I had a request to write a blog post on making the jiu-jitsu academy environment a more comfortable place for women. Being as I’m not a woman, I thought the best place to gain perspective on that was to ask one. The following is a guest post sharing some thoughts on the subject. The author wished to remain anonymous. Enjoy.
There are so many things that may draw ladies into jiu jitsu. I can remember being brand new to the sport, having a wild hair and thinking I’m going to try something new with my son. It sounded fun in my head. Then I walked into my first academy and saw all these strangers rolling around on a mat ALL UP IN each other’s personal space. As someone who really loves my bubble, I was out of my comfort zone. Way outside of my comfort zone. I was stubborn enough to stick around.
We’re in a sport that we offer our necks to choke and our limbs to break to our partners, and we trust them to stop when we ask them to. There’s a special bond that develops among us because of that. When you include looking around the room and seeing only a few of your own gender, that bond solidifies a little tighter. We find ourselves in the sport for a myriad of reasons. Some of us are looking for a fun way to get in shape. Some of us love the thrill of competition. Some of us are hoping to learn self defense. Some of us just want to be a badass bitch, and some of us want some combination of the above.
So how do we create a space in our academies that is more welcoming to women? We can have a spokeswoman that greets other ladies at the door. We can have feminine products in the bathroom in case our cycle makes a surprise visit the ONE DAY we wear a white gi. We can offer ladies only classes. However, and this might be my day job coming through, I suspect that one of the most important things that we can do to make our academies more welcoming not just for women, but for everyone, is good, old fashioned communication. Be warm. Be curious. Ask questions. What brought you here? Why is learning jiu jitsu interesting to you? What might some barriers be? Acknowledge the weirdness of jiu jitsu. Find out their why, and communicate to them, keeping their why in mind. If we’ve done everything leading up to this, those of us in the sport know that jiu jitsu has the ability to sell itself. It offers so many more positives than we can put into words. At the end of the day, all we need to do is stand back, and let a white belt’s first ah-ah moment speak for itself.