There’s a video going around the internet called “Why Women Should Train Jiu Jitsu.” The video is respectful toward women. There is no speaking, and it’s safe for work, so you can watch it without sound if you need. It’s worth a watch:
Katie from A Skirt on the Mat wrote about it yesterday. She wrote that she’d seen several negative opinions about the video. Personally, I thought it was wonderful.
This is vastly different than the Mata Leon gi commercial, in which a woman defends herself from burglars, and she does it with no pants! Again, no words – but this is not as safe for work. The uploader called it “Sexy Kimono BJJ” and described it as This crazy chick kicks butt in this sexy kimono ad commercial. I would take the beating from this hottie any day!
The first video seems to be directed at women, while the second more at the male voyeur. I don’t say that in a “OMG DUDES ARE FANTASIZING ABOUT WOMEN AND THAT’S BAD” way – but more in a way that I think that the audiences are intentionally different. One is playing upon a woman’s concern, the other upon a male fantasy. For example, here are some of the comments written at DSTRYRsg:
This crazy chick kicks butt in this sexy kimono ad commercial. I would take the beating from this hottie any day!
Anyone who says sex doesn’t sell in BJJ is probably not being honest enough. We’re talking about a very attractive young lady, in nothing but panties and a gi top, triangle chocking the crap out of a dude. We’re only human, right grapplers?
Let’s now compare the videos to this image that was circulating a while back:
Edited to add: My reaction to this comic is slightly different knowing that it was done by a individual for her personal site rather than for a company. I unknowingly posted it with the artist’s name stripped and a big name gi company in its stead – that SUCKS. My apologies for posting that without artist credit, and a HUGE thanks to Malcolm for bringing it up!! Go check out Mariste’s BJJ drawings on her Facebook site!
Personally, I had a weird reaction to the cartoon. Sure, it’s got a similar message to the video, but it left me with a neutral reaction. Perhaps it was the the term “girls” vs “women” – when I see “why girls should learn BJJ” it feels slightly less mature than the phrase “why women should learn BJJ.” Part of it could have been the intentional caricature of a rapist or bad guy – it is hyperbole, an intentional black hat, an over the top exaggeration. I’ve never met that weird, zombie would-be rapist before. However, in the video, that guy is AnyGuy – he’s the guy I am concerned about meeting in a bar. He’s the one who intentionally crosses boundaries – both socially and physically – and I’d be concerned about being alone with him. He’s the “normal” guy I would be concerned about.
As Katie put it:
The video here is a much more tasteful portrayal of a situation that every woman will instantly recognize, even if they do not have personal experience with it: the pushy advances of a man, who just doesn’t want to take no for an answer. The fear here is being overpowered, and taken out of the bar to a place where help cannot reach you.
I think it’s a great video, and one that I could identify with. The caricature – sure, it has the right message, but is presented in a way that is harder to identify with.
Jiu Jiu’s Question: What were your thoughts on/reactions to the video or cartoon? Have you seen other depictions like these? Please link them below if you have. Have you seen other
much as I would prefer Kyra to have pants on, I don’t get the same reaction to any of the video’s or the cartoon.
Yes, the bar scene is one any woman could end up in.
The shower? Well, if you have your gi jacket and belt hanging nicely in the bathroom, it’d take less time to put those on and a pair of knickers than all of the above plus the pants…so if it were happening in reality, I don’t think I’d take the time to drag on gi pants and haul on the strings, the jacket covers pretty much everything anyway. Yeah the comments are more salacious, but some people can make anything smutty.
The cartoon doesn’t bother me. I get called ‘girl’ in many places , not just at BJJ and I’d rather be called a girl than a chick. Cartoon guy doesn’t look ‘evil’ to me, just looks like cartoon dude next door.
Yeah – I don’t speak for all women – and I think that’s one thing that bothers me about the entire “Why Women Should Train BJJ” campaigns. Not everyone is there for the same reason. I think it’s very different to say “A Reason Why Women Should Train BJJ” rather than the blanket statement. But still – I have to agree that as an ad campaign it resonated with me most strongly.
Can you clarify – do you believe that the pantsless video woman video was intended to appeal to the dudes and encourage smutty comments, or do you think it falls into the “marketing toward women” – right now I’m not sure if you’re saying that this was not smutty and that folks’ comments were, or what.
