BJJ and Women: The Kyra Gracie Principle

Warning: this post contains feminism, NSFW photos (suggestive, lad-mag style photos), and language.

It’s impossible to get away from Kyra Gracie. The moment a woman starts doing BJJ, it seems as though Kyra is the first woman she is made aware of. Why? Because she’s pretty AND she’s great at jiu jitsu. Plus, she does some awesome things for jiu jitsu. Here, have a video:

However, she’s also a name that gets trotted out in every thread about women grapplers. Namely for some of her risque photos of her in a sports bra + gi in varying states of undress. I am absolutely no prude, and I’ve secretly done my fair share of objectifying men (though I do that one on one rather than on a forum), but there is a huge difference between a photo where a woman is showing skin and where she’s being sexual. Kyra’s photos mix sexuality and jiu jitsu in a way that I end up feeling not comfortable with.

First, the showing skin photos. These are awesome. They look appropriate for jiu jitsu. They look like someone you’d see at your gym after an awesome roll. They look like a gal you might train with. These photos do not inspire any sort of uncomfortable feeling within me if my mother were to see them in a jiu jitsu forum.

Kyra Gracie fitness

Awesome photos! She’s in great shape!

Next, the sexual photos. These photos would make me want to add a NSFW tag to them. These get posted EVERY FUCKING TIME A “Top 5 hottest BJJ chicks” thread exists on the Internet. They’re clearly sexualized, and frankly I’m tired of seeing them online (yes, I realize there’s some irony of me saying that and me posting them – hmmm is that actual irony or Alanis Morisette “irony”?)

These are ones that creep me out

These are the bro-fist inspiring photos

Those photos have spawned too many BJJ fake motivational photos with juvenile and sexual one liners, including ones that say:

Gi or no-gi? I know which I’d prefer.
Sometimes passing just isn’t an option.
I’d like to be in her triangle.
I’d like to tap that.

Kyra just did another sexy photo shoot. I saw it on Facebook, then I saw it on Reddit. It made me uncomfortable. Here it is:

kyra gracie's butt

The photo itself doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable. What DOES make me uncomfortable are the resulting conversations that take place. The comments I end up reading that make me feel really sad and gross. I’m happy to be shielded and not be part of raunchy bro conversations, but as a woman in jiu jitsu online, I’ve unfortunately been part of more than my fair share. Have some gross Reddit comments:

OH MY GOD, I WOULD USE HER PANTIES TO MAKE TEA.
Boys are going to see Kyra in magazines and want to do Kyra.
I’d really like to get into her guard for just enough time to get triangle choked.

Then there are the more neutral comments. Ones that are dismissive of folks who might feel uncomfortable by these photos, or that accuse people of (gasp) feminism, or claim that because the model did it then she’s making a statement that it’s totally cool.

Why wouldn’t you train if training could shape you an ass like that?
I find it strange when people police other peoples(generally womens) expressions of sexuality, under the guise of gender equality.
If you don’t realize sex is a part of almost everything… then… well…
I was conflicted about posting it but 1) Kyra was clearly ok with posing for it and associating it with BJJ and 2) Dat ass.
The downvoters are basically telling Kyra Gracie they know better than she does what is or isn’t appropriate to publish as relates to bjj.

The photos themselves don’t make me feel gross. It’s that these photos seem to bring out dicks. They bring out really fucking disgusting comments that most men I know would not say on the mats, in front of me, or their training partners, their female friends, or their sisters. These comments make me feel like dudes are brofisting in front of my face and I should simply not be there.

However, I would love to thank Kyra Gracie because she spawned this amazing photo. I’d like to note to folks that this is an actual example of parody, and that no woman could do this as a parody. This is Dan Strauss Kyra-ing.

First there was Clarking, now there's Kyra-ing.

First there was Clarking, now there’s Kyra-ing. Gentleman in the photo is Daniel Strauss. Photo by Meerkatsu sponsored fighter Sophie Walters (it is her gi Daniel is wearing).

Again, I would like to state that I think Kyra Gracie’s an amazing grappler and she has an amazing body, but the comments and conversations that her photoshoots have elicited make me want to stab myself in the face. In fact, when I saw her latest sexy shoot, I immediately thought “Well, now there will be new photos making the tired and same Top 5 Hottest Women in BJJ threads.”

I’m curious as to what your reaction to these types of photos are. Please note that any comments that objectify women (including “dat ass”) will be happily and quickly deleted. I’d like my mom to be able to read this and not feel weird. I’m asking for a mature discussion about it, one that does not devolve into straw feminists vs misogynists. Do these types of photos make you uncomfortable? Neutral? Do you like them? Do you find that they change your perception of your training partners, or of theirs to you?

  1. Ugh, these Kyra photos really do piss me off. I wouldn’t care if she posed half (or full) nude in any other gear, but to clearly link the sport to that type of imagery is just a gross thing to do. Grappling is already easy enough to joke about when it comes to the “sexual” positions people find themselves in…giving guys a reason to associate women on the mats, in their gis, with sexual imagery is really not necessary. I think it’s disgusting that she’s doing these shots in a gi. If she wants to flaunt her body (and it is an awesome body), she should do so in OTHER clothing. An unbuttoned shirt, a jacket, whatever. Not grappling gear. Leave the two things separate. It’s disrespectful to women in the sport and to jiu jitsu itself to combine fight gear and sexuality in that way.

    • I absolutely, 100% agree. Keep the two separate.

      Personally, I can’t stand both….the reaction AND the pics. I don’t think the pics are blameless. After all, they were created with the intention to be marketed to said fistbumpers.

      If you were considering starting jiu jitsu and were faced with these pics, would this make you want to join or turn away?

