BJJ Grrl

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

The “Girl” Card

on March 4, 2010

I did (almost) the entire warmup. Had to lead the jogging because everyone just bunched up, and no one would start, so I had to get it going. Crazy people. Did good until side-to-side; I actually stepped in toward the center and did actually do them, though I went veeeerrrry slowly… and I still kept up with the guy I’d left in front.

Guys, the injured girl should not be able to outwork you.

Bearcrawls, and I left that guy in the dust and lapped someone else.

Seriously, the injured girl who is going at half speed should not be faster than you.

Shrimping, could only really do with the left leg. Tried a few times on the right… eh. So then arced myself off toward the side wall with only the one leg. Doh. Single legs, and I was okay if I shot on the left (which is my normal stance anyway) and came up slowly. Did have to first teach them to the Giggling Girl, who decided to actually do class tonight.

Partnered up to roll, and I was with her. Just slow and easy, trying to show her positions. Did have to stop once to get her off my knee.

Then with Robert, who’s coming back after a long break (nearly as long as I’ve been training!). He was tense and holding his breath and cranking on things. Hasn’t quite gotten his mat sense back, but I’m sure he will; I remember he was great to roll with back when he was training. Had to give up a lot because he was always going to the side of my injured leg.

While we were rolling that round, a new guy tried to to just slip in to class. Very odd, since everyone was paired up and rolling. Don’t know what he thought he was doing. We paused after that next roll — I think Tim was debating going to drilling or rolling again — and I pointed out the kid to him. He called out to the kid, who turned, looked at him, and then ignored him. Tim tried again. Glance, ignore. Tim looked at Perry, who called the kid by name, and pointed out Tim and introduced him as the instructor. Kid still didn’t seem too impressed. Strange.

Then Tim decided we were rolling again, and he put that kid with me. Small guy, wrestler. He kind of rolled his eyes and very lightly put his hand on my arm. Tim called from across the room, “I know she’s a girl, but if you go that light, she’ll break your arm.” Kid looked surprised, but did actually start trying to do stuff and using more energy and strength. Armbar, triangle, and RNC, and he waited until the very last second on all of those to tap. On the triangle and RNC, he looked a little dizzy when sitting up. After those, though, I finally realized I was really tired — exhausted, though not breathing hard — and then my brain went blank. Mostly just held positions, though I did have a few threatening moments.

Drilling was a butterfly smash pass. They’re in butterfly and start to sit up. Push them back down. One arm goes around the outside of their leg; the other pushes their other knee over and on top of that leg, so now both their legs are trapped on the same side. The former arm ends up scooping in front of their shin, underneath, and hooking around their top knee — kind of like you’re carrying an armload of books. Your other shoulder goes on the top of their hip, and your weight goes down. Slide the free hand along their back, staying underhooked. Set your top knee against their hip, switch your hips, and then slide up to side control.

Sorry, I described that very poorly. Did it better, but described it badly.

Drilled with the Giggling Girl. And she giggled. Oh boy. I tried to help, but she seemed to get better faster when Justin and Tim were helping. (*ahem*) She’s as big as the other girl, which means 50-60 lbs bigger than me, and not in so much shape, but with no previous ground experience.

More rolling. I got Sundance and then Sherman, who are both going up to the Sub Only tournament this weekend. (I’m not; I’ve got a work project that will keep me there until at least 5. Bleh.) Had to stop a couple of times for the knee; I think I was getting so tired by then. Wasn’t wearing my brace, first because I forgot it and second because I wanted to try class without it. I think next time I’ll be sure to take it, and then to put it on for the second half of class when my leg gets tired.

Sundance and I, for some reason, got to talking while we were rolling — but we were still rolling hard. Odd. Fun, but odd. About jiu-jitsu, too. Like, he finished a Big Poppa choke but mostly with a lot of muscle, so as we restarted after that, we were talking about finishing that choke while we’re doing completely unrelated things. And I hit the back-to-guard roll that Will had shown me a while ago, and he said “Nice,” so then we had a conversation about that sweep, and about Will teaching it to me, and that it came from Saulo, and then moved on to talking about Saulo — all while sweeping and hooking and stacking. Hilarious.

Finally circled up for some extra conditioning. The other two girls had been sitting out for the last two rounds but came in for this. Pushups (hook the right foot behind the other), then spiderman pushups (alternate bringing one knee up to the same side elbow; I brought up the right leg only), then squat jumps (squats for me).

The Giggling Girl did a couple of pushups. She then did one spiderman pushup, stopped, and looked around. Tim told her to keep going; go slow, drop to your knees, whatever, but keep going. She protested, “You should take it easy on me because I’m a girl!”

Oh no, you didn’t!

She repeated it. I spoke up and said, “They haven’t taken it easy on me for nearly 2 years, and I’m a girl.” I don’t know if she got on with them or not.

