Between listening to podcasts and reading the posts on Facebook, a few things have come to my attention. I’ve realized that everyone has been so concerned with teaching men to roll with women that no one has ever thought to teach women how to roll with men. It’s incredible.
I hope by the end of this everyone has an idea of what it should look like. By now everyone understands that when a man rolls with a woman, his technique should be 100%, but his power (or strength) and weight pressure should be less. Unless, of course, he is around the same size as her. Some people may debate this and say that a man should roll with a woman just the same as any other man. I disagree. It’s not that we wish to be treated like children, or wish for the men to flop around with us like noodle babies, but if you outweigh a woman by more than 20Ibs and think it is acceptable to smash her with all your weight and use all of your strength, well, let’s face it. You’re the biggest asshole in the room. Congratulations on not getting any better at your technique and not helping your training partner get any better at hers. That’s what a great teammate does. (sarcasm)
Now if she asks you to turn up, that's one thing. Some of us compete a great deal and have different training needs, but some just want to be in good shape, learn, all while not risking injury for no reason whatsoever.
Now, back to the ladies. You’ve been training a bit, at first the sport was fascinating and now all you really want is to continue to get better, to train the techniques you’re learning. So you come to class and everyday you are the last person picked to rep instruction. You feel like no one wants you, or you’re a burden to the team. Maybe you feel like if you left no one would even notice...Wow, stop right there! For one thing, there is no room for you to throw yourself a pity party. Also, there are better ways to deal with this! Cheer up sunshine, for you are wanted! See the thing is, the men want you there and they enjoy your company. Most likely, they think you’re a great training partner, BUT they don’t always know what to do. Most likely they feel like if they ask you to be their partner that they are putting you on the spot and don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.
Here are a few ways that you can break this up.
- Don’t be the last person to try and pair up.
- Assert yourself. Call dibs on a partner.
- Ask someone before class if you can be their partner.
- Ensure that everyone knows you don’t always want to pair up with the only other girl in class.
As you start to rep with different partners, the others will start to notice and may feel less like they are putting you on the spot when they ask you in the future. I know it sounds crazy when I say “be assertive”, but I fucking mean it. Stop being so nice and worrying about stepping on toes, or that no one picks you, or that you’re emotions are telling you that you feel unwanted, and now you feel like running away, or………………..All. The. Things. Just let that shit go.
So here we go, finding a way to reserve someone is always your number one. Another great option is to third wheel on a group. At this point, I do this a lot. Why? Because I don’t want to be paired up with a brand new guy, or a super big guy, or someone who doesn’t really care about what’s going on, they are just there because they are. I would rather get a few less reps with a set of quality partners that are trying to get each rep right and sort the details out. This will help me get better too! I admit, sometimes I do this and it creates another group of three, as long as your coach is okay with this, it’s really not an issue.
As a woman I think it’s very important that explaining to your coach the weird situations that happen to you and having a creative solution to solve it that he is aware of could also be incredibly helpful. This way he/she is not put off by how you do things and understands that in no way does it come out of disrespect, but it helps you get the most out of your training.
[End Side Note]
It’s incredibly important that even if there are women in class besides you that you still rotate out your partners. It is of no value to you to work with the same person every single class, man or woman. Same with rolling. The other women in class need to know this too. It creates an environment where you are getting to know everyone and truly embracing being part of the TEAM. Did you join this gym to have two friends? I think not! So don’t stick to the same partner everyday. You’re isolating yourself and in doing so making the men less comfortable in feeling like they can ask you to rep or roll. Remember, they don’t want to put you on the spot.
So, now it’s time to roll. No one picks you. Don’t hesitate, call dibs on someone for next round. Now, I understand that every gym culture is different. Be aware of this. At my gym, lower ranks can ask upper ranks to roll. We’re all adults, so we just say no if we don’t want to...No biggie. I suggest doing it in the most neutral, nice, but firm way as possible. If I’m being honest, the biggest reason this is an issue is because of communication.
So I get left out this round. Stephen is rolling, and I say, “Hey Stephen, I got you next round ok?” He says, “Sure thing.” 10 seconds before the timer switches to the next round, I’m right there ready to slap and bump so we can start our round. Maybe right before we slap and bump I say, “Hey Darius, I have a tournament coming up and am trying to go with lighter guys tonight, could you be my next roll, please?” He says, “Yeah, no problem, Tori!” Are you catching my drift? YOU CAN DO THIS! I believe in you. Find a way to communicate that works for you.
At my gym, we have an amazing culture, so I really don’t have many issues. I still get left out, but you can bet that I will speak up. Maybe I’ll see if someone will trade partners with me, be ok with me being a third wheel, I prebook my rolls with who I want, and you bet if a bigger guy that hasn’t learned control yet asks me to roll that I have no problems saying NO. Politely, of course, but ladies! I write this and am urging you, SPEAK UP!
There is no reason for you to be getting left out or for not getting the amount of rolls you need. If what I am suggesting does not work, I would ask that you have a talk with your coach, re-examine your gym’s culture, or re-examine how your actions are affecting what you want and are not receiving.
If you talk to your coach and together cannot come up with a way to resolve this. It may not be a gym that supports an environment that is good for women. If the culture is bad, meaning: the men refuse to control the amount of power and weight they use, if the men are receiving the good communication you’re putting out there and still find ways to avoid you, or if you are treated like a 5 year old child…Well, my friend, that gym does not support having women there.
Now, if you are doing everything correct and still feel like you are being passed over, it’s time to look in the mirror.
In class: Do you talk more than you rep? Are you actively trying to get better each rep? Do you spend too much time trying to correct your partners actions, rather than focusing on your own? Are you flirting rather than focusing on jiu jitsu?
When you roll: Are you technically doing your best? Is your partner benefiting from this roll? Are you actively working to get better at something in particular so it doesn’t always feel like it's the same roll you’ve had with that person for the last 2 weeks? Are you the one that feels like a dead fish?
These are great questions for us to ask ourselves every so often. It could be that you have some things to work on and that is okay! When you have only been doing jiu jitsu a year, this could be a completely new perspective for you to see from as well. While I say that you are wanted and that you are part of the team, also understand there are certain things that people get tired of or just decide to no longer tolerate, so they will avoid you. The flirting question, I know this doesn’t apply to every woman, but it happens and after a bit, guys just want to train. So don’t make the environment weird or they will treat you weird! Remember, most likely they don’t want to waste reps or rolls either. So treat it like Jiu Jitsu class and everyone wins!
I wrote this hoping to be more informative of ways this issue can be fixed and make your training better. All and all, don’t be afraid to speak up. Jiu Jitsu is a beautiful journey that is yours, and only yours, but because of this you have to decide things on your own. Speak up. Evaluate your gym and training partners, and their behavior towards you. Evaluate your own actions to see if that’s why you are being treated a certain way. It’s important that you grow so that you get the most out of your journey. For most of us, I believe it’s as simple as speaking up and telling people what we need so that they can come to our aid. After all, isn't that what a team is for?
Tori Applegate is a brown belt under Sean Applegate in Atlanta, Georgia. She is incredibly passionate about bringing women together to have a better understanding of Jiu Jitsu culture and hopes to see women's events and tournaments grow exponentially in the near future. She is the owner of EverLegendary and can be found at @fireballtori on Instagram.
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