      • I agree with you and see where you’re coming from, but the truth is Kyra is really found so more attractive because of her badass ability as a grappler. I definitely hate the links between grappling and anything sexual that naturally occur because of the close contact nature of the sport, but to me this is no different than Anna Kournikova taking a sexy picture in a tub of tennis balls. The reason she is more attractive than other women who might even be better looking than her is because she is an amazing female athlete: http://showstalker.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/anna-kournikova-k-swiss-3.jpg

        So to me this isn’t relating sex to grappling, it’s adding an attractive feature to Kyra by reminding you that she is an amazing female athlete that will not only catch stares, but can also beat your ass in a physical sport. If she was a boxer, she’d have wrapped hands, if she was a surfer she’d be leaning on a surf board, and these kind of criticisms would be a bit more scarce, but the same exact jackass comments you hate would still find there way there (I wish those were my balls (tennis), I’d like to sex wax her (surf), etc.). there’s sexual innuendo everywhere, it helps you learn which jackasses to avoid associating with.

        • I agree with Mikey on two points. 1) These photos show an attractive female who can also smash folks. This is awesome! 2) I hate things that link grappling with sex. Is that irony, or Alanis irony?

          JiuJiu, I can see your point though. When my buddies (that don’t train) talk about Ronda or Kyra sexually, or demean their fighting ability by just focusing on their obvious attractiveness, I get annoyed. I want to tell them, “You do realize Meisha could double-leg you in to oblivion, Kyra could choke you silly, and Ronda would hip toss you with quickness, right?”

  2. I’ll be honest, when I first saw that photo on my facebook page, having subscribed to a BJJ account, I was shocked and moved it away. Not least because I was on a packed train in the morning, but that was a whole different story.
    You know, long story short, yes, she’s beautiful, far more than I will ever be (I am fiiine with that), she is a superior jitsuka (fiiine with that also), but there is no need to strip to prove either. If my mum saw this she would ban me from going, thinking this is what BJJ is about. And just like the numpties who made lewd and ignorant comments, thankfully the weirdos are few and far between, and most certainly not in my class. I lost my prudishness a while back in class when I realised I haven’t even got this close to my sister.
    I suppose she can do whatever the hey she wants to in the end, but I do feel a bit uncomfortable that while trying to recruit more female practioners of the gentle art, Ms Gracie is making them feel a bit awkward by presenting this image.
    NB, to the guys wanting a triangle choke, you guys clearly don’t know that she’d snap your necks before you’ve even realised /who/ is choking you. *facepalm*
    Great article.

  3. Agreed on every point.

    FWIW: There is NO enlightenment, or even positive discourse, to be found on any forum on this subject. Just the same old agendas looking for airtime.

    Signed,

    Another woman in training

  4. This is a great article – I love that it points to the obvious and disgusting behavior that happens in JJ forums all the time. As a bi man, I like to throw a wrench into these conversations and say, “Yeah – and that Derek Brunson guy? I just wanna motorboat his pecs all day.” Surprisingly, the boards don’t respond well to THAT type of sexual comments. Weird, huh.

    I would love to see this article expand on the idea of women in JJ… As in, training with women in JJ – specifically men training with them. Grappling is very physical and intimate and there should be certain things men need to look out for / do when training with women so not to make anyone feel uncomfortable and still get a good work out.

  5. This pretty much hits all the points I was trying to make in that reddit thread. If Kyra wants to model semi nude good for her, but the comments that show up in these threads are horribly creepy. My concern is if a female student who wants a community online to check out and she goes to the bjj subreddit and the first post she sees is this one and looks at some of the comments… well that could easily be one less female student to help support others on there. That’s the kind of thing people see and think “Wow, there are a lot of virgins and bros here, I think I’ll go somewhere else”.

  6. Gi photos good. Sexy photos good. Sexy photos in gi not good. I love the gi because it is a layer of protection against sexual objectification while rolling. Most guys just roll in a blur of white or blue rough cloth and collar and don’t even think about anything except not being tapped/choked. Unless you giggle. (Seriously girls don’t do that). This photo sticks the thought of sexy right smack dab in the front of their consciousness. Worse yet they think it’s ok because she is who she is. (If a gracie does it it must be ok). She is young so I have to give her a pass for poor decisions sometimes. However she is also a role model and like it or not she has a responsibility to girls who may look up to her.

  7. I agree that it is the fact that she is equating women doing bjj to a sexual invitation that i dislike. I think she is gorgeous and her posing in a sexy outfit wouldn’t bother me

  8. As a male, I like the photos. I’m not going to say that I don’t find her or her poses attractive, but as a professional and a father I think that saying lewd things on the internet about them are out of bounds.

    Like you, Jiu Jiu, my problem is with the people who react to these photos. I think it is absolutely awesome to appreciate Kyra, her skill, and her physique…but the people betting graphic are likely 15 year old bros who wouldn’t be able to define the word respect if you handed them a dictionary. This is not ok, but the internet gives everybody an anonymous voice. Chances are that the same people would be making the same comments about the very first set of pics you posted (the ones where she’s looking normal).

    Also, Strauss…dat erm…yeah.

  9. Let me see if I can sum up my feelings succinctly. For me, the problem I have IS with the pictures she poses for. She is a strong, athletic, talented, accomplished, fighter. She is gorgeous even when she is in the throws of a grappling match. I wish she didn’t feel the need to cheapen herself and reduce female athletes to this. I think we are far from remedying the issue of men objectifying women, but this to me, feels like a set back. She encourages those disgusting comments when she poses so provocatively in a gi and in my opinion, that makes it that much harder for those of us who want to be taken seriously as an athlete. Ronda Rousey and Meisha Tate do the same thing and it drives me nuts. I hate that talk of how hot they are creeps onto the mat. I’d love the say the guys I train with are all above that, but truthfully, I have overheard many conversations about these women and their looks.

