Women in Jiu Jitsu did begin in earnest until the mid 80’s when Yvone Duarte became the first woman black belt to compete in an official tournament. Since that time, women have slowly but surely started to fill the classes of Jiu Jitsu gyms everywhere. In the late 90’s the IBJJF added women’s divisions to it’s tournaments and has seen a steady growth in female competitors every year since. Around that same time the first women’s MMA competitions began in the US, but women in major MMA competitions is LESS than a decade old. Today many of us (and especially our kids) take women in the ring as a staple of the sport. Many of the fighters as much household names as their male counterparts.
Due to the pioneering of these early women practitioners, nearly every gym in America has women on the mats, grappling with people of all shapes, sizes, ages and genders. Many women join Jiu Jitsu for self defense. After all, Jiu Jitsu is built on the idea that a smaller person can get the advantage in a fight over a larger/stronger person by using proper technique. However, putting that aside, there are many other benefits that come from women of all ages, shapes and abilities training in BJJ.
First, Jiu Jitsu makes you confront what you cannot do and to then use strategy and what your body CAN do to overcome that obstacle. It’s an incredibly gratifying experience for someone who may have never thought they could even do a push up, to find themselves executing a simple sweep and finding themselves in a position of advantage while training during their first class. It allows people of any gender to see that what they may have disliked most about their bodies may just be their greatest strength.
Jiu Jitsu is known for creating a camaraderie among teammates. Good gyms, with respectful teammates, rarely have issues with men and women training together and for women who have been excluded or wanted to “just be treated like everyone else” they can find this atmosphere on the mats. While competition is separated by gender, weight and rank , the ability to train freely with each of your teammates and learn what unique skills they can bring to your grappling game can be a priceless gem for women in what could be considered a “male dominated” sport.
Finally, you will sweat. A. LOT. The workout cannot be denied. It’s cardio, it’s weight training, it’s thinking on your feet and you will use muscles that you had no idea you had. Whether you want something for weight loss, muscle building or just keeping an active and healthy lifestyle, Jiu Jitsu offers any and all of that. It’s a sport that you get out of it what you put into it and while your team is there to push you and believe in you, they are also there to support you and meet you where you are in your training journey. We aren’t here to focus on how our bodies should look or if we can keep up with everyone else or if we are being “womanly” enough. We are just here to see what we can bring to the mats and what our training can do for us as individuals.
Here at Embrace, we have many, many women (and girls!) in our classes including our own professional MMA fighter Hannah Cifers! Hannah embodies the idea of “speak softly and carry a big stick” and inspires everyone here at Embrace with her dedication, talent and kindness. Be sure to watch her next fight in UFC 166 right here in Raleigh on January 25th vs Angela Hill. Feel free to join us for a trial class and see what the women and men of our Killer Bees team can bring to your fitness routine!