Women in jiu-jitsu. Lady beasts. We are a minority, greatly outnumbered by our brothers on the mats. To top it off, we are also overtaken by the boys as they are generally bigger and stronger. It is often assumed that we show up because we want to get fit or lose weight or to defend ourselves. We are not always taken seriously as athletes, as jiu-jiteiras. We're just here for practice, aren't we? False, very false. Women can and excel in the soft art as athletes, as competitors and as teachers, but representation is lacking. The numbers are exploding, but how do you make the visibility and participation of women the norm?
You could say that visibility and representation starts at the highest level. You could also say that women's jiu-jitsu is doing better than ever in this regard. There are a lot of high profile women doing amazing things every day to advance BJJ women, all over the world, and in your own backyard too. It's great to be a part, but we still have a long way to go. We need to standardize head instructors, gym owners and marquee fights for girls. We need to normalize the big academies that amplify women in jiu-jitsu leadership positions and run live streaming classes, not just conditioning classes. All those popular tutorials? I love them but I would also like to see more women, who are such fierce athletes and role models.
Gym owners play a big role in contributing to the enjoyment and retention of female jiu-jitsu. A gymnasium that not only normalizes female participation, but sees us as equal participants who want more than aerobics and self-defense, is a gymnasium that contributes to the advancement of our sport. So many gyms are doing their best to make sure women are given equal opportunity and treatment, on and off mats. What would be even better? A dojo where women teach and exercise leadership, and I'm not just talking about the women's program. Mixed courses. Predominantly male classes. Competition training. Advanced programming. All of this because we can.
As women, we are a crucial part of the success of our mates, especially the younger ones. There were nights when I didn't want to go to class but I couldn't bear the thought of the junior class not seeing a woman on the mats for the adult class, so I left. It's not just the young girls who need to see us, but also the boys so that they can learn to see their female teammates as equals. Representation leads to participation. When we show up, no matter how many or how few women show up, it is essential that we move to keep women's jiu-jitsu at the forefront, even if it is just our own gyms and local competitions. Each generation of jiu-jiteiras depends on the one that comes before to show what is possible - how are you going to stand up for the women on the mats?
For just over 3 years I have been training in Kung Fu and Muay Thai. Learning any martial art is a physically and mentally challenging process that takes years of practice to master. Here are 4 tips I wish I had known that can improve your training and reduce the time it takes between novice and grandmaster.
Flexibility is a fundamental trait of any good martial artist. Having this early on in your training will help boost you ahead for many reasons. Firstly, the more advanced techniques in martial arts require you to be extremely souple, it’s impossible to begin learning them without the required flexibility to do so, and thus you will be learning advanced moves earlier in your training if you’re already performing a perfect split. Secondly, you need to kick high, sometimes higher than your own head. If you’re training in a martial art that is fight orientated, such as kickboxing, being able to kick your opponent in the head is one of the best moves you have in your arsenal of attacks. If you are studying an art such as Kung Fu, flexibility will dramatically improve your technique in forms, helping you to score those extra points in competitions for your technical ability.
One of the best ways to learn, I have found, is directly from the horse’s mouth, in this case your master. Typically, in your classes, your master will demonstrate a technique that they want you to practice with a partner. If they don’t ask for volunteers before performing each technique, go ahead and tell them before the class starts that you would like to be involved in the demonstrations. This will help you get a real feel for what they’re trying to show you, as you can miss subtle techniques that may be out of your vision. Volunteering to be demonstrated on can seem scary, but remember that they are a master of what they do, and they won’t actually be performing the move with the intent to hurt you.
Hitting pads is good for when you’re learning a new move, but you will find you begin performing the technique in a much different way when faced with something that will hit back. Simple things like remembering to cover your head when throwing a kick or punch will become second nature after being punished for dropping your guard, even for a split deuxième. You may be asked or required to participate in a fighting tournament at some point of your martial arts journey, and the best way you can prepare for this is sparring. Remember that it is for the purpose of learning, not knocking each other out as quick as you can. You will begin to learn how to spot and react to your opponent’s openings, and how to defend against different moves. Forget being stronger or faster than your opponent, being an éclairé fighter is what will give you the advantage come fight night.