  10. I look at celebrities as role models for my kids (both for my son and my daughters). So, ultimately, the question I ask myself is, “Would I want my kids associated with this?” It’s mixed. She’s such a strong role model in many ways, but dang…. pictures like this make it difficult. Frankly, I’d have a problem with this for my daughters, and if I weren’t already invested in BJJ, I’d question whether this was a sport/art appropriate for my young daughter.

    Point is, if we’re talking about empowering young people (both men and women), encouraging them to train in BJJ and growing the art, this doesn’t help and probably ends up calling into question the culture of the entire style, for both the men and the women.

  11. Also, for what it’s worth, I am very uncomfortable with out of context sexuality. I mean, sex at work and sex in the gym are incredibly creepy to me. That’s not to say that two people in the gym can’t date… but that there should be no shenanigans in the gym or associated with BJJ.

    As others said, if she posed in Maxim or whatever, that’s fine. More power to her. But the real issue, I think, is that she’s posing in half of a Jiu Jitsu gi and sexualizing not just herself but the entire sport.

  12. As a guy I of course enjoy looking at Kyra on the one hand, but I absolutely hate the sexualization of the sport on the other hand. As mentioned above I would find sexy photo shoots not involving BJJ specific gear to be more appropriate as they at least draw a clearer line between the sexiness and the sport.

  13. First of all, I want to say, I LOVE Kyra Gracie. She has a graceful personality and is stunningly beautiful. She is truly an activist in getting more women involved in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. As shallow as it is, I started at an MMA gym because I wanted to wear pink boxing gloves. Later I asked what all the guys were doing rolling around in “karate suits,” and this was the beginning of my love for the sport Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (not Karate). I was the ONLY girl in my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes. Until I attended one of Kyra’s women only seminars, I had never really rolled with another girl. She inspired me to want to continue training AND be a pretty girl at the same time. That was nearly 2 years ago.

    These pictures? I love them and I hate them. It calls attention to beautiful women in BJJ, but at the same time it makes it harder for me to gain true respect as a woman in the sport. That being said, I train in a gym and a sport that is male dominated. I struggle with men that are uncomfortable rolling with me because I am a girl, and also men that don’t want to be tapped out by a girl. Some men completely avoid me, some men go way too easy on me, and some men don’t want to be tapped by a girl, so they try to kill me on the mat. When I am rolling, I am not thinking about sexuality, I am thinking about how I am going to gain dominant position and submit them. BJJ is not a sexual sport when you are fighting.

    Are these pictures attracting women to the sport? Is her approach working? Maybe. In the beginning, I just wanted to wear pink boxing gloves. Had I known about the pink gi, I may have jumped straight into BJJ instead. On the other hand, are these pictures setting women back from advancing in the sport? How do we gain respect as equal fighters that our teammates feel comfortable training with? Personally, I would never want my teammates to see pictures like this of me.

  14. People should be able to express themselves anyway they would like, as long as it doesn’t hurt others. If you are offended by this it’s because you have an insecurity issue somewhere in your life philosophy. You can embrace it or discard it. Carlos Gracie said, “take all the time necessary to protect yourself, but take no time to criticize others”. I myself choose to discard her pictures as they don’t represent BJJ to me, it represents a sexist position in my opinion. But if Kyra Gracie wishes to represent herself and the sport this way, that is her choice, and who am I to criticize for what makes her happy. She isn’t hurting me or anybody else I believe.

  15. I strongly dislike any sexualization of my chosen sport. The practice of it is as close to being spiritual as I get. I feel sexual overtones that are associated with BJJ are profane in this regard.

  16. The photos are what they are. Kyra wanted to take some sexy photos. She’s an adult. People should be able to pose for whatever photos they want to pose for. I won’t pretend that I hate sexy photos of beautiful women.

    That disclaimer being made, I posit that sexy BJJ pictures enable a perception of sexualized mixed-gender interaction on the mats in the minds of both male and female jiu-jitsu players (or some of them, at least).

    A few months ago, I was rolling with a woman at my gym a while back and she said something to the effect of, “I like rolling with you because you’re married and I know you’re not going to be creepy.” I was taken aback by this in two ways at two different points in time.

    My immediate reaction was surprise that she would verbally sexualize BJJ with a rolling partner. My initial thought was “is that really the way you think of BJJ?” I continued the roll and handled myself as I would with any sparring partner, but I was still surprised.

    After further consideration, I realized that it wasn’t so much a comment of how she felt about BJJ, but how she perceived a certain percentage of the BJJ population.

    This leads me to a few other questions: If this is the perception that occurs within the hopefully-knowledgeable BJJ community, how does the non-BJJ public see the art with regards to both sexuality and objectification of women? What experiences must my rolling partner have had that would lead her to make such a comment? Are her experiences the norm? If we consider sexy BJJ photos to be a symptom of a larger issue, can we identify the root issue beyond assigning it the somewhat-general label of patriarchy?

    At the same time, I would like to point out that Kyra has way, way more experience with both BJJ and with being a woman than I do. She can obviously reconcile taking sexy BJJ photos with her perspective and her experiences as both a woman and a high-level BJJ black belt. She’s doubtlessly aware of the roll that marketing plays in BJJ and the roll that sex plays in marketing. I’m sure she had her reasons. Perhaps she knows something I don’t (beyond the obvious skills as a trained killer).

  17. Unfortunately this is just the internet. Their is a subset of wankers who make lude/rude/alpha/arrogant/anti-social comments about almost anything that is remotely related to sports, money or sex. Read the comments section of any article on ESPN.com for proof.

    You can disapprove of that. I do silently. I’m find with you doing so vocally. But of the photos you’ve displayed in this article the only ones you fully approved of Kyra had baggy pants on. She shouldn’t need to dress on the frumpy side for photoshoots just because internet comment sections are full of trolls.

