all the cringe-worthy stuff I did or said early on when I was simply ignorant at knowing better. There are no medals won in the gym, and the less you care about beating everyone on the mats, the happier you’ll be along with less stressed and also will learn that much more. Leave the coaching to the coaches and just be prepared to learn day by day, even if the only thing you learn that particular session is how to tap. Say goodbye to the ego and hello to the opportunity to be educated and improve your Jiu Jitsu.
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