Out of Town Visitor

Today was cool: Kate drove up from Bristol, TN — about an hour away at Texas speeds πŸ˜‰ — to train with me/us. She emailed me a few days ago and asked for some advice because she’s the only — and first — girl at her school to do jiu-jitsu, and the guys don’t know what to do with her, to the point of not drilling or rolling with her. When I found out how close she was, I offered that she was welcome to come up and train with me/us any time she wanted, and she jumped right on that.

(Also, this is the first time someone’s come in from out of town specifically to train with me, and that’s just mind-blowing. Very cool, but mind-blowing.)

Solid bunch in this morning, too — Tim, Will, and Scott, and a couple others. Small, though, because Virginia Tech’s on break (maybe Radford, too). So I asked Will to help teach her the basic guard break and pass. That’s always the first thing I think of when people say they don’t know anything because it was the first thing Tim & Justin taught me when I started. Then drilled that together for a while, with Tim coming over to teach, too. Then I rolled with Will, and Scott worked with Kate. I don’t know what they went over, though I did see a kimura from guard at the end. (I have the best guys. πŸ˜€ And they all said that she’s welcome to come up anytime she wants to, and over lunch, Will & Scott were even starting to plan a dojo storm to help her out. :P)

I had moments of consciously remembering what Scott had said about being on top and not conceding bottom. Many more moments of not consciously remembering, but still fighting out, and not realizing what I’d done until I was in a better position. I know I was more aware of where I was in bottom half guard. He did let me in to top half a few times and let me pass, so I mostly worked on knee-on-belly to mount and on maintaining those positions. Noticed that whenever I tried to isolate an arm and moved my weight just enough, he’d upa me right over. Hm, think maybe I need to be ready to base out with that side hand faster? He still found lots of waving feet. My right shoulder and elbow — supposedly the non-injured side — both popped loudly when he went for an omoplata on that side and freaked him out badly. No pain at all, and I wouldn’t have even stopped if he hadn’t. That was early on, though, so we did keep rolling.

Later at lunch, Will said that I’d been very aggressive and that that had been a very good roll and would I please roll like that always from now on. Um, okay, but I don’t know what I did! I didn’t recall being very aggressive or even trying to insist on getting my way much (except once when I really wanted a knee-through guard pass and he wanted to stop me. I think he still probably won that exchange. But I was adjusting and getting my head in his chin and really trying to get my hips behind it.). I also felt a lot less tense than I’ve felt over the last few days.

Kate and I talked some during the class and later after lunch about jiu-jitsu and being a girl in jiu-jitsu. If I were in her situation, where no one wanted to work with me or they all ignored me and hoped I’d just go away — I’d like to say that I’d have the courage to stick it out and be that trail-blazing woman who beats her head against the brick wall until she works some sense in to the boys, but I can’t be sure that I would. My guys had already been well trained by the time I started, and all I had to do was show I was one of the serious girls and they’ve treated me as such. Yes, it’s tough to be the only girl sometimes, but I wasn’t the first girl. (Tim’s told me that they once had a blue belt girl who was there for a year while going to Tech and who had won at Pan Ams or something, and that she used to terrorize all the boys. So he and some of the others were already aware that girls can do jiu-jitsu, and they’ve made sure that every guy who comes in has understood that, too.)

Anyone else have any advice or encouragement for Kate?

36 thoughts on “Out of Town Visitor

  1. I love it that you got to provide a refuge for Kate! I had a similar experience to hers when I started to train. Some of the guys had trained a little bit with a woman who preceded me at their school, but she was long gone, short-lived, and the only one. I walked in (old, 98 pounds, talent-less, clueless, and spazzy)and for several months, when the instructor would say, “Okay, find a partner and try that,” it was like musical chairs — or roaches scattering when the lights come on. I would have felt bad for making them uncomfortable (and to be fair, I wouldn’t have wanted to train with me at first either, for newbie reasons, not gender issues) — but I was determined not to grant their obvious wish of having me quit and go away. I still train with a lot of those same guys, and they’re totally supportive and great now.

