General · Unstoppable Girls

Is BJJ A Feminist Sport?

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I’ve already written a blog post about how lucky I am in the fact that I have a lot of girls to train with at Kaizen Academy – there’s now about ten regular girls who do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I recently read an article in the jiu-jitsu times that suggested that there is a lot of competition between girls who do the sport and not just the good kind that happens when we roll or spar. It suggested that girls can become territorial over mat space, their gym, their training partners, and other things when confronted with the prospect of a new girl joining up. This got me wondering two things; a) how true it was, and b) whether BJJ had the credentials to be considered a “feminist sport”. Stay with me on this one…

First off I want to clear something up; what is feminism? Some people recoil at the word and say “ugh no, I couldn’t possibly be one of those”. Well, in the words of Laura Bates (founder of the everyday sexism project and author of two excellent books), you are either a feminist or you are a bigot. Well now, that’s a fairly aggressive stance you might think, but all feminism is, is the belief in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes. Not a totally crazy concept, eh? 99.9% of the population (except the aforementioned bigots) could probably get behind that statement and say “yeah, sure, I do believe that, guess that makes me a feminist then”. I know, I know… it’s a scary word. If you want, shout it a few times whilst standing on a chair and it’ll become a lot less scary.

feminism definition

Continue reading “Is BJJ A Feminist Sport?”

General · Kaizen · Training · Unstoppable Girls

BJJ Girls: Unstoppable Girls (Part One)

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I’ve always been spoilt, I think, in that I have a lot of female training partners at Kaizen Academy. Before Kaizen was even a glint in Ze, Adam, Michael, Kieran and Shane’s imagination, there was also plenty of girls training both at Lancaster Sports Centre, and in the MMA Society at the University. Sure, we were definitely still a minority when compared to the guys, but there was always a good handful of us.

In this, I think, I am very lucky. Speaking to other girls involved in BJJ or MMA, they often say how they’ve only got one other girl at the gym, or that they’re the only regular girl, or worst of all, that there’s literally not another female in sight. It is sad, because whilst guys do make great training partners, it is useful (especially for the sport side of BJJ) to test yourself against people your strength, weight and build from time to time. You can get this in competition, sure, but it is nice to experience it without the performance pressure as well.

Before Kaizen there was always about four or five regular girls, and then since Kaizen (Oct ’15) there’s been a core group of about four “BJJ girls” which over the past month or two has rapidly expanded to a number around ten, which is absolutely amazing! We’re all white belts, and (as cheesy as it sounds) it’s nice to support each other through all the nuances of being a beginner at BJJ. A few of us have a little bit of comp experience, but the other girls are also quickly getting on board and diving in feet first on the competition side, which is absolutely amazing. It’s also great because it widens the competition pool. When looking at competitor lists you often see familiar names, but the more girls we can get in there, the better. Fifty-seven ladies competed at Manchester last weekend at the BJJ24/7 Event, which I think is pretty amazing going. Onwards and upwards, ladies!

Training with girls is a totally different experience than rolling with guys as well, and I think where BJJ is concerned, having few or no girls at a gym can be a bit of a self-defeating cycle. I know when I first started grappling about eighteen months/two years ago, I was intimidated to roll with the guys at first; they were bigger, faster, stronger. It wasn’t that I was worried about getting hurt, necessarily, but it was also the fact that they were guys, and you wanted me to put my hands where? Under his armpits? Around his thigh? North-South you say? Erm… You can see why for completely novices, doing all these moves with someone of your own gender can ease you to the idea of being that up close and personal with another human being. Anyway, I digress, I quickly learned that there was nothing to be scared of and that there was nothing “dodgy” about rolling with guys,   and that most people really really don’t care. Despite that, I think having girls there at the beginning certainly helped me get over whatever fears I may have had. Therefore, having more girls attracts more girls, they see that it’s something they can do, or that they don’t have to immediately grapple with guys, and feel a lot more comfortable with the idea of getting involved with BJJ.

My rolling style also changes when I roll with girls compared to guys (unless they’re an extremely small/light guy). For example, I have to be much more careful with my underhook. On a big guy, if you lose it, it’s often relatively easy to get it back. On a girl, the space is a lot smaller, so therefore it’s harder to fight for. I often find girls are more aware of the underhook as well, because we’re so reliant on it’s power when passing, that often half-guard will digress into a hand battle for the underhook. I think girls can be more aggressive than guys as well – some of the most brutal crossfacing I’ve ever experienced has been from girls, as well as some of the meanest pressure. It’s because most of us can’t rely on our weight or stature when doing this sport, that we become so much more aware of other things in order to become more effective (and sometimes more nasty!).

Next time I’ll take a look at some of my experiences going to female fight camps…

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General · Unstoppable Girls

Here Come The Girls: Ronda Rousey

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I thought I’d do a series about my female influences, inspirations, and people that I genuinely admire. They’re not all going to be fighters, but this being the nature of the blog, a lot of them probably will be.

So why Ronda? I hear you yell… she’s not even world champion anymore. Well, it’s true, things have been rather quiet on the Rowdy front lately, with rumoured fights popping up left, right and centre, but none of them actually coming to fruition. It seems likely that we’re set for Rousey vs. Tate mk. III if Tate manages to hold onto her belt against Amanda Nunes at UFC 200.

Anyway, I digress, why Ronda? Well Ronda was the first for me. She was the first woman fighter who I saw being a total badass, winning titles and opening up the world of women’s combat sports. For some it was Gina Carano, but I was generation post-Gina, so for me it was definitely Rousey. I watched with glee as she dispatched opponent after opponent in the bantamweight division in under a minute each time with her strong judo acumen and a well placed armbar. Tate was the only one who seemed to be able to get out of the first round. Many people thought she was untouchable, because no-one could get close enough to deliver any damage without being thrown on their head. Yet, we all know how this story goes, Holly Holm figured out how to deliver damage without getting anywhere near her, leaving the Judo champ perplexed as to how to get hold of her opponent and play her game. When forced to play Holm’s game of dodge and distance, she was totally out of moves.

Regardless of that, you can’t deny that Ronda Rousey did an awful lot for women’s MMA. She made me aware that there even was women’s MMA and from there the journey has been continuous. Okay, so I’ve left MMA behind for now, but Rousey still remains up there as one of my influences on how it all started. I think the sport owes her a lot for raising it’s profile so immensely. Of course, not everyone agrees with how she did it, and she’s made some fairly controversial statements along the way. There are others as well: Miesha Tate, Cat Zingano, Joanna Champion, Michelle Waterson, Chris Cyborg, Holly Holm, etc. etc. And those are just the MMAers.

Next week, I’ll go back to BJJ with one of my faves… Mackenzie Dern.

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