I also personally would prefer that Kyra had her pants on, but I also find it incredibly difficult to get my pants on, tie them and have them stay in place. Jumping jacks always seem to pull the ties loose. I have pretty much given up on the BJJ gi bottoms and wear an old pair of pants from the white gi I got when I started Tai Kwon Do. Plus I seem to have lost my BJJ gi bottoms anyway, dragging around too many gis from home to the dojo since I added BJJ to the mix.
Personally, my impression that the pantless video is marketing to mostly to dudes and to some women who find it gratifying to be both sexy and strong at the same time.
If I were stuck in a shower and had someone attack me I probably wouldn’t stop to put anything on and it would definitely not not look sexy in a video. I did have my house broken into when I was in Peace Corps. When I woke up and realized there were robbers in my home, I never stopped to think for a minute what I was wearing. I had no training in anything at the time and did what could have been a very dangerous thing. I grabbed a machete (which was useful for killing snakes) and screamed and ran after them because they stole my potatoes. I had waited a year to go to the big city to get those potatoes – the main starch was cassava which tastes like sour sawdust. I think the sheer shock value of a five foot tall crazed woman with a machete was what caused them to run. If my higher brain function had been intact and counteracted my lizard brain response I would NOT have done such a dangerous thing. Potatoes were clearly not worth it but my lizard brain didn’t care.
I’d put my life savings on the pantsless video being made to appeal to men. At the very least, it was made by a man. And from a marketing standpoint, it only makes sense. If the majority of the people buying your product, a gi, are men, who are you going to target with your commercial?
The inclusion of the shower is simply unnecessary. Sure, you want to portray her in a vulnerable position, and what’s more vulnerable than being naked? But the way it’s shot, the voyeuristic camera slowly crawling towards her, it’s exploitative. Not to mention there are many other ways to show someone being caught off guard or being vulnerable. Sitting at a laptop with headphones on, just plain asleep, etc.
I mean, I think the production’s slick, the submissions are cool, and I love how it ends (the door closing on the guy as he reaches for it; excellent piece of imagery). But it’s pretty obviously made by men, for men. And if I’m wrong and they did indeed intend for that to speak to women, they did a pretty poor job of it. C’mon, she does a backwards roll in slow motion with no pants on.
That’s an interesting one. I saw the same video this morning and had a negative reaction to it. I agree with you that it’s great to see a representation of women in BJJ that’s not sexual but that wasn’t what went through my head when I saw it. I was uncomfortable with the implication that a small women subduing a large man is easy and that this is why I should train BJJ. The video doesn’t mention how exact a technique has to be to overcome the strength difference. I did like that they didn’t suggest she was fighting off a resisting opponent and instead had her outsmart him to pull off the technique but I still felt it was misleading about how easy it is defend yourself with BJJ when you are much smaller and weaker. In my mind, that situation could have turned deadly if she had got the grips wrong or if he had realised what she was doing earlier. The video, just on it’s own merit is kind of awesome but the label ruined it for me. Very interesting to see your thoughts on it though. I hadn’t considered how it was different from the usual “pants thief” representations.
Hey – I’m curious about your reaction to Jaime’s comment below – the woman in brand management with advertising background.
I think that just as with blog posts, not every video needs to do everything. For me, it sold AN idea about jiu jitsu. It was not intended to be an instructional – but an advertisement.
Out of curiosity, what would you have labeled the video?
Hi Julia! My laptop wouldn’t let me comment on your blog for ages, so I’m delighted to get to join in the discussions again. I responded to Jaime below – sorry about how long the comment was!
I’m really not sure what I would have labeled the video. Maybe something along the lines of “Well she said no…” or “No means no.” or “Don’t harrass women at a bar.” In general something that implies that it is the responsibility of men not to harrass or attack women, rather than the current label which implies (to me) that women have a responsibility to “not be attacked” and should therefore learn BJJ. I totally admit to my tendancy to over-analyse though – my background is in social science and education.
I’m probably WAY off but I’m a little bit curious from the blog posts and comments, if there might be any connection between our different responses to the video and our proficiency in BJJ. With the same over-analysis: you and the other bloggers whose positive responses I’ve seen are all experienced colour belts, whereas I’m still very much a baby whitebelt. The video states that the cross collar choke is “BJJ 101” but as someone who is still blundering around in the 101 stage of training, this statement made me feel kind of guilty and inadequate.
Hey New Girl! Your comment made me change my comment policy to “Screw it. You guys have interesting things to say. Ramble away.”