    So Kate, hang in there. Tenacity and commitment, improving skills, and your shared love of jiu-jitsu will wear them down before very long — if it doesn’t, they aren’t worth your time. BTW — My school’s just west of Louisville — not THAT far from Bristol… and you’re welcome any time! (As are you, Leslie :))

  2. I feel like any advice I could give her is already on your “Women” page…the only thing I could add is to definitely talk to her coaches about what she needs as far as training partners, and then talk to the guys she trains with, maybe ask them to use less weight and more technique. They also might think it’s helpful to just sit there and let you work, but sometimes as a white belt it’s really frustrating because your game is still more reactive.

  3. Leslie- Thanks again!!! Happy to come visit, anytime you might need “new material” to blog on- I am sure I can at the very least provide blog worthy entertainment.

    Jody- That is exactly how it feels- If they don’t acknowledge my existence, I don’t exist. I am not easily distracted though..glad to know others have had similar experiences and have prevailed.

    Aparna- I agree- the advice Leslie has already illustrated on her blog is really helpful!! It was especially helpful to get some actual hands on experience today.

  4. roaches scattering when the lights come on.

    ROFL! Yeah, it looks as if it’s like that all over. I was sighing at Leslie’s description the other day, of her and Theresa walking off in different directions and still getting stuck with each other for the third time. In a way it’s comforting to know it’s not just me…. but it’s sad that it’s so common.

    It’s hard to not take it a bit personally, although I like to think it’s at least partially due to the sheer weight difference (that makes it feel a bit less personal- and scummy).

    My first few weeks were really, really hard- to keep walking in there. After a while, I figured out which guys were willing to train with me with no major outward display of unhappiness…. and sometimes when I’m just not in the mood to be the last kid picked for the team, I will grab one of them before class or during the lineup and ask nicely, “Will you drill with me today?” (I am careful to not overuse those guys and make a pest out of myself.) Otherwise I just have to take whomever’s left over, or the teacher will assign me into a threesome. That’s not fun, but it seems to be reality, and it hasn’t killed me yet. Nor made me quit.

    I always make an effort to shake (or slap) the guy’s hand after, and say “thank you” sincerely.

    Open mat can be helpful. I steel my resolve and make myself ask everybody for a roll. You can ask a guy to roll for a three-minute round; it’s less pressure for both parties- different from being stuck with somebody for a 90-min class. You act serious about the training, say thank you nicely, maybe ask a question or two if it’s someone more experienced than you, he learns that he won’t catch Cooties from working with you- then it’s usually easier the next time you find yourself facing that guy.

    With time, as you work with more of them, your list of decent potential training partners slowly grows.

    I also found that to some degree, there was more acceptance after I’d gotten a few stripes. At first, I thought the other students were very standoffish. I later was told (and learned for myself) that there is a constantly rotating cast of newbie white belts- and since only maybe one out of ten of them stick around, a lot of people feel that it’s just not worth bothering to learn their names or invest any time/effort in being friendly. (I suspect that one-out-of-ten stat is even lower for the women). After I was coming in consistently three times a week for a few weeks, some people got friendlier. After I got a couple of stripes, more people got friendlier. After I got my blue, friendlier yet. You have to sort of prove your investment with the test of time and rank to win over some classmates.

  5. How is it that all of you guys go to schools where you get to pick who you roll with all of the time?
    Both of the schools I’ve been to use a rotation method for rolling. Either 3 person groups chosen by the instructor that rotate through, or gigantic “light people here, heavy people there” rotating gauntlets where you roll at least once with everyone on your side.

  6. Also, I know I’m a little further, but if you (Kate or anyone else, for that matter) are in Knoxville, I’d love to have you come train with me. I can point out all the nice guys to roll with =) Plus we have small female brown who is TOTALLY kick-ass. She moved here a month ago, but in that one month my game (really, my mindset more than anything) totally changed and made me a much better grappler. Plus, it’s such an inspiration to see her kick some huge guy’s ass.

