As a young man, I feel obligated to say that we need to expand our consciousness regarding women in Jiu-Jitsu. Women having been fighting in MMA for years, women’s boxing was accepted as an Olympic sport, and now women can serve in combat in the US military. So it bothers me when there are still discussions about whether or not women can handle a little Jiu-Jitsu. Most articles that make general statements about women are directed towards beginners: how to survive, what to expect, etc. I’m more interested in supporting the girls who are already training and love it. More women than ever are getting involved in Jiu-Jitsu and they are the role models for bringing more women into the sport. They train gi and no gi, they compete, and they roll with men and women. So what advice can I offer my Jiu-Jitsu sisters?
Tip #1 – Learn to analyze Jiu-Jitsu
The skill of being to analyze movements, applying or resisting a technique, will serve as the foundation for everything below. Just as we exercise physically to develop muscles we must also strengthen our ability to articulate WHY techniques are and are not working. How often have we come across a technique that didn’t work well in sparring and abandoned it? Being able to troubleshoot issues makes it much more likely that we critically think what we are doing with our bodies. The goal is to raise your awareness over every part of your body so that you can sense everything that is going right or wrong with the techniques and resistance to them. Not to mention, this will also improve your communication to your partner or instructor to get more input.
Tip #2 – Understand the use of force
Being the smaller OR weaker (not all women are small, not all women are weak) person introduces the idea that we might need more strength to successfully apply a technique. Instead, look at problems in terms of physical force and mechanical force. Superior technique is about the proper use of body alignment and position to maximize your own force and movement while minimizing your opponent’s ability to generate force and move freely. With women in particular, this involves the use of your whole body behind the techniques. Find a partner, male or female, that you trust to apply more physical force on you so that you can learn to counter it with mechanical force. This is a great drill when preparing for competitions!
Tip #3 – Play more open guard
Unless you are specifically training self-defense scenarios or MMA, you should always be improving your open guard. Closed guard is great for beginners and some people do have dangerous closed guards, but I feel it can be a crutch because it limits the game and limits your imagination for Jiu-Jitsu. In open guard you can transition to butterfly guard, X-guard, De La Riva, inverted, and so many others! Learning to control an opponent from a multitude of positions not only will make you more dynamic, but also increase your creativity in response to all the problems you’ll face. More creativity leads to more imagination, which in turn will help you excel in the sport.
Sean Maghami is the founder of Dream Jiu-Jitsu and has organized several all women BJJ tournaments, including the largest women’s tournament in the world in April 2012. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DreamBJJ