Why have women on the Jiu Jitsu mat?
Jiu Jitsu is great for self-defense, it is empowering, it is confidence building, it is challenging, it is fun. Additionally, I have always felt that women and children truly need Jiu Jitsu as a skill set. We are just more vulnerable. Yet, many Jiu Jitsu schools have a very small women’s population on their mats. I believe that it is possible for any academy to build a women’s program and or recruit more women to their classes. In fact, I have written a manual on how to do this and attached it below.
Sadly, I still get the question. “Why would we need more women in the gym?” The gym is doing well financially, what would this add to our program other than drama? I have answered this more fully in the manual, here is the bottom line. The school will have more members on the mat for longer. Women compose at least 50% of the population outside of the gym, why should that not be reflected inside? The men at your gym will train longer with the support and participation of their wives, daughters, and girlfriends. This in addition to the fact that teaching the women attached to your Jiu Jitsu community to protect themselves is a public service.
How to Recruit More Women to the Gym?
There are women in your gym every single week. They are watching and picking up their children and or partners. These women end up observing hours of Jiu Jitsu. They are at the tournaments, fight parties, and tournaments. They plan their family vacations around seminars and competitions. They often deal with obscene amounts of laundry. They show up to support week after week. They are often more consistently in your gym than some of the members (especially the blue belts). Trust me, they have thought about trying it even if they have never said it out loud. How do we get them to cross that invisible boundary onto the mat?
Most academy owners will say that the women that live near their school, “just aren’t interested.” Jiu Jitsu is one of the only sports where the men train directly with the women. It makes it more challenging physically, socially, and at times emotionally. The breakdown of normal personal space boundaries and gender roles in a Jiu Jitsu gym can make it seem very daunting. There are ways to make it more approachable.
Create a Women’s Program
If there is a space and time that is geared specifically toward the wives, girlfriends, and mothers at your gym, it will fill. They will be more comfortable breaching personal boundaries with other beginner women.
I have attached the outline to a basic curriculum that will work for such a class along with instructions on how to start and maintain a women’s program. I will later release a video series and more detailed outline as a support for the manual. This can be run as a stand-alone class or as a supplement to mixed classes. Some women may only feel comfortable training with other women. They may not want to train past the scope of that beginner class. Jiu Jitsu isn’t for everyone long-term. They will leave feeling more confident and better connected to their family members that have chosen Jiu Jitsu as a lifelong pursuit. You will have a small number that want to keep training. They may integrate into the men’s class together, or you can start an upper-level women’s class to keep the momentum going.
If this is not possible yet at your gym. I recommend scheduling private lessons with another female partner.
I wrote about why I think a women’s program is an important part of a gym here:
The short version is that It is so difficult to be a beginner in Jiu Jitsu if all of your partners are bigger and stronger, a women’s only class allows partners of similar size and strength to find each other. There is also a big social support component. Women are more social creatures. If you can get a handful of women in your gym that are in love with Jiu Jitsu, they will recruit their friends, family, and random bystanders over and over. The program will begin to grow on its own.
Here is the Manual for Creating a Women’s Program. Share it, use it, send me feedback. Grow your own. Our five gyms in Montana have been beta testing it for a while. I’m always interested in improvement.