BJJ Grrl

"Be gentle, kind and beautiful, yet firm and strong, both mentally and physically." ~Sensei Keiko Fukuda

“I don’t want to lose to a girl…”

on May 21, 2009

Wait, what? I’m sorry, I must not have heard that right. Surely you didn’t just say what I thought you’d said…


Got there early. Mmy friends from TKD, showed up, and then Justin came not long after. They started asking him lots of questions, so he showed them the basic positions (guard, side control, mount, north/south) and told them that they needed to concentrate on moving between those positions right now when they rolled.

Class finally started. Most of the class was new guys. Me, Justin, Nick, Will, and Tim — and six new guys: my friends from TKD and four teenagers.

I’m so tired. Not enough sleep + long days at work with short deadlines + too much hard work at jiu-jitsu. Not sleepy-tired; just worn-out tired.

We warmed up — really easy, but the kids were gassed quick. I even had everything, tired as I was.

Then a few rolls. I started with one of the TKD guys. Didn’t get much on him. Couldn’t even get sweeps. Could hardly even think. But he was still trying hard to work the few things that he knows; he was moving between positions like Justin had showed him. He did good; he didn’t spazz. He’s gonna give me trouble soon.

Then Tim puts me with this teenager. Smallest one of the bunch, and probably in the 130s. (But I’m bad with guessing.) He sat down, we shook hands, and he said:

“I don’t want to lose to a girl.”

Stunned. Excuse me? Did those words just come out of your mouth?

The first coherent comeback that went through my head was: And I don’t want to lose to some idiot punk kid on his first day. So we’re even.

Instead I just stared at him. You said what?!

How I wish my jiu-jitsu self from three years from now were here tonight. She would have done a much more thorough job than I did. I can’t wait until I’m the assassin that Tim sends after idiot punk kids. (Nick and Justin said later that they can’t wait to see that, either.)

I finally said back, “This isn’t about losing, and it’s certainly not about losing to a ‘girl.'” I’m more than twice your age, you little brat. And get off my lawn!

But of course, since he didn’t want to “lose to a girl,” he was going 300%, flinging me over, side-kicking me — yes, side-kicking me — in the ribs to get away, elbowing, kneeing, the works. He kept trying to muscle an armbar; never had it tight, so I’d get out. And getting out gently — none of this scrambling/panicking crap, just “My arm. Give it back.” So I wasn’t pushing the Captain Caveman buttons except for the fact that I was female. He also kept trying for guillotines, but never when he was in position to do them, so I could get out. Bored and annoyed. Not helping that I really was exhausted and had no strength, speed, or power.

Did have one nice stack off one of his armbar attempts. Saw his face contorting, heard his breathing stop as he tried to leg-press me off. And I pressured down more and ground it in. Easy pass to side control. Had his back for a moment soon after, but no good control. He slid out and I tried to switch to an armbar of my own. He flung me off.

Later, slid out of a guillotine, and he’d ended up on his side; I came over his back. Got an arm across his neck and my hooks in. He went crazy-nuts trying to fling me off. Had some pummelling around his neck and arms. Got one arm across again, sunk deep around his neck, elbow under his chin, and he tried to attack my other arm with both of his. Head pressure and arm pressure with the one arm. He gurgled. I squeezed tighter. Pulled out every last bit of energy I had. He gurgled again and then tapped.

If I wasn’t such a nice person and so well-trained to release on a tap, I’d’ve held it. I still can’t decide if I should have.

Tim called time immediately after. He’d been watching.

One more round, with Will. Zero energy before; negative energy now. Couldn’t do anything except defend. He caught a kimura from side control that I couldn’t get away from. Did have half a hitchhiker escape; escaped the armbar, but couldn’t get around and back in; kinda flopped on my stomach instead.

Then drilling. Drilled with Will. (He commented at one point that I looked winded and pale and that he’s never seen me this tired. Said it’s from a long week, not enough rest, and trying to keep up with the little kid earlier. Not good, though.) Drilled for a while because of all the new guys.

Then more rolling. Nick first. Still tired, but at least it was a decent roll. He caught me in something, but I forget what. I tried the bump sweep or kimura or guillotine — on the guillotine, he was throwing my arm off with just his neck. Hips seemed to have some life left in them; they were moving even when the rest of me flopped. Nick said afterwards that I’d done good, and he said after class that he likes rolling with me because I’ll give him a decent roll.