Your training doesn’t begin and end when you enter and leave the doors. My Kung Fu master always told us that “practice is good, but perfect practice makes perfect”. When you train at home make sure you are performing each technique properly, as if you were in class, bad habits form fast and are extremely hard to be undone. Purchasing a large mirror is a great investment so you can analyse yourself at home. Also watching scènes of other people performing techniques will help you to see how different techniques should look when you’re not at chic.
Did you set a new year resolution this year ? If so, do they happen to be martial arts related ? Do you think you will actually achieve them ?
Statistics for failed New Year’s resolutions run anywhere between 45-80%. Now that another new year is here, it’s time to focus and set our eyes back on the prize in order to not become part of this rather bleak data. tera help you, on this post, I’ll be highlighting a couple personal tips that may help make both your short-term and long-term goals stick
Focusing on small milestones, following your détermination, challenging yourself, and finding what inspires you can help you make improvements for the rest year and meet or even surpass your martial arts goals and beyond !
You’re much more likely to stay motivated and make improvements if you’re doing something you enjoy. What is your absolute favorite thing to do at your martial arts school ? If you love to spar find ways to push yourself harder. Ask your instructor for pointers. Train with higher-ranking students. Seek out tournaments in your area for a challenge.
What if you’re doing what you love, and you’re already good at it, but you don’t know how to improve ? Avoid stagnation by digging deeper into your favorite activity. Find ways to go out of your comfort zone. Ask for help and feedback even in areas where you feel you are at your best. For example, if you enjoy doing forms, ask your instructor to work with you on finer details.
Play around with timing and emphasis. Enter or at least attend a tournament to see how other martial artists practice forms and see what you can learn from them. Seek out master classes, seminars, and clinics in your area. If you want some fun and relaxation while you practice consider taking a martial arts holiday.
Alternatively, you can also work on your training from the comfort of your own home by joining an online martial arts training. As you won’t even have to step foot outside, there’s simply no excuse not to keep up your practice !
Think about your long-term goals and then break it down into small milestones. Do you want to be able to do fifty push-ups in one set, but right now you can only do ten ? Don’t burn yourself out on day one trying to do all fifty. You may injure yourself or simply become discouraged that you can’t reach your goal immediately.
Slow down. Scale back. Try adding five extra push-ups per week, and over time you’ll build up the strength and stamina you need to meet your goal.
Maybe you have transferred schools and need to relearn the particular forms or self-defense techniques practiced at your new school. I have seen this happen with black belts and higher-ranking color belts who have transferred to my dojang. For example, a fellow black belt practiced Taeguk taekwondo forms at her old dojang, but now she needs to learn the Palgwe forms that we practice.
Rather than trying to learn everything at once, which will likely feel overwhelming, start with one technique or one form. Ask an instructor or another black belt for help. Watch films online. Move on to the next technique when you are able to perform the first one without any guidance or prompts.
Sometimes you have to do things in martial arts that you don’t enjoy as much but you still have to do due to coutume, chic schedules, and keeping your practice well-rounded. Martial arts may be the hardest thing you do, but it shouldn’t feel like drudgery. Think about what you don’t enjoy as much in chic or what you dread doing, and try to figure out why you avoid it. Perhaps you don’t like it because you’re not very skilled ( yet ), you don’t do it very often, you find it stressful, or you simply find it boring.
Challenge yourself. Find the “fun” in something that has simply felt like work. It’s easy to get better at something you enjoy and you’re naturally good at doing. Just think of how it will feel when you make improvements in an area where you have continuously struggled.
Leveraging your strengths can help you develop skills in areas where you struggle. For example, if sparring is particularly challenging, be mindful of other times when you use blocks or strikes such as in forms or self-defense. Make them as sharp and powerful as you would in a faster-paced sparring match. Ask your instructor to incorporate quick reaction drills into classes. Attend extra sparring classes, and if you are a black belt or higher ranking, attend lower ranking sparring classes and offer to coach or referee. Teaching a skill can help you make vast improvements in your own practice.