  18. It really makes me unconfortable when I see someone using a gi just to show how fit they look. I mean, every day I see tons of pictures on facebook of girls showing their breasts or shaped abs under the gi. You know, whatever! Everyone has the right to do whatever the hell they want. As you said, though, what drives me crazy is the COMMENTS! They show how little/none respect some people have for jiu jitsu. It isn’t just a sport! It’s a lifestyle. And they are messing with MY lifestyle! I can’t help it!

    Great post!

  19. Another version of objectifying women. We want men to respect us as fellow martial artists and athletes. Then some women come along and take pictures like these. It doesn’t make sense women. Do you want men to look at you as an object that arouses them or respect you for your long time effort, sweat, injuries and sometimes down right sacrifice to this great martial art, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. What do you suppose men are talking about, Kyra’s techniques or how much they would like to be in her guard? Seriously chicas let’s make up our minds.

  20. I must admit it is easy on the eyes and hard not to look with the male physical part of my brain. then there is the father part of me that asks if my daughter looks to me to define what a man should be in her life and I am that immature wagtail am I teaching her?
    To that my wife loves Jiu Jitsu and want legitimacy am I ham stringing her?
    So while I do enjoy her form, her skill should speak for itself and she should not cheapen herself and all the work she put in by depending on sex for attention.
    I was originally a fan of ronda rousey until she fell in the same trap.

  21. How would it be seen in other sports if participants posed in this way with their official uniforms? I expect most in Major League Baseball, football (of the soccer and the American kind), basketball, etc. would consider these inappropriate and disrespectful of the uniform, and the players who engaged in such behavior would be penalized for it. Do Olympic Athletes pose in various states of undress with their medals? In their team clothing? Is there a reason for that? Respect for the sport, perhaps? A simple guideline might be this… If you wouldn’t do it on the actual mat, perhaps you ought not do it in your gi. Parnthetically, the same suggestion might work for the gentlemen who say those inappropriate remarks… if you wouldn’t say it on the actual mat, perhaps you ought not say it online. (Actually not a bad guideline for online in general).

    If Michael Jordan wants to show off his body in his tighty whites, that’s fine. That is completely removed from his sport. Good on him. If Ms. Gracie wants to pose for playboy in her civvies, thats fine. Yay! Celebrate your body! It is the use of the uniform that makes this inappropriate to my way of thinking. It disrespects the sport.

  22. She is great at JJ, grappling and is beautiful. I just feel there is no need to go that far. She knows she’s beautiful and good at what she does. So why the need to over expose yourself and in such a way? On the other hand it’s her choice and I’m sure she has her reasons but I hope the respect for the women in this sport does not get lost because of photos about who is hotter. This is about our talents on the mats and all it takes is a bunch of ignorant people to turn things around and change the image of females that practice this sport. – personal opinion

  23. Do men really not get it? Perhaps I will start to be overtly sexual on the mats and see if they’re still comfortable when it hits close to home. Which is how that photo affects me. All women in the sport see themselves amongst other women in the sport. A misrepresentation hits hard . I hope that made sense 🙂

    Also other sports hold their top tier athletes accountable for their actions when it involves the sport they represent. It seems grappling does not…

  24. the whole issue is that factually sex sells..
    The reasoning why this is so bad is because only this year females finally got into the UFC, there isnt enough a playing field, enough diversity, or strong female representation to be pulling this SLUTTY stuff. Thats the problem.
    She isnt supposed to be the big representative nor the role model, nor the martyr but she is.
    I have been at times tempted to take pics like this.. because im proud of myself!.
    I feel great!
    There has been so many incidents & issues with people making fun of women who train or are into fitness, saying derogatory things. So there is a temptation for us to want to do these hyper feminine sultry things to push our ” woman hood ” back at them like #POW! Look I can train & Im still a lady
    and then what? Then we are called sluts…So the smart girls like myself KNOW not to do this
    All women want to be perceived as pretty and attractive- this isnt supposed to be relevant when we just want to do this sport.
    But it is.
    I have so many empathic feelings about this, because what she did was stupid. I feel like she is a victim & this wasn’t her idea.

    • Sex does not necessarily sell (have a read of Megan’s excellent article on the topic).

      I’ve said it before, but in my opinion, these sexualised pictures of Kyra Gracie trivialise women in BJJ as objects to be drooled over, rather than fellow training partners and athletes to be admired for their skills rather than their looks.

  25. I suppose you could argue that she is doing it to promote the sport. The problem with that is i think a lot of women would feel wierd rolling about with a man who is not their partner.

    That wierdness wont be helped by those pics and comments.

    Im sorry but i did lol at some of the comments. My bad.

  26. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with her posing in her gi. I’m not part of the sport, but I can say that nobody thinks that a woman posing in a sexy cop uniform is belittling to female cops. The sexy teacher and sexy nurse outfits don’t belittle anybody. They’re fantasies that people have and will have with or without those outfits.

    So Kyra is proud of both her body AND her sport. Big deal. Let her do what she does.

    Now I’m not saying that I agree with the comments, but those comments happen on ANY pic that could even possibly be construed as in any way sexual. That’s the internet. Get over it, or get off it. You can’t win that fight.

    Btw, just wanted to point out that the first “Bro-fist inspiring” pic is almost exactly the same as the first “acceptable” one, except that she’s sweatier and I suppose you think her expression is flirty or something. To me it looks like she just won a match (or whatever it’s called in jiu-jitsu) and is confident she could do it again. Just because she’s not wearing that friendly smile that she has on in the pics that achieved your much-sought-after approval doesn’t mean it’s sexual.

    • Camden, you’ve completely missed the point and those are not good analogies. If someone who doesn’t do martial arts wanted to post pictures like this of themselves for the purposes of a uniform fetish, that’s one thing. People are welcome to play sexy cop, nurse, jitsuka, whatever they damn well please on their own time, and even to put pictures of it in an appropriate forum or magazine.