TKD guy next. He was decent last night, but apparently tonight was trying the total spazz route. I think he’s rolled too much with the new kids already. There was the elbow in the throat, which got his back taken. Several other spazzy bum-rush things that got him guarded or swept or something, and I’d hear him mutter, “Okay, don’t do it like that.” Yup. Did get top half guard at one point: had broken his guard and was going for side control, but didn’t have enough energy to get the other leg through, and since he’d learned half-guard right before class, he knew it was there. He grabbed around my head and tried to squeeze me out, even asking at one point if I was tapping. I said no, and that he wasn’t going to submit me from there; he didn’t have the angle or enough pressure. I couldn’t pass his half-guard, though. We stalled there a long time, and then the round was over.

Made a beeline for Justin next. I knew he’d been rolling with spazzoid new guys all night, so he’d want a break, too. Tim let us roll rather than putting Justin with another new guy. Toes had started cramping with the last guy; even worse this round. Trying to ignore them and roll anyway. Defended several things that he always tries on me (almost like a quick review — remember this? and this? how about this? and if I do this?). He got my back at one point, and I was defending it correctly and started to get my shoulders to the mat and one leg free… and then he had me in another pretzel and I was tapping to a shoulder lock. He said that was Eddie Bravo’s Twister, with a shortcut that he’s been working that takes out over 50% of the moves normally involved. (And when he showed Nick later, he said that the shortcut depends on the guy defending correctly, which is how I know I was doing it, because he caught me in it.) So tired. Could see stuff and knew what I needed to be working in that situation, but had no energy.

Then Nick, Justin, and I hung around and worked a few other things. Nick and Justin both had stuff to show the other, so I was their shared grappling dummy. Then we sat around and swapped stories of the spazzoid kids from class, then went for spin-the-wheel pizza and swapped more stories of spazzy kids. Justin and Nick have years’ worth of stories. Oh, and Justin finally won the free 14″ pizza, too. He’s been trying for months.

The girl and her friend didn’t come back. Oh well.

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13 responses to ““I don’t want to lose to a girl…”

  1. Georgette says:

    Who knows… the girls might have been sore from using all those new muscles. They’ll be back (I hope!)

    Sounds like you did great especially considering the fatigue factor. Cheers! 🙂

  2. Lynn says:

    Good job. That’s it really; great job!! Somebody’s gotta do it. Way to represent. 😉

  3. leslie says:

    Heh, thanks, ladies. But just because I did somewhat handle a mini-Captain Caveman doesn’t mean I want to do it all the time. Still, quite glad that after that comment I was able to make him “lose to a girl.”

  4. Shawn says:

    “And I don’t want to lose to some idiot punk kid on his first day. So we’re even.”

    Great post! I can’t wait to read the rest of your blog.

    I used to run into the same thing at my last gym (a tiny Boxing / MMA place), but it was more of a “I don’t want to lose to some old guy in a gi” mentality. 19 yro wrestlers or UFC fans can be a real pain. It’s always nice to see their expression after you get done tapping them.

  5. leslie says:

    @Shawn: Thanks!

    Yeah, those guys come through all the time here, too. Only a few have stayed once they realize they are going to “lose” a lot early on. Their loss…

  6. Incredibly Proud Father of a young BJJ Grrl says:

    Okay, after all the virtually automatic, you-go-girl messages of support: some criticism from a total stranger.

    I don’t know you and I’m sure I never will–I came across this post in the course of searching for the best blue BJJ gi to buy for my (stubborn, aggressive, and talented) early-teenage daughter, who’s on the cusp between adult and youth sizes–and maybe you’re a terrific person almost all the time, and of course I have no grounds to suppose you are not; but I think you overreacted like crazy to a stray nervous comment from some inexperienced, immature, little runt (130-odd pounds, probably worried every day at school about potentially being stuffed into a gym locker by some bigger guys) from the local high school, who had gone to the BJJ academy to give it a try and was then suddenly confronted by the single most terrifying thing he could possibly imagine in that situation: YOU, yes you, facing him across a few feet of wrestling mat.

