Jiu Jiu’s Note: This came from a female reader of mine. She does jiu jitsu in Korea as well, outside of Seoul. Her question easily pertains to both smaller women and to smaller guys. I would really love to hear from the smaller folks who read!

I took a break from jiujitsu for awhile after getting married because my life became too busy and I worked during the class times. I want to get back into it but before I do I want to get your opinion how about how to perform.

I usually play cautious as I’m the only woman at the gym, so I fight men and I really don’t want to end up seriously hurt. By “seriously,” I mean broken bones or surgery required. I’ve had 3 black eyes, and I don’t count them seriously. I’m usually a cautious player, but even cautious, I can defeat the big strong manly men with my technique unless they’re 300 lbs and sit on me (true story).

Anyway, as the big strong manly men train more they often get rougher in their approach and it feels like they are seeking revenge. If I ask not to spar with them I’m narrowing my competitors because men here don’t like to spar with women. I’ve trained at 3 out of the 4 gyms here and am going to try the 4th one but don’t expect it to be different. I want to go in with a plan so that if i have to pretend to suck I can do it from the beginning so that no one knows I’m going easy.

I am not in jiu jitsu for competition; I want exercise. I also don’t want to be a bull and hurt someone or get hurt myself. While I’m not asking for someone to go easy, I am asking that they pay attention to what they are doing and being respectful as a partner. A lot of the newer and especially younger guys are quite insulted when a woman beats them, even though I’ve rolled for more than 3 years and they started 3 days ago. Therefore they don’t follow anything but their mind telling them to get a tap. At one point i had a man with his hands pressed to my neck choking me because I had gotten a tap from him the roll before. I did pass out and I was blamed for not tapping. It happened super fast and there was not much i could have done. He had deliberately wrapped his fingers around my neck to choke me.

There have just been multiple times where even 3 stripe white belts have grabbed my arm and yanked it for an armbar causing it pop…not too terribly painful but a little scary. If you are a male playing in male dominated sport, you cannot know what it’s like. If you defeat a guy it hurts their pride a little but they take a look at you and say “ah hes got a lot of training under his belt better luck next time.” I defeat them its like “geez I got beat by a girl…everyone saw it…so embarrassing.” Now I have to show them I was just going easy. I can’t really know what they’re thinking, all I know is their reaction. It is completely different.

What do you advise? My plan at this point is just playing positions and never go for submissions. I hate that though, because my initial purpose for jiu jitsu was for self defense and I feel like with playing position only game it does not allow me to train for a real situation. what do you think?

Jiu Jiu’s Question: What advice would you give M? Please keep in mind that she is in a non-western country that is still quite patriarchal. Her response really is about the physical aspect of keeping herself safe, so I hope people can contribute more than simply “tap faster.”