      But look at it this way…do you ever think you would see a REAL female police officer or nurse posing in their work uniforms AS A REPRESENTATION OF THE JOB? I mean, can you imagine a well-respected female cop who’s won valor awards, etc. posing in her police uniform top with no pants? Because that’s what’s going on here. It’s not about some random person playing around with their own personal turnon. It’s a well respected practitioner, who is a face for women in the sport, posing half naked in the uniform that she used to earn that respect. Do you not see the problem with that? It’s a totally different situation.

      Pamilajo actually nailed it…you would NEVER see a female basketball player doing shoots like this in half of her team uniform, would you? Absolutely not. So why is it acceptable for martial arts? If Kyra wants to do Playboy pinups, that’s totally fine. She’s got a rocking body and has the right to show it off. But she does not have the right to disrespect the sport she’s supposed to be representing by doing sexualized photo shoots in her uniform.

  27. Lots of conflicting thoughts:

    Having grown up in a judo dojo in the 1970s, the pictures in the gi seem an affront to the budo or traditional Japanese spirit.

    As a dad who started training BJJ with his teenage daughter just a year and a half ago, the pictures bum me out.

    I feel the same way when I see similar pictures of Danica Patrick and Ronda Rousey — sad.

    However, not sure it’s fair to criticize these women — Kyra, Danica, Ronda, and others — who are kind of on the vanguard of young, accomplished women taking control over their image. For far too long, they’ve been served up (usually by men, to men) as objects to be consumed. Seems unfair to criticize them too harshly when they take control themselves.

    I do worry, though, about the effect such photos have on my “little” girl.

  28. The fact the pics exist doesn’t really bother me. Feeling sexy and strong is a great feeling. I can understand why she would do it. However,. I wouldn’t feel comfortable if these were hanging in my gym without equivalent male counterparts. The fact that some men use these pictures in their tired posts, well… This type of conversation will be had by cads pic or no. It’s more of a reflection on their characters.

    I don’t like belittling /disrespectful talk in the gym and very much appreciate the commenter who mentioned that such talk regarding men is not taken well. That is absolutely true.

    The thing that bothers me the most is how censorious a minority group can be on its own members. I certainly do not think that the actions of any woman on the mat reflect on me. MY actions are the ones that matter. If others judge me based on an experience with another woman, this is prejudice. She is not responsible for that person’s future perceptions.

    • Not really my cup of tea, but she can do what she wants. Lord knows I’ve seen enough pictures of her cousin/uncles/relatives in Speedos.

      • Out of curiosity, were the cousins, uncles, relatives posing and trying to promote the sport or were they participating in the sport? Or were they giving a “Come hither” look? This is an honest question. Even when they are “selling” their diet ortheir cooking stuff, they sure weren’t dressed in a suggestive way.

  29. A gentleman appreciates beauty silently without imposing his desire on it. There are very few gentlemen left in the world. Kyra gets a high five for separating the men from the boys.

  30. Love the fact that you differentiate between showing skin in a gi and showing sexualized skin in a gi. I think I’m almost as disheartened by the “she has a right to take whatever pictures she wants” posts. Does this really need to be said by adults? It’s right up there with letting everybody know the sky’s blue.

    Personally I just wish celebs in the sport would be a bit more mindful of the impact of their behavior, especially when it’s done in a way that specifically associates what they’re doing with BJJ.

  31. Of course the pictures are attractive. That’s a no-brainer. If I were being purely selfish I’d say, who cares? But there are other things to think about besides being “artistic” and “expressive” or “sexy.” There’s the sport as a whole to think about, and there’s the up-and-coming generation of grapplers to think about. The bottom line is, I don’t want my daughter to see these pictures. She’s a young child and just starting out on her BJJ journey, and I don’t want her to even get a hint in her brain that this is what Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is about. That means that I won’t be pointing my daughter to Kyra as a role model. I don’t care if Kyra is good a jiu-jitsu goddess. There are other women who are just as good as her who won’t throw confusing messages like this at the younger generation.

  32. Megumi Fujii is a wonderful role model for grapplers. If you are looking for someone else, I would highly recommend her. As for Gracie, I do not know if it some aspect of Brazilian culture that I do not understand but I do agree with the sentiments about I wouldn’t use those pictures to help promote bjj.

  33. Brilliant post, JiuJiu, thank you for taking the time and effort to put together a calm and complicated analysis of the photos and the bro-sponses. I love how you unpacked the difference between Kyra’s skin photos – oh, wow look how healthy and fit BJJ makes you! – and the sexy photos -ugh, *sigh*. I love too how you point out the ‘trouble’ with Kyra’s public persona from a woman in BJJ perspective. Sure, she’s awesome at BJJ. Yes, her fitness is 100% aspirational. Absolutely, her grass-roots charity work is commendable. However, the glamour-shot aspect to her brand-building is, to me, unprofessional and more than a little gross and disappointing; I wish she’d use her agency differently and while she can’t be disentangled from BJJ, wish she’d at least keep the gi and belt out of the ‘lad-mag’ images. At any rate, this sort of thing makes me appreciate the PR choices of athletes of women such as, Ribeiro and Staack who’s public representations contrast with Gracie’s, all the more.

  34. Your article is awesome. Mads Maagaard, bjj brown belt and not impressed by tje brofists in the air/dat ass-comments.

  35. I don’t really understand what you are complaining about. I thought it was about Kyra’s pictures but then you write:
    “The photos themselves don’t make me feel gross. It’s that these photos seem to bring out dicks.”

    So now I assume you complain that there are many assholes in the world(mostly men). While this is fact I don’t see what this has to do with feminism. I hate dislike assholes. They are obnoxious when going out. Write stupid annoying comments on ANY subject (check youtube for proof).

