"Don't take me out on a date"

These topics are things most of us don't openly talk about in the BJJ community but i think its time we brought them out in the open.

As I've become more involved in the BJJ community, I have had many opportunities to listen to other women's experiences.  I have found inspiration in the strength of the women around me, especially those who have had to learn what it means to love Jiu-Jitsu so much that it hurts.  Although I'd like to think we are in a new era where women are becoming equals in a male dominated sport,  I am continually reminded of the obstacles that remain a harsh reality for women today.   I've heard horror stories about mistreatment including
verbal harassment, physical abuse, emotional torment and in some cases unwelcome sexual advances.  But the most unifying theme among the women is that these traumatic experiences never took away from the genuine love they had for Jiu-Jitsu and made their commitment to the sport even stronger.

There was recently a big uproar in the BJJ community about a certain company that executed a overly sexual marketing campaign that many felt misrepresented and objectified women.  I won't give any additional steam to the buzz, so their name shall remain anonymous. But as successful as the campaign was from a marketing stand point, the ads were a direct slap in the face to women and was a prime example of the stereotypes women in BJJ have fought to overcome.  As if Jiu-Jitsu needed anymore help looking sexual to an outsiders.

Women discover Jiu -jitsu through various means and it can take on several purposes and definitions for each of us.  It is a sad truth, but some men are still of the primitive opinion that women have no place in BJJ or contact sports as a whole.  I've gotten comments on my YouTube site saying that I should be a lady and leave the fighting to the "real" men.  The funny part is most of these men don't even train.  These guys are ignorant and my suggestion is that they try rolling with a real BJJ woman.  As I am sure most of them will find out what it truly means to be humbled when a woman half their size can "man handle" them.

Unfortunately some men in BJJ share this opinion that women shouldn't train or that we are not equals even though we put in our time on the mats just as they do.  In my opinion, these guys are insecure and obviously intimidated by a strong woman.  It's disheartening how they find ways to diminish or belittle women's efforts on the mats with sexist remarks, harassment and ridicule.  When rolling they will use strength and force to muscle through moves so they won't get caught or feel embarrassed by tapping out to a woman when she's legitimately caught him in a submission.   Or in some cases they use brute force and too much resistance to physically hurt and torment women. Perhaps they think that by manhandling and mistreating women it some how makes them more of a man.  These are not men, instead I refer to then as "knuckle draggers" because of their caveman  mentality.

But then there is the flip side, where some men "take you out on a date", meaning they roll with little to no resistance like a wet noodle or stiff like a board.  These rolls can resemble a game of "grab ass" where the guy basically allows the woman dominate him so he can have the opportunity to be close to her or maybe a chance to flirt and work his "game".  Even if the advances are innocent and harmless, rolling with women like this can be particularly damaging because it creates a false sense in her of the effectiveness of her moves.  This behavior is equally as wrong as the knuckle draggers and an insult to our abilities as if we wouldn't be able to tap them in "real life" if they hadn't just given it to us.  

My suggestion when being "taken out on a date" is to use it as an opportunity to work your game. Set the pace and gradually increase the intensity to see if they match it.  Chances are he will get the point that you are serious about BJJ and not interested in his advances.  If the guy doesn't match your intensity, think of it as if you're working on Bubba Gracie (the Bjj dummy) and have a field day with it.  Or if the situation makes you feel uncomfortable, don't put up with it and go roll with someone who you know is a good training partner and will give you adequate resistance.

However, not all guys that roll too hard or too stiff are like this.  Recently I was reminded of how some guys really just feel uncomfortable working with women, especially if they are not used to it.  They tend to either be too loose or too stiff.  The big difference is that they are not doing it to be disrespectful.  They are just trying to make us feel comfortable because they do have respect.  Nice guys don't finish last, because they can be taught how to be good training partners if you help them get over the fact that you are a woman and
simply just want to train.

Don't get me wrong throughout all of my training most of my best partners have been guys. For the most part guys in BJJ are good training partners or can be taught how to be. One of the many things I was taught by the highest ranking female at my old school that will stick with me forever is to be selective in my training partners. This has saved me a lot of grief because I am kind of a snob for my own protection to avoid injuries or uncomfortable situations.  Being a good training partner is something that isn't taught, but can be learned through practice.  But that's a whole other blog for another time.

I hope one day women don't have to endure the torment that so many women have faced over the years. I hope that the pain experienced will not be a lost cause, but pave the way towards change for future generations of women in BJJ. No one deserves to be mistreated and it shouldn't be tolerated. Only we have the power to change our life's path and no-one will ever look out for our interests as best as we can.              
*The photos are not related to the content of the story.  If the individuals in these photos wish to have them removed, please contact me.  Thank you.


  1. Awesome post! It is true that some guys are bad at interacting with women because they don't want to be disrespectful, as always open honesty is the best way to get through it.