I asked three non-bjj folks to post their comments on the video, so hopefully we’ll get some non-jiu jitsu reactions – since they are the intended audience.
Personally, I’ve been doing BJJ for 3.5 years, and I’m only just now at the point where I can sometimes hit submissions on folks, but still have never (to my knowledge) gotten a cross-collar choke on anyone. I just can’t do it. Yet I didn’t look at that as a “yo that’s easy” video – but rather a preview of something I will some day be able to do. I also really liked Meg’s response which included that jiu jitsu is not just about pajamas, but it mimics things people actually wear – so it translates into real life situations.
I try to be very aware and cautious about messages that are victim blaming, or put the responsibility on the victim. I truly didn’t feel like this video did. I felt like it instead gave a “Hey, you can add this in your arsenal if you come across a douchy dude” instead of “don’t be attacked” – more like “Yo ladies, this is potentially an option” which is one I’m more comfortable with.
Nah – don’t let anyone make you feel inadequate. Yes, it’s 101 – meaning it’s taught at a 101 level – in fact, I learned it 3.5 years ago in my first class. It’s still a fundamental technique, but does not mean that all newbies (or intermediate folks) can hit it.
And seriously – you have really interesting things to say and I’m incredibly glad you’re joining in the conversation. I was telling a friend today about how excited I was about the comment thread on here. ^_^ Please don’t feel like you’re too long winded or that you need to apologize. Your voice is totally welcome!
Thanks Julia, I feel a little bit important now with the change in comment policy! It’s really interesting to see how differently other women are reacting to the video. I initially saw it once on facebook, had my grumpy reaction and forgot about it, until I saw the blog posts about it emerging. I’m looking forward to seeing what the target audience thought of it. And kind of unrelated to but I normally wouldn’t be brave enough to get involved with an online debate like this – you’ve done an awesome job of creating a safe space to talk about women’s issues in BJJ.
I’m a definite newbie (maybe a fetal white belt?) and I am still traumatized that someone threw up on me when I did a cross-collar choke. At first I thought it was me not reacting quickly enough to her tap, but she had just gotten over the flu (she thought) and then proceeded to throw up two more times before she realized it was the flu and not me.
You raise good points, New Girl, but I think JiuJiu said it best. There’s only so much you can do with one short. And depending on the primary objectives and how effectively you want to communicate them, other aspects have to be neglected unfortunately.
In this day and age of short attention spans and 15-second sound bites, too many details, too many words, and too much length all typically result in the viewer zoning out and clicking on the next cat video. (Which is what I myself just did like an hour ago. Gimme a break, it was playing with iguanas…)
I found the video creepy. In addition to New Girl’s concerns (it’s not that easy to cross-choke someone, and takes practice and precision), I thought the fact that she was *beyond compliant* with the guy was very disconcerting. It took me most of the vid to decide if this was her boyfriend or a stranger! Seems to me the better first moves would be a) get up and move, b) call the bartender, c) get your phone out.
Pretend-snuggling with the guy was really a strange approach. I don’t think that’s really the self-defense message to send.
Hey – I’m curious about your reaction to Jaime’s comment below – the woman in brand management with advertising background.
MegJitsu also wrote about this – and touched on some of what you were talking about. Specifically, the aspect of being in a public place and asking for help.
To me, discussions of what would have ‘really’ happened in the situation depicted in the film are completely and utterly fruitless; totally moot. Let’s start with the fact that this is a film, not CCTV footage. It is a story, a representation, a symbol, you know, ‘art’.
I think the purpose of the video was to sell jiu jitsu on an aspect that could relate to women. Not to act as a “Hey ladies, this is exactly what you should do” but rather give an option in a situation that one could feel helpless. Had she said “Hey bartender, please stop this man” it doesn’t sell jiu jitsu. For me, the focus is on jiu jitsu, not on the absolute best approaches or best first moves.
Ultimately I see what MegJitsu saw here:
My reading of this film has very little to do with whether or not BJJ is effective in ‘real life’ self defence; whether or not the technical details of the tutorial are accurate; whether or not the woman in the situation represented here was justified in her response. Where I think this film has tremendous value is its presentation, in a very female-friendly way, of the practical usefulness of BJJ.