    I think you would be happier accepting the world as it is and either
    1. Don’t read comments online (Because people dickness are multiplied by 1000)
    2. Only stay in moderated places.

    Brown belt, Good guy and tired of assholes(both genders) and over-correctness.

    • If we let concerns about overcorrectness prevent us from speaking out on topics that are important to us and instead push us to accept the world as it is, much injustice goes unremedied. And that’s exactly what these kinds of pictures and the responsive brofisting creates- injustice and minimization and sexualization.

  36. It would be much more helpful for female grapplers if Kyra (and others) would not consent to being objectified/sexualized in pictures. I explain quite frequently to non-bjj people that when you get on the mats it’s not a sexual thing. (I do believe most male grapplers would agree.) Yet, Kyra makes my argument much weaker for women. She’s blurring the line. The bros don’t need another woman with her pants off to make stupid comments about, but the young girls out there do need one with her gi pants on to look up to.

  37. Kyra lives in brazil. Brazilians are different. She probably does not have time to think about the sad pervs.

  38. I’m disillusioned because it is Kyra Gracie doing it. Had it been a random female practitioner or just a model in a gi ad I wouldn’t care but for the female representative of BJJ’s first family to be doing this is distasteful. It’s not as though she has to do it to make a name for herself or to show that she is sexy. Everything about it just screams unnecessary.

  39. I find it hard to differentiate between pictures taken with the intention to show that women can be sexy in spite of being athletes and pictures just trying to sell something by sexualizing the athlete. As a man I´m confronted with both sides of the argument frequently. On the one hand there are instances where someone feels they are not valued as a woman because of her athletic physique or particular sport and on the other hand there are those who feel they are not taken seriously because they feel reduced to a sexual object.

  40. I love these photos! You can’t control peoples thoughts on the mats. If a woman wants to be sexy and happens to be an amazing athlete then I have no problem with her expressing both sides of her female self. It is not sexist, demeaning, or terrible for someone to want to hook up with an amazing, sexy, athlete like Kyra. It would be nice if the comments below the pics were better worded or had less of a “boys locker room” feel but, you can’t control what others say and do. The only thing I expect from my male teammates is to be respectful (no grabby grabby time), train hard, and help keep us both safe. But that might just be me. I think something we should all focus on is that Kyra chose to do this. Kyra has amazing skill and accomplishments to match her looks. She is not the typical model that other companies have selected to “market” BJJ. She is legit on the mats. This isn’t objectification, it is a real athlete showing off what athletes look like.

  41. This is something that makes the author and other women feel uncomfortable. “They’d never say anything like that in person.” Of course not. Women have locker room style talk as well (I’ve been present) and they wouldn’t say it in person either. That’s a moot point of whether or not it would be said in person.

    I honestly don’t get how this relates to BJJ. When Danica Patric models, she’s not sexualizing formula1 racing or nascar. When bikini clad models also don football gear, they’re not sexualizing football. Kyra is not involved in the sexualization of BJJ. She’s showing herself off. I don’t see the problem.

  42. Thanks for writing this! It drives me nuts seeing photos like this. I’m not interested in censoring anyone, but it’s massive dangerland if photos like this float about without any critique or discussion. On the mats we’re so rarely objectified but off we’re nameless meat with interchangeable heads. Whether she likes it or not, Kyra is an ambassador of women to the sport both because of her lineage and her skill. Photoshoots like this do us no favours at all. BJJ is pretty young. Women are pouring into the boys club and they’re going to start coming into it in larger numbers as the decade progresses. In a way, it’s up to us to help determine the nature of the sport for women. We set the pace and we’re responsible (incl Kyra) for laying the rules. I’d like to veto Kyrashots for my sake and the sake of the next woman to sign up for BJJ.

  43. I agree with most of the statements. As a purple belt in jiujitsu I have been on the mats quite awhile and never felt uncomfortable training with me. I absolutely admire Kyra Gracie and her talent in the sport, however I think she blurs the lines between woman are only for sexual pleasure and a strong independent woman. I think it degrades us and gives men that find certain woman attractive on the mats more incentive to think of them not as a training partner but as a tool to get off after class. The pictures do make me feel uncomfortable when they are purely sexual, if she posed nude I would respect her more, but to but 1/2 a gi on and pose like come F* me, it makes me uncomfortable when I step in the mats with men after a big shoot like this comes out. I LOVE her first shoot even the first of the second set shown here, past that its gone to far. I also think a super sexy steamy shoot like these done for her man would be hot as hell, but to go public with them, I fear it can lead to more incidents like that of the LI boys.

  44. I think she looks hot, I’m totally fine with it. I would be disturbed if someone took a freeze frame of one of her matches and had the same comments, but these are posed and are meant to be looked at a certain way. I’ve been guilty of checking out male ‘talent’ with my female teammates, why should it be any different? These images are what make it to sports illustrated, etc. Both male and female (firefighters, anyone?) These pictures have not affected my training or love for the sport, the males at my gym, and also gyms I have visited have always been respectful. I’m not going to try and control their locker room talk, as they should leave mine alone too 🙂

  45. my wife trains with me. every time i see these pictures i wonder if the guys she rolls with in class have seen them and have that thought on the brain when they have their hands all over her. makes me kinda uneasy, but she has never had a situation in the gym that made her uncomfortable. if she did then i’d have something to say to them, and it wouldn’t be a friendly conversation.

    oh well.

  46. I don’t begrudge Kyra doing any photoshoots she wants. Her sexuality is hers and she can express it however she likes. We know it’s essentially impossible for female athletes to make a living just from competing in their sports (there was an ESPN Nine for IX doc on this a few days ago). It’s a shitty situation, but if a female athlete can raise their profile and gets more sponsorship and money through sexy photoshoots I am not going to criticize them because they’re doing what they can in a massively unfair system.