  7. Leslie, bring Kate to Richmond!

    And Kate, in the beginning, it sucks. It sucks to be the only girl and it REALLY sucks to be the only girl with guys who don’t know what to do with you. Like Savage said, ask them to train, be polite and thank them for the training time, and show them that you’re serious. Before long, you’ll just be another grappler to them. Oh, and I would really hold back with the “you’re too big, you’re going too hard, you’re too heavy” comments if you can avoid it (even if they’re all of those things). The reality is, jiu jitsu is effing hard and guys are bigger and stronger and faster than we are most of the time. It takes a special sort of crazy to come back day after day, week after week, month after month and say, “Please sir, may I have some more?” in the BJJ soup line. Train smart, protect yourself first, and you’ll figure out which guys will instinctively train smart with you. I don’t envy the guys at all. If they go too easy on us, they don’t help us get better. If they go to hard on us, we get broken. It’s hard to find the happy medium, but it’s out there.

    Also, did I mention coming to Richmond?

  8. It sounds like everything has already been said. I’ll just reiterate, keep showing up and keep training hard and eventually you’ll be just another member of the class.

    I had it easier because I started training with my husband. By default, he was my partner for the first few weeks.

  9. WOW- Thank you all for such great invitations- I will have to plan trips to both Louisville and Knoxville sometime soon!! I love road trips, so it is a great excuse.

    As for Richmond, I am thinking about coming up for the Oct 23rd Seminar. I would be by myself though, and I don’t know if I will have a Gi yet. It was ordered a while ago, but is on backorder.

    Kintanon- ultimately I don’t think there are enough people showing up for the jiu jitsu class where I train for them to implement a rotation method. Most nights there are only 4 to 5 people- The ones that show up are already “locked in” to their partner arrangements. So my options are limited.

    Clinzy- I think you are right…I just have to keep showing up, keep going through the motions as best as I can. If it takes a special kind of crazy I sure am glad to know that I am not the only crazy one out there!

    Thank you all for all of the advice and support!! And super big thanks to Leslie for helping to facilitate all of it!

  10. I love that you said “All of my guys had been trained before I got here.” lmao. thats excellent. Buttt anyway. Focusing. My advice for Kate would be not to try to earn respect via fighting. I had a girl that used to train with our club team at school that told me if I wanted the guys to respect me that I’d have to get into a stand up MMA fight with the instructer. She then told me some story about her fight with him, and how she was kicking his tail and all that jazz and he “cheated” and beat her. Now all the guys hug her when they see her and act really nice. They treat me like they treat each other, (Meaning i get flipped off and teased yadda yadda yadda) I asked the instructer that she “fought” about it and he tells a completly different story than her. He didn’t “cheat” he just prevented her from hurting him and herself. The guys don’t respect her, they treat her like a girl that they don’t care about and don’t feel like explaining that they dont like her. He told me “I have much more respect for you, and so do the guys, because you come here and focus on your training. Not being the ‘toughest’ in the room, or on being cute, or any of the other things that girls normally do. Don’t change and be like her.” So, long winded explaination over: Don’t go in and try and be a bad ass and force them to kiss the ground you walk on. Just go in, and calmly do your training. They’ll learn.

  11. @Kintanon: Rotating partners picked by the instructor seems to be quite rare here in the UK. I’ve trained a six places now, and most of them never did it at all (Kev at RGA Wycombe does occasionally say “why don’t you go with so and so,” but he’s never had everyone stand against the wall while he formally pairs people up).

    @Kat: Looks like you’ve already had a ton of great advice, so I just wanted to add that I’m surprised there hasn’t been at least one small guy thrilled at the prospect of someone closer to their own size to work with. That’s one of the main reasons I will always try to drill and spar with any women who show up.

    Though I’m guessing you must have a very limited pool of people to train with, and they’re all a good bit bigger than you?

    I plan to move to Bristol myself soon, as that’s where my gf lives, but it’s the one here in the UK. ;p

  12. i train in bowling green, ky it’s about 45 minutes north of nashville, tn so if any of you are in the area you’re also more than welcome to come. The guys i train with are great and i’m hopin there are some people on here that are with an hour & a half so I could visit and meet some more jiujitsu girls & guys.

  13. Kat it may just be your gym, you may want to look for other gyms in the area. I usually recommend anyone starting BJJ try at least three gyms to get an idea where they would feel most comfortable. It sounds like your gym has a bad vibe to it.

  14. CJMajor- Super good advice. Thanks!! My immediate inclination is to continuously go in and work harder then the rest of them…but after reading your post I can see where that would be counter-productive. Patience is difficult for me- it is a learned skill.

