I didn’t intend to start doing BJJ; it fell in my lap.

I’m a larger woman and wanted to finally do something about the size and shape of my body. I know myself very well and know that just joining a gym or just going running won’t do it. I need the structure of class and an external motivation to keep me coming. People are a strong external motivator for me, so a class where I’m meeting people and building strong relationships motivates me.

Two of the guys at my office do judo, so I asked one it would be okay if I joined his judo gym. Seemed like it would be interesting and healthy. Plus, judo! I’d get to throw people around! Woo hoo!

I called my friend, Margaret, and she mentioned that she wanted to start some yoga or dance class. I asked if she’d like to do judo with me and she said yes! So now I was all set–judo and even a friend to do it with.

Then reality set in. By that I mean the guy from the office was supposed to take me there my first time. We set a date but when it came time he told me, “I’m actually kind of busy, let’s do it next week.” We set it for Monday, which was a holiday, so no class. We set it for Wednesday, but he got sick. FINALLY I asked if he would be okay if we went without him.


He would have felt a little uncomfortable, he wanted to make sure he was there because the instructor didn’t speak English, etc. So he did send me an email recommending I go to John Frankl Jiu Jitsu at Apgujeong, saying there were many Americans who went there. He even knew the instructor and would call to tell him we were coming.

A little annoying–I mean, it’s not even the same sport! The only things I knew about BJJ were from a UFC game I watched YEARS ago–Royce Gracie winning UFC. So I thought it would be just guys :(. Then I thought, hey, it would be just guys ;). Imagining the lack of women made me uncomfortable. I imagined it would be really aggressive, I mean–UFC! My friend was concerned because it said “Competition Team” and so there were quite a few negatives, but we decided to check it out anyway because we really didn’t know.

We showed up and there was no class. People were there, but they were doing just open sparring but no formal class. Was the instructor expecting us? Nope. The guys seemed very nice–we met the instructor, but we were still iffy. So we asked when a regular class would be and decided to return.

Next time there was a class. Some of the same people said hello to us. We watched the class, nervously laughing, unsure of ourselves. Then we met the women. We asked them about the guys, about the class, if they felt comfortable, etc. We had a very positive reaction, so we decided to come back.

June 1, 2010 I went for my first class with my friend. I went into the bathroom to put it on. BIG MISTAKE. It was seriously horrible. The floor was entirely wet because in Korea the bathroom IS the shower. So I changed on a tiny square in the toilet section, where there was a 2’x2′ bamboo raised surface. Stood on it changing, trying not to look at the filthy toilet that had toenail clippings in it, wondering why the hell I was there.

In class I met some VERY nice men who were so nice and friendly and even though I felt VERY awkward they made it an extremely positive experience. I hadn’t worked out in YEARS (body by television) and had never been an athlete. Also, felt a bit uncomfortable about how sexual many of the positions felt, but between my friend and me we decided it was something we would continue.

Thankfully that awareness of the “sexuality” of BJJ left after about a week and a half. There was one move that I had such a horrible gut reaction to and would not let my partner do on me. I don’t know what it’s called, but one person lays on their back, their partner grabs the collar of their gi, pulls it open and stuffs it in their armpits, then goes into full mount–sitting on their stomach. Basically it felt like a rape move. Even imagining a guy practicing that on me brought up a huge primal reaction, especially since at the time I was only wearing as sports bra under my gi! I said “I’m sorry, I can’t” and just stood out for that drill.

Since then I’ve had that move used on me in sparring and no negative feelings. 🙂 I would DEFINITELY drill that move now, but at the time, being so new in BJJ, still so uncomfortable, it was too much.

Turns out one of the other guys I share an office with also does BJJ, so I had someone to talk to about it during work. At home I looked up BJJ on the Internet and came across Jiu Jitsu Forums and started posting there very regularly after only 2 weeks in. My friend also had a series of unfortunate events happen and so I ended up going by myself–something I had initially dreaded, but I was surprised to find myself excited anyway. I connected with the guys at the gym and found them absolutely wonderful, funny, kind, and I really looked forward to seeing them every time. Second month I paid for the all-you-can-eat deal instead of the 3 days a week, and haven’t looked back.

What I thought would be a simple way to get healthier has turned into an addiction. I try to go 5 days per week, next week I’m starting crossfit to help my BJJ, and in October, yoga to help increase my flexibility. I’ve changed my diet, even found a stretching partner. All because of my love of BJJ.

So why did I get into BJJ? Because the guy at my work didn’t take me to his judo gym. To him I say, “Thank you.” Why did I sign up for classes? Because of the women there. To them I say, “Thank you.” Why did I keep doing BJJ? Because of the guys at my gym. To them I say, “Thank you.” Why do I keep doing BJJ? Because I absolutely love it. BJJ, thank you so much.