  2. Great post. I'm not a woman, but as a small guy who is super-paranoid about injuries, I always try to be careful who I train with. In that, I'm inspired by one of the best training partners I ever had, and how she reacted when the instructor tried to pair her up with somebody who had injured her in the past.

    Instead of just accepting it and risking another injury, she said "sorry, I don't want to roll with you" directly to that person's face, then picked somebody else. We're adults, so we don't HAVE to roll with anybody we don't want to.

  3. "Mixed-sex interactions temporarily cause a decline in cognitive functioning", this may well explain what your seeing. Physical sporting interaction between men and women is rare, so people will behave in a way that preserves social standing (especially men). Admittedly sometimes both men and women freeze up when confronted with cross gender competitive situation, instead of just having a quick word pre-roll to defuse any awkwardness.

  4. Good post. But I'd like to argue 1 small point you made.

    "When rolling they will use strength and force to muscle through moves so they won't get caught or feel embarrassed by tapping out to a woman when she's legitimately caught him in a submission."

    Regardless of intent, if someone can muscle out of a position/submission, I'd argue that they aren't legitimately caught. Neither a mugger or sport competitor would rely solely on technique if they could add strength to the mix.

  5. Muscling out of a submission or aggressively with an intent getting out of a submission? That is always subject to a debate depending on whose side you are looking at.
    Aren't we taught to escape with the same intensity as we would hunt for a submission? That means to use technique and explode when you have to. Some people do it more gracefully than others. Don't you feel sometimes after a roll like you've been through a cycle in a washing machine being pulled and pushed every which direction? And other times you are just flowing with no bumps and everything feels nice and smooth? These two people can use the same technique on you but strength and intensity level makes it feel worlds apart.
    And this goes for both men and women, I've seen some very rough ladies. We are all different and what feels muscling/powering to one doesn't necessarily feel the same to another individual.

  6. Good read Shama. As a father of three girls who grapple I am always aware of how the guys roll with them. I can honestly say at Revolution BJJ most of the guys have a good idea how to roll with the ladies. And if anybody should get a little out of hand there is always MR. JEFF MESSINA. Always enjoy reading your articles. It helps me with my daughters.

  7. Love this. Great post and you covered so many of the bases.

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  9. Here's the follow up blog...


  10. I have to say I am kinda offended by this (as a male who trains. What I'm referring to is they way the knuckle dragggers train. Honestly it has NOTHING to do with being a woman. No matter what there are always people like that at every gym.

    As far as the wet noodle or stiff board I personally do this but not just females I do it to everyone smaller then me. I don't let people do things and I stay proactive but I try to stay away from using attributes as it hinders my own training by relying on size and strength rather then BJJ(I'm 6'6 260lbs).

    I definitely train different with different people and that "game" of flirting your referring to there is a good chance that the poor guy is just feeling awkward and trying to become more comfortable. It is very awkward training with a female and if I got the sense that someone thought I was flirting with them or took offense I would just stay away. I roll with females all the time and get coached by them as well.

    One of my best training partners is a 136lbs female. I guess some things could be considered boarder line flirting but talking breaks up tension. Lay of the neo-feminism and realize these are issues EVERYONE in bjj faces. Be selective about who you train with, avoid injury, and stick with people that use good technique. Everyone at every gym has to go through these things.

  11. A lot of interesting things in this post and the one after it. I've only been training for just over a month but I haven't had any of these problems myself (some of the bigger guys tend to put on the pressure and power through things but never with malicious intent and they're very encouraging when I do something right, not desperate to stop it). Then again, it's a very tight MMA community where you get to know people really fast, so that sort of nonsense wouldn't be tolerated even if it did occur.

    Since this place is my only exposure to MMA training / submission grappling, it's always surprising to hear that this sort of BS actually does go on elsewhere. Hard to imagine based on the boys at my gym, who are so supportive and cool about everything. I never feel singled out as "the girl" but I guess it's not like that everywhere, which is really sad as it seems to drive lots of women away.

  12. I've trained in quite a few places over the years and I've never seen "mistreatment including verbal harassment, physical abuse, emotional torment and in some cases unwelcome sexual advances"-- at least not male on female-- so I guess we're fortunate that times are changing, or perhaps the culture is changing. It used to be frowned on for women to train in BJJ (especially in Brazil back in the day) but my perception is at least here in the United States that that is no longer the case.

    Sadly, the verbal and social "torment" I've seen, although rare, is often women against other women, and men against other men. But I suppose that is a natural product of human nature. People don't always get along, and they have more or less mature ways of expressing it.

  13. wth...when men use "strength," does it ever occur to women that this is the NORMAL way we operate with each other? The level of physicality of men is astoundingly higher than women...they call it manhandling; we call it "ordinary."

    Every man knows you have to take it easy with women or else they get hurt


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