Content Note: discussion of rape and sexual violence
When I’m not trying to smash patriarchy with a hammer, I’m mostly likely working out and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).
BJJ is a form of martial arts that focuses on takedowns, grappling, and submissions. It’s kind of like wrestling with more traditions and finesse. It’s also really freaking awesome. There is one the downside, which there is very low participation of women, especially at my gym. It is understandable; it’s a rough and tumble sport; You get thrown around and bruised up. It is also an incredibly close contact sport where any thought of personal space is thrown out the window. This makes a lot of people uncomfortable and it’s not for everyone.
Recently, a video had gone viral in the BJJ interwebs of why women should train BJJ:
What are your thoughts? I honestly I giggled a little… ok a lot. There have been moments where I’ve wanted to put an active pursuer “to sleep” because he did not understand the meaning of no. But, here is where I’m going to be a wet blanket, I could not get behind the message of “learn BJJ, defend yourself against a rapist.” First, this notion promotes the idea that rape is a black and white issue. Sexual violence is more complicated than a stranger at a bar (or in the bushes) who doesn’t get the hint. Most rapists know their victims and have relationships with them. They are friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, spouse, siblings, parents… people who you do not want to choke out because you indeed care about them. Second, it delegitimizes the experience of women who are victims or survivors of rape who DO know martial arts. For example, Kayla Harrison, a Judo gold-medal Olympian, who endured years of sexual abuse from her previous coach. Closer to the Disrupting family, our editor Barbie was a black belt in a martial arts but still found herself in a destructive relationship. Are these two women any less amazing fighters because of their experiences? No. Was it their fault because they did not use the skills that they learned to defend themselves? ABSO-FUCKING-LUTLY NOT! Which brings me to my third point, the video continues the idea that women need to defend themselves against rape when we should refocus on the idea that people need to learn about consent and respect.
This is not the first time that BJJ has been advertised to women as a means to protect themselves from violence. See below:
While these ads have the good intention of engaging women into martial arts, they are really upholding the stereotypes of sexual violence, which furthers the trajectory of the rape culture we live in.
So, in typical pro-active feminist fashion, I’ve created my OWN list of reasons why women (and people of ALL genders) should train BJJ:
1) Self defense (NOT rape prevention)
While this was hinted at in the video, BJJ was created as a way to defend yourself from danger (not specifically rape). I’m not going to harp on this any more…
2) The Community
The martial arts community is made up of some of the most phenomenal people I’ve ever come in contact with (second being yogis then runners). They are supportive, loyal, and are excited to have you be a part of their community. They are there to give you a hug when you need it, not let you slack off when you want to, and to be a logical family that understands your commitment to the sport. I can’t express how much the people I work with give me serious warm and fuzzies.
3) Teaches you life lessons
You learn a lot about yourself in BJJ. Such as what your limits are and how to push pass them. You also learn that you can never win every round, or get every point, and that’s okay. It’s not really about winning. SHOCKER! It’s about being the best version of you. Through this you learn to trust yourself and believe in your abilities.
BJJ is great workout. It is a mix of cardio and conditioning. There is no specific body type for this sport – people of ALL sizes are welcome to join. Just do it and you will understand.
5) Increases you awesomeness factor by at LEAST 100%
BJJ is awesome. Therefore, all practitioners of BJJ are awesome. Flawless argument.
Alright, now go out there and kick some ass.