In many sports, women and men have the opportunity to train and compete against only women or only men. However, this is not the norm in BJJ classes since most of them are co-ed. This begs the question of the importance of women’s only BJJ classes and why it could be worth your time attending them.
Women’s only Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes are important. Women-only classes allow female students to learn in a safe and comfortable environment without other considerations that might occur in co-ed classes. Women’s only classes also more evenly match partners by weight and strength.
Keep reading for an in-depth analysis of the benefits of attending a women’s only BJJ class. I’ll explore what you can gain from doing so and why women’s only BJJ classes are essential for growing the sport and allowing women to learn and train in a comfortable environment.
Women’s Only BJJ Classes Offer a Sense of Community
While BJJ is an individual sport, you train and learn as a group in classes. Training with a group of women who have a common interest and goal is a fantastic way of establishing bonds and making friends. Working hard with people builds a level of trust and understanding that can form meaningful and lasting friendships.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a male-dominated sport in many ways, and being comfortable in a co-ed class is relatively important, but having a group of like-minded women can be very valuable in terms of forming a tight-knit friend group within the BJJ community as a whole.
Establishing a strong sense of community with the women in your area is also a great way of improving your quality of life. After some time, you can start meeting up with training partners outside of the classes. This improves your social life and allows you to make more friends.
Women’s Unique Physical Challenges
Women’s bodies face unique physical challenges that male bodies will never go through. As a result, there are certain situations where even a well-versed and considerate male student or teacher may not be able to help, or you may feel uncomfortable discussing it with them.
Some examples of these issues are how to return to training after pregnancy or training during menstruation. Male teachers may also be unaware of more minor issues like training with long hair or even just female gear selection.
Even simple issues like training with long hair are more frequently an issue for female BJJ athletes. For more on how to handle training with long hair check out How To Train Martial Arts With Long Hair.
Attending a women’s only BJJ class will ensure that you have fellow students who experience the same physical situations. As a result, you can gain comfort and advice on dealing with any physical circumstances you’re likely to encounter as a woman.
Some Women Can Be Uncomfortable Training With Men
Most women who have spent time training in a gym or even just walking down the street have experienced unwanted male attention. This can be intimidating or threatening at worst and uncomfortable at best.
While BJJ classes are generally a safe environment, many women are more comfortable without men present since the chances they are going to be approached within the school environment drop down to virtually zero in a women’s only class.
As a result, a women-only BJJ class allows female students to take up and continue learning BJJ without feeling uncomfortable or threatened, especially in the beginning stages of learning.
Less Intimidating To Start BJJ With Women Than Men
Many women feel intimidated or uncomfortable attending a mixed-gender BJJ class. This discourages them from signing up and getting started. A women-only class reduces the intimidation and anxiety that many women feel when training with men. As a result, women-only classes can boost engagement and help grow BJJ.
BJJ is also a martial art with a lot of physical contact and close body positions. As a result, many women will feel uncomfortable rolling around on the floor with a man they barely know. A women’s only class avoids this obstacle and allows women to train in a safe environment.
Physical Considerations for Women’s BJJ Training
The importance of women’s only BJJ classes is not just to make women more comfortable when training. Women can struggle to find evenly matched opponents in BJJ classes and are often made to face weaker opponents.
In terms of practicing for a competition goal, this can slow down your development for your competition game since you will not get as much practice with people of similar strength, weight, and mobility if you are training exclusively with men who will be significantly heavier and stronger on average.
Women’s only classes offer more evenly matched opponents, so you can get different sparring partners to challenge you as you learn.
Women Are Closer in Size and Weight
When you’re learning any martial art, it helps to compete against an opponent who is not larger and stronger than you are, especially when you’re only starting. A women’s only BJJ class will reduce the size and strength differences between opponents, allowing you to compete against and learn from an evenly matched opponent.
Women Will Have Different Movement Patterns for BJJ
BJJ is often compared to a physical form of chess. Just like in chess, students learn sequences of movements to manipulate their opponents’ bodies to leave them vulnerable. Women and men will have different movement patterns and sequences to defend against and attack opponents.
This is due to women having different centers of gravity, higher average levels of mobility and flexibility, and lower raw strength output. These factors result in different movement patterns overall and the mismatch in movement patterns can throw off female competitors in a competition setting if they do not have sufficient exposure to grappling with other women.
As a result, if you only ever train against male opponents, you could struggle to learn how to defend against the different movements used in female BJJ effectively. This could put you at a disadvantage if you ever wish to compete in women’s BJJ.
What To Do if Your BJJ School Does Not Have a Women’s Only BJJ Class
If your BJJ school does not have a women’s only BJJ class, you should ask the school to set one up. A female student with an upper belt could lead the class when possible, or you could gather a group of female friends to share the costs and hire an instructor for a private group.
Unfortunately, women’s only BJJ is not extremely common at a school-specific level unless it is a very large school. It is a bit more common to see women-only classes within a greater affiliated organization as a whole. When I practiced in the Greater Boston Area, affiliated schools would have women-only classes regularly for the nearby region.
However, if you are interested in setting one up, all you need is some organization and initiative to get your own class started. Starting your BJJ class can help women in your community to learn and socialize in a comfortable setting, all while learning practical skills and getting fit.
If you don’t want to set up your own BJJ class, you can search for women’s only classes at other BJJ schools, they are usually quite welcoming to outside female BJJ athletes. While this may increase your travel time, you’ll meet some people and get the benefits of having exposure to a greater variety of female training partners.
What Should a Woman Wear to Her First BJJ Class?
One of the most common problems women face when first starting in BJJ is figuring out what to wear to their first class. Should you invest in a gi from the get-go, or are typical gym clothes like shirts and a top acceptable for your first class?
A woman should wear a rash guard or long sleeves that cover her arms with leggings to her first BJJ class. Alternatively, she could wear shorts and a shirt over the top if this offers more comfort. You don’t need to buy a gi for your first ever BJJ class.
After you’ve come to a few BJJ classes and know it’s something that you want to keep doing, then it makes sense to invest in a gi. However, for your first training session, you don’t need to invest in any gear or equipment, especially since you don’t know if BJJ is for you or not.
Why Women Should Still Train Co-Ed BJJ
As you can see above, there are many benefits to attending women’s only BJJ classes. As a result, you may be wondering at this time whether you should ever go back to co-ed BJJ classes, or are you better off sticking to women’s only groups?
Women should still train in co-ed BJJ to learn practical self-defense from male attackers. In general, men are heavier and have more upper body strength than most women. As a result, women learning BJJ for self-defense should train against all opponents to give them the tools they need for defense.
Women who are seeking to compete at higher levels in BJJ should also partake in some co-ed training. Training against opponents with a strength advantage will allow you to learn the skills you need to deal with a stronger opponent in the competition.
Throughout women’s combat sports, there are examples of female fighters and martial artists who train and sometimes compete against males to improve their techniques and reach higher mastery in their grappling skills.
Building up the overall presence of women in the BJJ community is valuable for the martial art as a whole. Having women’s only jiu-jitsu classes provide women with a positive community in which to build social connections and friendship as well as to get greater access to valuable training against more physically similar training partners.
For more check out Are Self-Defense Classes a Waste of Time? | Can They Be Effective?