    A scarily long time ago I was a teenage boy, wrestling and playing judo, likely before you were born and when the number of female grapplers in the entire nation probably couldn’t have filled one stadium section. (If you think there’s not many now, you can’t remember that era….) I never saw even one, way back then, but I still know that I would have been cold-sweatingly, numbingly terrified about “losing to a girl” in a wrestling or judo match. (This was so long ago that BJJ was unknown in the United States, and hence to me.) And I think folks who know me would agree that I’ve always been basically a sweetheart of a guy and respectful to the entire female gender, even when that young. But what you disparagingly call being “mini-Captain Caveman” is just a stage of young-maleness, part of evolutionary psychology, something that’s definitely bigger and a hell of a lot older than all of us. In the kid’s case, he can’t help what his feelings are, when he doesn’t even understand what they are; it’s up to us, who are older and who have already been through the mill, to help young people out, as kindly as possible.

    If you can remember, the teenage years are life’s rawest, most vulnerable, most miserable period of all-or-nothing emotionalism and worrying about how others perceive you; something I see each day now from the other side as a father who is certainly more than halfway through my own life and starting to think about the end. What I’ve learned is to have endless patience with behavior that would be outrageous in someone ten years older: because they AREN’T ten years older. Maybe you’re not old enough yourself to have learned this in your bones, the way I’ve had to do. If you have kids someday, you’ll get that chance and maybe be more forgiving about adolescent stupidity.

    Probably, a lot of new guys you might roll with ESPECIALLY don’t want to lose to YOU either, only because you’re female; you can’t have failed to notice that! But as silly-jackass teenagers often do, however, this kid actually blurted out exactly what was on his mind at that particular moment, and you (twice his age, you say!) decided to take his throwaway comment personally, and in the worst way possible.

    I’m as feminist-minded as any man I know, and I’ll STILL just say that I don’t think you handled this well at all, at least not in your own mind. And long after you made him pay (and pay), you’re STILL angry about it and writing multiple paragraphs to describe your well-schooled defenses against his panicking puppy-dog attacks! Maybe, just maybe, you’ve still got some growing up to do, just like the kid does. Your bragging about how easily you handled him disgusted me, since there apparently wasn’t anything to brag about. Maybe, just maybe, it would be amusing to read notes about your funny faces and “gurgling” from all the male training partners who’ve just toyed with you over the years: as I’m sure many have.

    Meanwhile, it’s more than likely that as soon as they were all back outside and on their own, the little shrimp’s buddies were all howling: “Dude, YOU GOT YOUR ASS KICKED BY A GIRL!!! HAHAHAHAHA! OWNED!” just exactly the way he knew they all would, if and when you beat him. But that’s okay by you, I suppose–you got to take out your accumulated frustrations about however many men have ever ticked you off during training, by playing “executioner” to some flyweight high school twerp whose mom still buys his clothing and who probably can’t even drive yet, maybe can’t even shave yet. Some triumph. Some victory.

    No: even if he never comes back, he won’t forget about you for the rest of his life, in all likelihood; and God grant that he’s a basically nice and decent guy and doesn’t punish some other woman someday in your honor.

    Why couldn’t you just have taken his anxious comment (believe me, he was anxious anxious ANXIOUS inside) with a grain of salt and a gallon of humor, like the veteran and very honorable BJJ women that I DO know (who include a black belt in the art) would have done in dealing with a similar mouthy little boy on his first night? It’s not like he was a threat to you or anybody else, or some unreformable sexist/misogynist creep at 15 or 16 or whatever his tender age is. It was a very teachable moment, and I think you blew it because your emotions took control. Your years of experience mean that you should be beyond emotions in dealing with newbies, especially the ones who are not even adults yet. That’s one of the things I always thought martial arts was supposed to be all about.

    I hope, I truly hope, that he caught you on a really bad day and that this grim tale of an angry-woman-vs.-dopey-kid ego-grapple in the lower reaches of MA-dom doesn’t fully reflect whoever you really are. As it is, you come off as being embittered, vengeful, whiny, too easily upset, and much, much too exultant over beating a vastly inferior opponent from the 10th grade.

    You might have smiled at the end, generously, AFTER handing him his immature schoolboy ass, and told him that he’s got potential (it sounds like he does) if he learned to do this thing and to not do that thing, and so on; given him a little pride back, showed him that “losing to a girl” is hardly the end of the world (my daughters routinely beat guys their age in grappling or running, and nobody has jumped from a window yet), and then watched him walk out on a cloud, probably with a hopeless teenage crush on you to boot. (He would have learned his lesson about BJJ and the female sex anyway.) You might have done all that, and I guess you didn’t. Instead, it was all about you and your hurt feelings. It sounds as if it would have been better all around if you’d just taken a night off and caught up on your sleep.