    That being said, I agree with everything you said about forum comments. I’m a straight man, but the level of creepiness in those conversations makes me super uncomfortable and sad for humanity. Although I guess on the bright side those threads let us all know who the misogynists and creepers are on the forums so women can know to avoid them in real life…

  47. Wow. Just…wow. The post was spot-on to me (I’ve written about it before as well) and I agree – sexualizing BJJ is not good, but it especially ain’t good when it is done by what many see as the best in the sport. It doesn’t really matter so much what she feels about it personally to me, but as sort of the unofficial spokeswoman for females on the mat, I really believe the onus is on her to make a clear distinction between Kyra the pin-up model and Kyra the BBJ practitioner.

    I’m not a prude in any sense and I do not grapple, but I can say that I only know of Kyra by the photos of her in her pink gi pants and sports bra. When I was told “That’s Kyra Gracie and she’s one of the best at BJJ in the world” I immediately thought “Why is she posing like THAT then?” Her athleticism and prowess on the mat should be what tells the world about BJJ, not her come hither stare and butt cheek peeking out from under her gi – and truthfully, if I would have seen pics of her like this while I was looking for a martial art all those years ago, I probably would have bypassed grappling altogether BECAUSE of them.

    And for those of you female practitioners saying that what SHE does in her gi has no bearing on you at all, you are sadly mistaken. Think about it this way: it’s more about how you (we) are perceived as a result of this type of sexualization of MA. Just because you don’t think it effects you doesn’t make that effect any less real/true.

  48. Good analogy. Female police officers, soldiers and teachers HAVE posed in parts of their uniforms…and been fired.

    Respect the uniform, or lose it, as it reflects on everyone else in the service.

    Or dojo.

  49. Pingback: Hey guys, no one blames you for liking those Kyra Gracie pics. | Syd1138

  50. After reading your sexy v sexual ads article, I took a look at this one.. I really like that frame of mind, but like all things in life there’s a spectrum, and I think there’s some gray area in the middle where I’m not sure about everyone else’s boundaries.

    For example, a couple (in my opinion) VERY subtle details separate sexy picture 1 of Kyra from sexual picture 1 of Kyra. Sweat, a tilted chin, and a different facial expression seem to put two pictures that are essentially identical and OK in my eyes in completely different categories for you.

    I don’t really know where I’m going with this train of thought, just something I noticed.

  51. In the months since some of the more risque photos have spread online, I have read many of the comments left by men and women, some of which were rather embarrassingly obnoxious. Ignoring the obnoxious comments, allow me to make an observation.
    There remains a double standard.in the world of sports (okay, the world). While women have largely been accepted in the world of sports, they often do not enjoy the same respect that their male counterparts do, Women in sports are often celebrated more for their looks than their talent, particularly if they are attractive women. In recent years, we have seen some of the higher profile women like Kyra, Ronda Rousey, and Miesha Tate in rather risque pictures. Right or wrong, sex sells, and such pictures can bring attention and money (in the form of sponsors) into the sport.
    I met Kyra on one of the Gracie Cruises, and I have had and continue to have the utmost respect for her. She persevered at a time when even most of the men in her family (rather clan) thought she should quit and leave the competition to the BJJ to the men. I may not agree with her choices [of photos], but hell, I don’t agree with a lot of my own.

    • I totally agree with you. The video BRANDED that I linked to in Talent Sells, Not Sex, was really great about breaking some of this down. It made me rethink some of my position. The reality is: for women athletes to become NOTICED, they must be beautiful or sexy. OR they go totally clean cut, princess, shut your mouth and don’t be disagreeable – such as Mary Lou Retton. This is a sucky reality.

      I think that’s why I have a lot of respect for women athletes who do NOT go down the “sexy” route. I recognize the reality of those who DO pose sexily – after all, that’s the reality they live in if they’re trying to get big name , but I disagree with the notion that this needs to be done in their uniforms. I would like very much for BJJ to be a neutral sport, but it IS more difficult when those pictures get traded around.

      Basically I hold two opposing and conflicting viewpoints:
      1. Celebrate your body and independence.
      2. Keep sexuality out of BJJ

      To be continued in a future blog post…

  52. I’m truly saddened by some of the disgusting comments guys post about these pics, but I have zero problem with the pictures themselves. Every year in ESPN magazine there are male athletes with a football or some other sport-related object held carefully in front of their package. How someone chooses to express themselves is their own choice. The infantile responses should be blamed on those making them. As for Kyra posing in a gi, she’s a jiu jitsu athlete posing for a jiu jitsu magazine, of course she’s wearing a gi. I doubt there would be the same negative reaction (or gross sexual comments) if they were pictures of Clark Gracie half naked in a gi

  53. Hi, As I said in another post, I´m from Brazil. Actually it´s very common to see this kind of publication here… almost every pretty girl that is a sports girl has actually done a photoshoot naked or half naked with something related to her sport. I don´t know if it´s a cultural thing but personally as a girl I don´t think this is offensive for the sport anyway, but this is so usual and ordinary here (this kind of publication) that I´m used to it. Man do say offensive and sexist things because they are rude, sexist and unpolite people. But it´s just my point of view. We do have some gay/girls magazine that usually does photoshoots with male atletes and the approach is usually the same.

  54. Pingback: Touch and BJJ | Positional Hierarchy

  55. I work in an industry where sexualized images are so common that I hardly notice them any more (well, I say any more, I’ve never been a particularly visual person), and I’m a huge fan of bodybuilding so I spend endless hours pouring over pictures of men in trunks and women in bikinis. So, when I see those pictures I just see someone with fairly low bodyfat standing around. I was reminded of how odd my behaviour was when a friend caught me zooming in on a still from a video of Jay Cutler and asked me if my husband was OK with me looking at pictures of other men like that. It’s hard to explain to other people that bodybuilders are a carefully arranged collection of muscles, not “sexy dudes”. Just like it’s hard to explain that rolling with someone of another gender is just a different way of getting your arms cranked on.