    Slideyfoot- yes, extremely limited pool. Approx 5 guys that reliably show up for class.

    Shakiaharris- I have been in your area before. Beautiful! Unfortunately no where near me..but if I am ever in that area again I will stop in and say HI!

    Alex- I live in a super small rural area. We are limited by available gyms to begin with- but even more so for females. The gym I am with now is the ONLY one in my area that accepts females at all. So not only am I the only one in my gym, but in my area all together. It is a mindset thing. I have had several men tell me that women in Jiu Jitsu (or martial arts in general) is just “wrong”. Kinda scary huh-
    So, I am working to change the mindset. The other issue is that being in such a small area we are limited to how “serious” the Jiu Jitsu classes are. Based on the experience I had with TECH, the locals are clueless. But honestly I prefer to learn something, verus nothing just because the Jiu Jitsu I have in my area isn’t up to par.

    Leslie- Based on all of the responses maybe you should start a new section on locations. Everyone can post where they are so that when people travel we can get together. Fantastic that everyone is so welcoming of a newbie.
    Thanks again!

  15. Ooo, blogger location map sounds like an excellent plan, especially as there’s that training trip I always mention I want to do. I should be able to whip something up pretty easily, if people put up their locations, where they train and the name of their blog.

    I.e., a blogger version of the UK club map. Who is up for collaborating on it? Just set one up here.

  16. Kate: are you serious that no other gyms even ACCEPT females? That’s absolutely ridiculous. I wonder if they would even stop Kyra Gracie from coming in…I’m so sorry you have to deal with this! I don’t know if I have had your persistence if it was that hard for me to learn jiu jitsu, especially when I started.

  17. Aparna-

    Yep. I have heard that there are gyms about 45 minutes away that are willing to train girls. But that isn’t realistic for my schedule. I am super persistant. I am used to being the only girl, and that part doesn’t really bother me.
    The area I live in is for the most part consistently 3 years behind the times..in every category. So perhaps by the time 2014 rolls around, I will have made some headway. It isn’t just Jiu Jitsu here- it is buying cars, having a bank account without a guys name on it, driving alone at night….yeah, weird I know..but it is my reality.
    Because the local girls have grown up in this mindset, they too contribute to it. As insane as it sounds the girls around here put up with it! I have said it before- it is like Pleasantville..a different way of life just does not occur to them. Change is hard for people, I am change, therefore I am not widely excepted. I will keep working at it though.

  18. Yeah, it’s totally understandable that traveling 45 minutes each way is not feasible. Tbh, your area sounds more like 30 years behind the times. I’m all for independence and progress, but I sometimes wonder how much I would really be able to accomplish if I hadn’t had someone walk that path before me and people to support me. I guess all I can say is you’re doing the right things–being persistent at what you love, but at the same time taking a break from it every now and then to train someplace that accepts (and welcomes!) you. Always remember that you have a support structure to turn to when things get frustrating.

  19. That is exactly what I plan on doing. I don’t want to miss the three classes a week that I am paying to go to- even if it means no rolling or drilling time- but it will be essential for me to supplement weekend trips to various other places to really refine my technique. Sadly, I am technically 4 months into it and have ZERO technique. But- I will take what I can get..

    Don’t sell yourself short. Any women that does Jiu Jitsu is tough, and I have no doubt that any one of us would be just as persistant.

  20. Well, I just want to say that you all are amazing, and I thank you very much for everything you’ve contributed here.

    @Chrissy: I’ve already invited her to come with me up to RVA whenever I go. Though, she may get up there first for Hannette’s seminar.

    @slidey: How can we add our school locations to your map? (Can we?)

    @all TN and KY ladies: I’m thinking Women’s Open Mat somewhere central…

  21. @Leslie: At the moment, you’d have to email me with details, but given that you’re just as OCD as me about these kind of things, maybe you’d be interested in collaborating?

    There’s a button I can press that will give you access to edit/add details, if you let me know the right email. That would mean the impressively large community of regular readers you’ve got could then go through you, which would make sense. πŸ™‚

  22. @slidey: And…it would be super cool if we could include the option to host/surf like the site http://www.couchsurfing.org/. I was thinking we definitely need a bjjcouchsurfing website. πŸ˜‰ I would love to host people passing through or training in Reno and I know a lot of our community would do the same thing.