    I think that, perhaps, if you are not already doing so, you need to start training your psyche and your ego as hard as you seem to train your mat skills. Without that you could be in danger of being simply another punk like this kid, just one who can also wear dresses. (You honestly “still don’t know” if you should have released your hold when the frightened youngster tapped out? In that case I’d have to say: Jesus Christ, what’s the hell’s the matter with you!?) With all due respect, and truly in the hope that I’ve got you all wrong, I hope you choose the better path. And now back to gi-shopping….

  7. Incredibly Proud Father of a young BJJ Grrl says:

    Back again the next morning, and honesty compels me to admit the following:

    At breakfast I asked my martial-arts daughter, who was wearing her favorite THESE BROWN EYES WILL BREAK YOUR HEART t-shirt and about to walk to middle school, the following question:

    –Listen, sweetie, suppose there was a brand-new kid in your jujitsu class, a boy, kind of about your age, and the teacher told you to spar with him, and just before you started he said: “I don’t want to lose to a girl,” what would you do?

    She immediately answered: “I’d beat the crap out of him!”

    –You would? But he’s just a dumb boy, maybe….

    “Who cares? I’d beat the crap out of him anyway! To show him that I’M tough, and girls can be tough and can fight! Every guy in the world thinks girls can’t be tough!” She was smiling at me, but her lovely eyes were flashing and I could have no doubt that she was serious. So it’s like the old comedy stereotype: Big Daddy, the patriarch, can’t even win one argument with the females in his own house. All he can do is keep them amused.

    –Okay–I tried a different tack–but honey, don’t YOU sometimes say stuff you really shouldn’t have said and then expect us to forgive and forget it? Her comeback was as swift and certain as her first answer, and full of unanswerable teenage logic: “But I only say it at home, and to you! Not outside. YOU’RE supposed to forgive me all the time.” Time for Big Daddy to tap out of this discussion.

    I grinned and gave her a hug and a kiss, because I’m really incredibly proud of her, and treasure her wonderful fighting spirit even when she’s being just impossible sometimes, and both my girls went off on their way, and meanwhile the entire time I was ruefully thinking: “$*#&! Honesty is going to COMPEL me to go back and admit that my own girl-child totally agrees with this BJJ Grrl, and not with me.” So here it is, that admission.

    All I can do is quote G.K. Chesterton, who wrote about a century ago that “the young are innocent and love Justice, but the old are guilty, and prefer Mercy,” and leave it at that.

    I don’t know if I’ll ever even come back to this blog, but if I do and I find that you’ve erased my posts, I wouldn’t fault you for it, not that that could possibly matter. At any rate, best wishes for your martial arts training, and (what’s much more important) for your life.

  8. leslie says:

    I recommend the Atama women’s gi. Fits well and covers the gap in between child and adult sizes that exist in other gis. And she’ll probably appreciate being able to say she’s wearing a Women’s gi. I’ve found that the sizing charts work better by height than by weight.

    For the posts, I won’t erase them; I can handle criticism, and anything that makes me think and ponder is always good. (And cry and wonder how I became such a jerk.) And someone else may learn more from the situation and the response. I do appreciate you coming back after talking to your daughter.

    A lot of what you say about the kid, I understand, and I understood then, too. But, you’re right, I really didn’t care at the time. You’re right, he was acting the only way he knew how. And you’re right: in retrospect, and heard from the perspective of someone who was a teenage boy, I acted more immaturely in my own thoughts than he did by saying that. But this is something I love about BJJ: it’s life, concentrated. I still have a lot to learn, and on the mats it’s all squeezed out of you, good, bad, and ugly.

    I admit that I felt vindicated in some way that I could finally catch a submission and that part of me wanted to take out all the frustration I’ve accumulated from kids and adults like him in the last 14 months. And part was probably, as your daughter is already learning, because I’ve always been and always will be “just a girl” in the eyes of the males around me, no matter how badly I want to prove that I can do anything just as well as they could.

