Empowering a wounded woman through the art of JiuJitsu

Jiu Jitsu can be uncomfortable to new women for many reasons, but one of the scenarios that many don’t even consider is what if that woman that’s freaking out from being pinned in mount had been an assault victim.  I’ve read many articles like this one, about how useful brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques are in attack scenarios. While the last thing I’d think of would be to escape to the back and get my hooks in on an attacker i’ll admit that since I started training BJJ I feel more confident in being able to defend myself in general.

But what about those women (and men) that have already been attacked or abused in intolerable ways…how do they fare during training? Does it not bother them in the least bit to be that close or does that first time being in guard trigger a panic attack?

I know a girl who was traumatized by nightly visits from an extended family member. Year’s later she’s in a much better place and part of it’s due to the support she’s gained from her training family.  She had lost all sense of empowerment but has since learned to feel strong again.  This is an uncomfortable topic to talk about, but I’ve learned as a journalist that it’s always the things that makes us uncomfortable are the primary things that need to be said and addressed.  Whether you’re a a friend of a victim, or a victim you know first-hand just how debilitating that traumatic experience can be.

Imagine going to train for the first time and having someone in your ‘guard’ or ‘mounting’ you.  You may laugh it off in front of everyone else but what about the raised heart rate, the anxiety, the instant feeling of discomfort because you’ve been in this position before.  The panic, that creeps up on you when you least expect it.  Tunnel vision, then everything grows silent, and the next thing you know you’ve completely forgotten where you are.  Granted this time around it’s voluntary but nevertheless it’s something that does play a part for some people while they train.  They’ve been in the position where they’re completely helpless and immeasurably vulnerable.

Through bjj I’ve acquired a sense of entitlement. I know you’re wondering entitlement to what?  Well it’s simple.  Being a woman it seems like you have to view every scenario as a possible attack scenario.  Getting something from the corner store is never as simple as walking down the street and making a purchase.  Before I leave the house I have to analyze what I’m wearing and how I look to gauge how much unwanted attention it will attract.  I also have to analyze my route to gauge if an attacker would prefer it due to lighting or other conditions.  It’s crazy really.  We must be ever attentive to our surroundings.  While I’m still extremely cautious I’ve really learned that I’m entitled to safety and if you choose to threaten or try to take that away from me then I’m more than ready to defend that.  Survival is my main priority.

As a beginner in a jiu jitsu program that’s your main focus day in and day out, to survive.  As a lower belt you’re not going to be judged on entirely on how you executed that freakishly weird submission you found on youtube.  You’re going to be judged by others, and yourself by how you survive during rolls.  You’re going to be dominated, it’s necessary, but if you train to survive you’ll improve in so many different ways.  I know from life experiences that I can survive, and am reassured by all the hard work I’ve put in at the gym.  I’m no longer weary of going for the larger opponents.  The big boys don’t scare me anymore.  I used to panic whenever I ended up on the bottom of some of the guys, and of course I’d never tell them.  It’s hard enough getting some of them to roll with me let alone scar them for life by telling them, “Hey um, whenever you pin me like this I kind of have an internal panic attack.”

Another thing that BJJ helps with, and this can be said for men & women, but it helps as far as VENTING goes for sure. Whether it’s my boyfriend getting on my nerves or i’m grieving a loss, bjj is a great way to get all of these things off your mind, or at least provides for a mini and very sweaty vacation from your troubles.  I truly believe that with time, effort, dedication, and support, training can help to heal many wounds.

I’ve been scrounging the internet for videos of recent grappling competitions and just stumbled upon quite a few articles about using bjj to prevent being assaulted and I thought it’d be a good idea to write it from the standpoint of someone that’s already been assaulted and how it affects my game.

-Please comment respectfully, thanks.-

Check out BJJ Grrl’s “How to train with Women,”—>Here

It’s pretty entertaining and honest. Here’s an excerpt:

“If you get paired with a girl to roll or drill, it is not an insult to you or your “manhood.” (If anything, we’re more insulted that we got stuck with the punk idiot spazzy new guy.) It’s probably to keep you safe and/or to let you work with someone controlled and experienced, and to let you see up close that this stuff we’re showing you does actually work even when done by someone smaller and weaker.”

8 Responses to “Empowering a wounded woman through the art of JiuJitsu”
  1. John says:

    It’s 2010 gents.

    You roll with who ever you can without prejudice. If they are weaker or stronger, male or female, more skilled or less skilled, it matters not. Every roll is a chance to learn or to teach. BJJ is a give and take affair.

  2. Thank you for finding the courage to share.

    My father taught me to lead by example. Every time I step on the mat I show other women, that a woman can be brave, strong and independent. Many have followed my example and become martial artists. I watched them transform, from weak and timid to strong and confident. Transformation from victim in waiting to champion. I can’t think of a more noble life path.

  3. jen says:

    Great post, thanks for sharing this.- appropriate timing for DV Awareness Month.

  4. Thank you! Great article. I had one panic moment during my first week of training, and I don’t have a history of abuse. There was a move we were practicing where one partner I *think* was in closed guard or maybe full mount and they grabbed the collar of the gi, pulled it open and stuffed it under the armpits then somehow went into a mount position (forgive the memory–it was about 6 months ago). I refused to let my partner do this to me. It felt too much like a rape move–tearing open the shirt and sitting on top of them.

    I told some guys that and they got fairly defensive and said “How would you like it if a man said he was uncomfortable being in your closed guard” or said they would never partner with that person again. Struck me as a bit closed minded and not very emotionally caring, but really–DUDES DON’T USUALLY WORRY ABOUT THOSE THINGS. Ugh.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. shakiaharris says:

    thanks julia, yea they can be quick to be defensive but you’re very justified. Sometimes I have problems if one of the guys (even blue belts) are rolling too hard and feels way too muscly I’ll say something and yea sometimes they’re defensive but most of the guys are pretty understanding.

    • I’ve had two guys now tell me: I’m not going to roll differently with you because you’re a woman, then proceeded to hurt me or roll super hard with me. It always makes me mad.


      I certainly hope they don’t roll with an out of shape couch potato who hasn’t seen a gym in YEARS as though they’re in the mundials! Geez!

      My friend actually SCARED me when I rolled with him–he had this creepy intensity. Since that move the first week of class I’ve never felt scared, but the look in his eyes coupled with him pinning my hands down really made me feel like a victim. It was awful. Thankfully he saw I was really pissed and scared and talked to me and we rolled a second time and it was fine.

      Seriously–there’s only one time in my brain that a man goes THAT full out against a woman. Freak out time. It’s still hard to shake.

      Thanks, though, for bringing up a serious topic.

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  1. Annie Mame says:

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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