"Don't Tread On She"

To be honest, I was a bit nervous about posting my last blog on such a sensitive topic involving men and women "on the mats" in Jiu-Jitsu.  I definitely didn't anticipate the response I have received from readers and I appreciate everyone who took time to read and post comments. Most of all, I am glad it opened up discussion about topics most people don't openly talk about. The comments and feedback from my blog brought up a lot of interesting points that really got me thinking. I found it particularly interesting how interpretation and perspectives can vary among readers. Although I think my message was lost to some, I am extremely happy it sparked conversation and opened up discussion on other sensitive topics that needed to be discussed.

I want to clarify the purpose of my blog topic.  My intentions were not to make men self-conscious when training with women or make them second guess themselves especially when they have good intentions. The last thing I'd want is for guys to be discouraged from training with women because they are worried about what we might think.  If your intentions are good, we can usually tell.  Also my blog wasn't about how all men don't know how to train with women cause that's obviously not true. I wasn't trying to indicate that there is a catch 22 where guys are "dammed if they do and dammed if they don't". The article was not about being a bad or good training partner. Being a good training partner has nothing to do with the gender of the persons involved and is a topic I'll revisit at a later time. The primary focus of the article was to expose common types of harassment and torment some women have encountered. While acknowledging the fact that behavior and intentions can sometimes be misinterpreted.

My goal was to bring light to the most extreme types of harassment some women have experienced in Jiu-Jitsu and never openly talked about in public.  It was a "forbidden topic" that some of us knew about but were to ashamed or embarrassed to share.  The personalities of "knuckle draggers" and guys who "take you on a date", represent the more common types of harassment in Jiu-Jitsu. The situations or mentalities I mentioned were the most extreme circumstances. Another important point is that it isn't always men who can be bullies. Women can be as just as insecure, petty, passive aggressive, ego driven, hurtful, malicious and be too rough on the mats, as some guys, if not worse.

I've been fortunate in having loving Jiu-Jitsu brothers and sisters who looked out for me and had my back if someone got out of line with me.  But the harassment is not always apparent to an onlooker. It can be subtle and remain unnoticed.   We cannot and should not rely on others to protect us or fight our battles.  We have to be able to face bullies on our own and that's why Jiu-Jitsu is such a powerful tool that teaches us how to be assertive, strong and capable on and off the mats.

Unlike my experience, for some women the harassment was constant and unbearable. The worst part for them was that those who could have stopped it instead turned the other cheek, ignored the problem entirely, blamed the victim or were directly involved in the abuse. I've heard of a woman who got felt up while drilling and when she stood up for herself, SHE was asked to leave the class for making a scene.  I've also heard of many women being physically roughed up so badly that they almost left Jiu-Jitsu completely.  For other women the abuse got so horrific it forced them to leave their academies and start over at a new academy or even a new city. The stories of women who overcame abusive circumstances  made me wonder just how many women we never hear about who have been driven away from Jiu-Jitsu and never came back because of these types of harassment.

The biggest argument I saw in response to my blog was the use of the word "legitimately", "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.". I agree with the points made, because if you legitimately catch someone and finish the submission they are forced to tap or they will end up with broken bones, dislocated joints, etc.  It was a poor choice of words on my part. "Almost" would have been a better word in its place.

 Most of us, especially women, start training to build self confidence, learn how to protect ourselves and to learn how to become better people. Jiu-Jitsu is not the most appealing art for most women immediately and I feel it really takes a certain type of woman to stick with Jiu-Jitsu.  I've also found that quite a few of the women who stay with Jiu-Jitsu, do in fact share a lot of common qualities. 

My hope was to bring this topic out in the open so people who have  experienced it realize they are not alone and they don't have to put up with it now or in the future.  There are lots good academies that are nurturing, supportive and have a positive environment for women.  I also realize that it is not just women who've experienced various types of harassment and that some men have as well.  Abuse on the mats is not something that most of us feel comfortable openly discussing. In fact a lot of women I talked to have a sense of shame when it comes to it, even though it is not them who should carry the burden. I feel privileged that many women shared their experiences with me and I was able to use my platform as a tool to open up conversation and provoke thought on the topic for both men and women.  Thank you all for your input and for opening my eyes up to various different perspectives.  Keep on Rolling!

To view some additional feedback you can check out:
http://www.reddit.com/r/bj j/comments/liru6/shama_ko_ on_training_bjj_as_a_woman /



  1. news flash: it isn't ALL ABOUT YOU.

    you seem to have some notion that you are entitled to have men do exactly as YOU would like, and your writing turns into just another example of female navel-gazing. Grow up and get over yourself.

    You don't have a right to have a man go the 30% power that we ALL DO against you so that you don't get hurt but at the same time COMPLAIN if we go too easy. We are trying not to hurt you because most guys are nice and we BY NATURE tend to protect women.

    Your training partners are blowing smoke up your backside as men are wont to do with women. I'm anonymous and will tell you the truth: you have no business out there on the mats with a man in a violent contact sport expecting not to get hurt.

    I have no problem with women in BJJ. I have taught and rolled with dozens mostly without issue over the years, but there have been one or two who have a bad experience and went and pitched a fit over it as if the sky was falling. Maybe I accidentally brought 35% that day or I didn't feel like accommodating the pretense that I was really "caught" in one of your feeble submission attempts.

    Your attitude is grossly noncommensurate with reality: you are Blanche DuBois in this sport, relying on the kindness of others.


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