  23. @Lynn: Ah, I’ve heard of that site, one of my friends used to do it. I haven’t used it much myself though, so I wonder if there is some way of integrating it? On a basic level, I guess I could just stick in a link to the bloggers profile on couchsurfing.org, or something like that?

  24. ours is :
    Bowling Green BJJ and Judo/Bowling Green BeatDown
    Josh Johnson-
    1245 31W Bypass
    Bowling Green, KY 42101
    —we currently have four girls that are training consistently and over a dozen guys so PLEASE come out i love meeting new ppl and slidey thanks for the map i like travelling around

  25. @ Kat. It sounds like you all you are doing at your bjj school is observing the class and not drilling or rolling; is that right? WTF?!!! Unfortunately I have been is areas where this doesn’t surprise me too much. Please tell me you are getting a seriously big discount from this place. You are just never going to learn BJJ that way and they shouldn’t charge you as if you are. I just left Knoxville, where I trained at Gracie Barra and one woman is a regular there now, who just started and will be close to your level. I’m sure you would be welcome there. Several people drive in from a distance (Alabama, even) for the Saturday class and one couple came from Greenville, TN. The wife is an excellent bjj player. I can try to find out where they train in Greenville, which might be within driving distance from you. I don’t know if there are any women there right now since she works out of state for part of the year, but surely they allow women to roll.

  26. I fail to comprehend guys not wanting to train with girls. But that’s possibly because the couple of girls I train with occasionally are just about the only training partners I have who aren’t significantly larger than me. Glad to see in the next post up that Kat’s problem is on the way to being solved anyway.

    On an unrelated note I had to chuckle at your arm making loud noises for no reason and freaking out Scott. I freak people out ALL the time for exactly the same reason. Especially my shoulders seem to make loud pops even if there really isn’t any pressure on them at all. Still, I guess that’s better than them making loud pops for all the wrong reasons!

  27. Hey, I was the first girl at my school. They didn’t know what to do with me at first either. After warm ups I would slip into “ninja mode” and sneak up behind someone. Then I would tug on their gi sleeve, like a lost little kid at Walmart. When they would turn around I would say, “Can you babysit me today?” Nobody ever said no. πŸ˜‰

    Rules for success in BJJ and Life:
    1. Smile.
    2. Be respectful and polite.
    3. Laugh at yourself.

    Rules for playing with the boys:
    1. Who knows what’s going through their heads, so don’t take it personally.
    2. Respect yourself and they will respect you.
    3. Be serious about your training and they will accept you.

    It will get better, sooner than you think. After a while, they won’t scatter like roaches. They will ask if you want to train with them. They’ll start cheering you on when you roll. You will hear them say things like, “I taught her that!”

    If you’re ever in Houston, TX, I train with Jeff Messina at Revolution Dojo and Revolution Martial Arts and Fitness.

    P.S. Everybody had a lot to say, and they are all correct.

  28. Jodi- There will always be certain women that express interest in Jiu Jitsu that don’t participate because a Womens Only class is not available to them- for whatever reason they just don’t want to roll with the guys. For those women, and perhaps women just getting started a Womens Only class may be the way to go..
    Personally I am thrilled to roll with anyone that will roll with me. I think there is a certain benefit to rolling with both men and women. But ultimately, it depends on the girl, and why she is taking Jiu Jitsu to begin with.

    I grew up in Austin- Texas will always be home for me no matter how far away I end up being. I am taking a trip in December to Dallas to have a weekend session with Carlos Machado…hopefully I can learn something before then. πŸ™‚

  29. @ Kat – Let me know when you’re going to Dallas. Maybe I can meet up with you. If you want, and I’m not working. I’m four hours away.

    Women’s class – HEHE my instructor (Jeff Messina)said that I would roll with anyone as well. He’s been trying to get more women involved in BJJ. I was his first female student, and I don’t think he quite knew what to do with me at first. However, I was tenacious and didn’t give up and neither did my instructors. I’m their first female student to compete, too. I placed first both times, with a total of four wins, all by submission. (And I’m still a spazzy white belt). πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for the input on the women’s classes. Every little bit I learn will help my instructor build a strong female base in the school.

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