    Perhaps it wasn’t clear from my description above, and I’m not sure how much of my site you’ve read, but I only have ~1 year of experience in BJJ, which isn’t yet enough to counter the speed, strength, and agressiveness of guys like him. (Yes, more in tae kwon do, which, as you say, should at least have governed my attitude toward the situation.) He was all over me, not the other way around. At one point he threw me backwards through a somersault. I was defending as intensely and scared-for-my-limbs as I usually do, though I did try as always to defend through technique and not by spazzing out in return. He didn’t have anything tight because he didn’t know how, so I actually could escape.

    I wasn’t all over him, and was generally under his side control or clinging to my guard, though I do admit that I wished that I could have done more than that. (And as for wishing I were good enough to do more, in general my thought is that, as the smallest and the only girl, I could then prove that jiu-jitsu isn’t just about spazzing and smashing. But I can’t do that yet.) I didn’t school him; I got lucky and found a RNC before I completely collapsed.

    As for the “bored and annoyed,” if that was what led you to believe I was the top dog in the roll: bored because we weren’t doing jiu-jitsu and it’s the same old defending-for-your-life situation, and annoyed because I was being kicked and wasn’t getting to actually roll. I like rolling, not face-smashing fu.

    After the roll, he went straight over to his friends, who had all also been rolling and didn’t see anything, and started telling them, “Did you see that girl? OMG. She choked me out, man!” They wouldn’t have known if he hadn’t said anything, and I certainly wouldn’t have. He said more, but I didn’t hear; I stumbled for my water bottle and tried not to pass out.

    I’m not really trying to defend myself, though at some point I probably am. Just trying to work through things, as I always do in jiu-jitsu.

    He did come back tonight. I’d already decided that I don’t want to roll with these kids until they settle down and learn some jiu-jitsu. Perhaps I could help them by rolling with them, but I don’t have the stamina or the desire to at this point.

  9. jiujitsu365 says:

    Leslie,

    Although the gentleman did come back and apologize it was hard to read. Plus, it’s scary to see how quickly his views shifted when someone close to him didn’t share his point of view.

    My young nephews were terrified of one young girl when they started BJJ and when they complained I ‘set’ them straight. She had technique and knew what to do and they didn’t. I told them they needed to worry about getting better and not who is handing out the taps in class. Further, it teaches an important lesson as it helps erode stereotypes and demonstrates that the art can do what it is meant to do.

    One more example: Recently we had a new woman who joined our academy and had been training less than 2 months (albeit 5 days a week since she began). A young teenager, 15, had come back to our academy for the summer for the MMA camp he had participated in last year. As a real confident teen he thought nothing of it when he rolled against her. They were of the same build, height and weight. After a minute or so she sunk in a RNC. He went mini-ballistic and immediately wanted to roll again. Our instructor forbade it and sent him to grapple someone else. He waited until the rotation brought her around again and it was the same result. Class ended and she voluntarily rolled with him again and they rolled until they gassed.

    About 10 people were present and I think everyone learned a lesson. This stuff works and you need to worry about your technique because strength won’t always help you.

    I am glad our instructor kept him from rolling with her immediately. There is nothing worse than a revenge tap, especially if you are not prepared.

    I have a lot more to say and in reality, I am irritated by that guy’s post but hey we’re just blogging.

  10. leslie says:

    @Bakari: Thanks for the support. I agree, it was hard to read. But I think it’s still important to read other people’s opinions and to see if there’s anything I can take away from it.

    In this instance, I see that my internal dialog about these kids who are panicked by losing to a girl needs to change. Being offended over their immaturity isn’t very mature of *me*. I can’t control what they say or how they feel, but I can control how I respond, even if only in my own head.

    And thank you for the story of that woman. I’m inspired to improve my technique (since it took me 5-10 minutes to find my RNC!) and to prove the value of technique over strength. Also glad your instructor was wise enough to read the kid’s mind and keep him from hurting her.

  11. […] class, and one of the kids bought a gi and came tonight. There may be hope for him. Short warmup, though my hips and quads […]

  12. […] our drilling partner. First time rolling with him since he introduced himself the first night and accidently insulted me. I’m not holding it against him, I’m really not; but until some other guy says […]

  13. Edmund says:

    Honestly I think that boy needed to learn a lesson; I’m glad you were able to put him in his place. It’s important for teenage lads to learn to overcome the posturing and rudeness that comes with all that testosterone, and it’s good to hear that you ultimately overcame his aggression with technique.

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