    I’m a lot more sensitive to behaviour than I am appearance. Over the last few weeks we’ve had a few new girls show up to the gym. One of them actually wore a gi – admittedly a karate gi, but my first thought was “at least she’s tried to come prepared”. The other wore yoga pants and the tightest top I’ve ever seen, she was a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen and even had make-up on. The girl in the gi spent the entire lesson ignoring the instructor and quizzing me about one of the young blue belts. “He’s so cute! How old is he? I love his accent, where’s he from? No, really, he’s cute!”. The other woman concentrated fiercely the entire lesson, tried her hardest to do every drill and exercise, and even had a shot at rolling with that young blue belt.

    At the end of the lesson they both decided that BJJ wasn’t for them, but I kind of wish that Ms Yoga Pants had come back. She really tried her best in the lesson and I suspect she just had no idea that she was going to be chest-to-chest with people, or pushing her makeup covered face into people’s bodies. You can learn appropriate dress from experience, but it’s harder to change the attitude of someone who sees the entire class as a potential dating pool.

    Focusing a bit more on the topic of the post specifically – Sexy posters of athletes don’t bother me because I don’t think about that sort of thing on the mats and I don’t think any of the guys at my gym do either. The last time the sexy women conversation came up at the gym I joked to one of the upper belts that our instructor is so BJJ obsessed that if Eve Torres and Michelle McCool put on an old style WWE diva mud wrestling exhibition match at the gym he’d only bother to watch them so that he could critique the quality of the BJJ. They agreed, and responded with “Hang on, Undertaker does BJJ but does Michelle McCool?”. I think the fact they didn’t respond with “Well yeah I wouldn’t care about McCool either, she’s a bit too skinny for me” or something like that indicates that everyone on the mats is too focused on training to care about who is cute and who isn’t. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what they look at in their spare time, mat time is for drilling and rolling.

    There will always be tasteless comments made on sexualized pictures. Some of those comments may be from people who genuinely think like that, but others are probably just people trying to be funny. It’s not ideal, but I think it’s important to spread the message that the real life BJJ community is absolutely nothing like the busiest BJJ and MMA forums.

  56. ROFL Etali on your description of Ms Yoga Pants.

    I can totally identify with your seeing bodybuilders as “just a carefully arranged collection of muscles”. I myself have become so accustomed to looking at lactating breasts because of my work. So when I see posters of obviously enhanced breasts (either surgically or digitally) what first comes to mind is that engorgement that bad would be painful – she would feel more comfortable if the baby fed or she used a breast pump.

    I was trying to figure out how I felt about all this discussion since I’m now 56 and pictures of so-called hot guys don’t interest me since I’m a) married and b) come to prefer personality over looks. And at age 56 I seriously doubt anyone looks at me the way they would have when I was in my 20s. Also, I’m noticing the assumption here is that attraction is only hetero – when it can also be homo — so if men just train with men and women just train with women you would still have the potential for eroticization and attraction.

    When I see younger men and women eyeing each other or listen to locker room conversations about who’s hot and who’s not, I never particularly noticed that it is more intense than conversations I hear in any other sports activity I have engaged in. The strangest behavior I saw was one of the older guys (early 50s) who really worked out to an extreme degree, constantly checked himself out in the mirror, and wanted me to take a picture of him one day for his Facebook page. He had a great body but his personality was so narcissist it made him completely unattractive.

    When I look at the photos above – I only found two photos made me feel uncomfortable. The middle photo in the second set of three photos, where her pants are lowered enough to see her hip bones reminds me of the Calvin Klein ads on the buses where the pants are just a little too low for my taste. It doesn’t make me feel extremely uncomfortable – just gives me the itch to pull the pants up by a quarter ince. The photo on the right with her back against the wall is the one that I find distasteful. It reminds me of soft core porn because the choice of colors make the white triangle of her panties the central focus and you can almost, but not quite see her labia.

    At the same time it is not a particularly sexy shot. It reminds me of how Mylie Cyrus dances. Twerking can be incredibly sexy (and actually how women and men danced in the Congo when I was in Peace Corps predating twerking was even sexier). Mylie Cyrus can’t dance and so it looks like an awkward and embarrassing attempt at “I’m going to show you as much of my body as I can get away with and touch what you can’t see” which is not at all sexy. Many women have shown off more of their body than Mylie but I think the reason why she received so much more criticism than others in the sea of exposed celebrity flesh is that it was done so awkwardly.

    The worst photo I ever looked at was Anthony Weiner in his gray shorts. How he thought that might be attractive to any woman on the planet is beyond my conception. If you’re gonna expose yourself publically you should at least wear something that IS sexy.

    • Hahahaha your “strangest behavior” guy made me laugh a bit. I wonder if he recently lost a fair amount of weight.

      I think that sexuality can be used sensually and crassly. I know I prefer sensuality over raw sexuality. Hints over smacking you in the face. But still – prefer less sexuality in general in my jiu jitsu.

  57. In case no one has mentioned it… What is and is not appropriate is cultural (Simone, Charlie, and LRB already pointed to the fact that Brazilian culture is.. well.. a different culture). Secondly, it is not up to the model to determine what is appropriate to the sensibilities of each culture (think Middle East), but the EDITORS of each medium in EACH COUNTRY. The same way every mother does things behind closed doors so their kids aren’t exposed to it, you would want to limit your kid’s access to inappropriate material. It takes three to tango! The model, the editor, and the audience. The impact/damage/context can be controlled at any of the three points.