by Brigitte Cave
Ian Jiu-Jitsu, MMA & BJJ Seychelles
“You fight like a girl!”
“Well if you train hard and long enough maybe you could too.”
Starting BJJ, as most of you know, is not the easiest thing to do, or even stick to. The first few months of aches and pains, the zombie-like feelings the day after training, and the struggle to learn technique can be disheartening at times. Now try starting BJJ if you’re a girl, and the road gets all the more wobbly.
My first day of training felt like I was dropped into a vast, scary, male-dominated ocean. At the time I firmly believed BJJ was similar to karate (please don’t murder me), and boy was I uncomfortable and extremely confused when my new coach, teaching me an armbar, suddenly sat straight down, grabbed my arm, proceeded to spin with all his weight on my stomach and fall onto his back with his feet in my face. My first thought was, “What the hell is this martial art supposed to be?” You see, being sat on by a heavier, stronger person is not exactly what I had in mind when I signed up for the classes, and the fact that it seemed to be a common occurrence was not encouraging. For some reason, though, I stuck with it.
Now, after almost two and a half years, I’m at ease with squirming around on a mat, but there are a plethora of other problems to face. Being one of only two girls at my old club, it was inevitable that I would roll with the guys a lot, and I can tell you the number one advantage girls have; we’re underestimated. If I had a penny for the number of times the guys I had to roll with said “I’ll go easy on you, I don’t want to hurt a girl.” I could probably buy my own dojo. At first I was annoyed, insulted even, but then I realized, being underestimated is the greatest advantage anyone could have. If it worked for Royce Gracie at UFC 1, it could definitely work for me. Now, when guys at my new club tell me they’ll go easy on me, I give them my nicest, mouth-guard filled grin, and let my technique do the talking. Not only is it brilliantly fun to see how quickly they forget to ‘roll light’ but once they start adding more power, it forces me to rely on technique and not any strength I may have been using earlier.
My old coach always said “If you roll with the big guys now, once you get a girl your size to fight, you’re gonna kick ass.” and he wasn’t wrong. The stronger your opponent, the more you have to focus on perfecting technique, which is the ultimate goal of rolling. My dad has always told me “if you’re not the strongest, make sure you’re the smartest” and I always keep that in mind. I learnt that if you stick with it long enough, you will earn the respect of even the biggest guys out on the mats, and respect earned is a greater reward than any material thing you could win.
BJJ is the ultimate sport for women because it gives you the skills to not be a victim, it gives you the opportunity to become power houses in an often male dominated sport, and most of all, it gives you confidence. Confidence to walk down the street and not feel constantly threatened, confidence to step out on that mat no matter who your opponent is, and confidence in your capabilities. That’s why I push through the aches and pains, the bruises, the sympathetic looks strangers give you in the street when they see said bruises, and the rather frustrating number of times I have to tie, and retie my hair during training. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I fight like a girl, and guess what? I’m bloody proud of it.
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