Before the squats, she said it again, and I repeated my counter. Then she tried, and giggled, during the squat jumps. Oi!

There’s no giggling in jiu-jitsu. No crying, either, but definitely no giggling. And there is no playing of the “girl” card. No. None. Zip, zero, zilch. Not being able to do it is one thing, but pulling out the “girl card” is not allowed.

I’m thinking of trying to have a talk with her and explain that there’s no “girl” jiu-jitsu and “boy” jiu-jitsu. That it’s about leverage and technique, not strength, and that girls can beat guys. That we’re in the same class as the guys, so we do the same class as the guys. Sure, we might not get as many reps, but we’re trying just as hard as they are. Not betting on her staying too long, though.

That just completely rubbed me the wrong way, to say that you should get an easy pass because you’re a girl. I know I’m not most girls, and I know most girls won’t stay in this environment for whatever reason, and I understand that she can’t go through what I’ve gone through. But I don’t want anyone lumping me in with the “girl card” crowd. I earned this belt through blood, sweat, and tears everyday on that mat, and I’m not going to let it be cheapened by the idea that I got a “girl belt” because they took it easy on me. Grrrrrrr.


8 responses to “The “Girl” Card

  1. Chris says:


    I feel with you… Giggling girls – eek! Girls who want special consideration – no way! As you say, bjj isn’t for everyone (hehe, neither boy nor girl!). But I know it would rub me up the wrong way if a girl expected to be treated differently.

    Sure there are things that hard. But your average out of shape male who comes for training for the first time would suffer just as much from pushups, burpees and the like as a new girl. Training is a time to shut up, work hard and do the best you can so you get better. Complaining or asking for special consideration is hardly going to make you better.

    Yeah, time for a little chat on the side. I hope it works.

    As for the giggling.. I think you might be stuck with that, we had a girl at our school for a while, and she did it all the time.

    But you know, the side effect that that seemed to be that nobody took her very seriously, which means they treated her with kid gloves. And I think that would have hampered her learning of grappling. She quit at the end of the year anyway, so the mat is giggle free these days 😉

  2. leslie says:

    @Chris: I completely agree. And when she giggles, I see the guys roll their eyes a little and hide grins… and then they dump her off on me. Thanks a lot… The times she actually shuts up and drills, she does fine.

    And of course we take it easier on new guys, out-of-shape guys, injured guys, coming-back guys, etc. It’s the temporary condition that we’ll cut some slack for, but not for your gender (which is more difficult to change), because then you’re stuck in a “special” category forever. Tim had even given her the “Slow down, but don’t quit” line. *shakes head* Some people…

  3. Georgette says:

    Totally hear you and agree with everything you’ve said. Just had to point out that sometimes I get confused with the Giggling Girl because I also have conversations while rolling, and sometimes I (*gasp*) even crack jokes and laugh. It’s not that I’m not taking it seriously, or flirting, or whatever.. just that I find a lot of joy in grappling and it puts me in a good mood lots of times. I’ll go to the bathroom when I need to cry, but I won’t even try to hide my delight when I feel it, whether it’s from something funny or landing a sweep or whatever.

    I think most people that train with me even an hour know how seriously I take my jits, and that no matter how goofy I might seem in a given minute, the overall impression is not the Giggler. Too bad this girl sounds like … not me. Maybe she’ll improve???

    Rotsa ruck on that 🙂

  4. leslie says:

    @Georgette: Oh, yeah, I have fun out there, too, even while training hard, and I enjoy it when my partners are having fun, too. I laugh and talk and everything, too. But this one giggles on the mat, off the mat, for apparent reasons, for no apparent reasons, flirting, not flirting. She just giggles. Everything’s a giggle.

  5. slideyfoot says:

    Gah: it is already difficult enough to change the mind of sexist men, who seem to think the mat is a purely male preserve. Giggling Girl definitely isn’t helping, so hopefully you’ll eventually be able to help her wise up.

    I guess if nothing else, at least your approach to training provides a good model for her to follow.

  6. leslie says:

    @slidey: I think you’re right, and that may be part of what was rubbing me wrong about the whole thing. I have a hard enough time with new guys, who often seemed startled, hostile, or dismissive to a girl on the mat (e.g., the new kid from the same night), and I have to work hard every night to prove that I belong there. While I can deal with the giggling, it’s the not wanting to work hard “because I’m a girl” that really grated on me. At the time I couldn’t have articulated why exactly; I just knew that that couldn’t be allowed to go unchallenged. The new guys, especially, need to see that the girls on the mat are here to work hard and learn and not to distract and flout the training.

  7. T says:

    I like how your encounters with new guys have changed from survival mode to ‘taking care of business’ mode even with an injured knee.
    It’s like those martial arts movies where after a few training montages that signify months of hard work, changes in results emerge.

  8. leslie says:

    @T: Thanks for pointing that out — I didn’t even notice that! But you’re right. I guess I might be getting somewhere after all. 🙂

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