I think the video is tasteful and simple and will get women in the door of a school. That’s what it’s supposed to do. There’s a serious lack of women training in my area and I know that I’m sincerely hoping that circulation of this will encourage more women to come to the mats. Maybe a few will even stay! Obviously Jiu Jitsu is more complicated and than the video makes it because life doesn’t follow a script and no one is going to hold still and let you choke them. If they do, why would you be choking them? Take it at face value. I appreciate that she’s fully clothed and I’ve been in that same bar situation long before I started training Jiu Jitsu and I had to leave the bar to feel safe. Not anymore 😉
Yeah – I look at what its goal is: to sell jiu jitsu in a practical way to women, not to act as a step by step instructional. I’m curious about non-jiu jitsu women’s reactions to it – I think that as women in BJJ, our reaction to it is obviously colored by our relationship with jiu jitsu. It’s not intended to reach out to current jiu jitsu practitioners, but rather a familiar scenario that a woman may find her in in which BJJ would possibly give her options.
Yay for you feeling safer!
I do have to say that first video does have one benefit that is significant, if not obvious. It gets guys who wouldn’t normally think about these things to acknowledge that being pushy and aggressive with women isn’t ok. There are a lot of guys who wouldn’t object to that behavior “in the wild.” They’d sit idly by while their friends, or strangers do that kind of thing, but when they will watch that video will think “LOL, awesome! Creeper got what he deserved. Jiu jitsu is awesome.”
Is it a paradigm shifting, world shattering piece of media? No, but if it gets a couple guys to think about these interactions differently, that’s a good thing.
That’s a really interesting reaction that I hadn’t thought of. MegJitsu mentions here that many men were upset that she “overreacted” for the dude “just talking to her.”
I hope you’re right – that some will realize that “whoa – if she’s overreacting perhaps there’s a reason for it” rather than get defensive. I find that defensiveness is often a knee jerk reaction to a deeper emotion you haven’t really uncovered. For me, it often is covering up embarrassment or shame or me identifying with that behavior and not wanting to believe there’s anything wrong with it.
Thank you so much!!
It comes down to empathy, right? If I empathize more with the female jiu jitsuka more than the guy then I start from the position of: she’s doing the right thing. If someone can’t empathize with a person of a different gender then there isn’t much helping them.
You’re bang on. It’s embarrassing to admit that you were/are a jackass. (I was one, I probably still am in some situations, but I try to be an aware jackass so that I at least know when to apologize). I am sure the folks who are vociferously protesting are doing so as an outward form of denial.
Your second point is one of the biggest causes of misogyny/race/gender/romantic affiliation/whatever abuse : the mistaken thought that women/persons of color/LGBTQ/whatever folks don’t understand their own lives nearly as well as the male/white/cis-straight dude does.
That’s why blogs like yours, skirt on the mat, georgette, and many others (that I can’t think of right now) are so important. They show a women’s perspective in this predominately male space. They do so in a way that can be empathized with by the internet dude-bro collective. You (help) turn women in this space to full humans, instead of anthropomorphized sex orifices in a gi, in the minds of these dunderheads.
Please, keep up the good work!
So, I will never be in the situation the woman is the first video is facing & may be grossly overestimating my understanding of such situations, but doesn’t something seem a little off about all the non-bjj components of her reaction?
Isn’t the safest response still going to include a very verbal NO/FOAD response, in addition to whatever physical self defense options she has at her disposal?
Maybe they thought that level of reality would make it come across heavier than what they were going for, or something?
Rich – I think this is selling something specific – options to women. Unfortunately, not everyone understands that “no = no”. Unfortunately, there are those who intentionally violate women’s spaces and take advantage of how women in western society are socialized.
All of this is presented in a non-judgmental tone. It is by no means true of All Men of All Women. The goal is to help see that saying NO is not “just” saying no, and one needn’t always SAY no to be clear, nor does one always feel SAFE saying NO or rejecting a man in person.
Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear. ‘Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect while most women fear rape and death.’
This is beyond the scope of the video above, and falls into the Feminism 101. They’re good articles, not intended to raise defensiveness, but to give some understanding about why it may be hard for many women to say no. It’s about raising empathy, not “giving excuses.” Nor am I finger pointing at anyone or using blanket statements to talk about All Women or All Men.
First is this article – yes, it’s about rape – but more about how women are socialized to be permissible and not to set up concrete, strong boundaries and to enforce them verbally or physically. A lot of it is because women are often socialized that doing so will elicit a strong, perhaps dangerous reaction from men – and we don’t know which ones.. http://www.fugitivus.net/2009/06/26/another-post-about-rape-3/
Here’s an article about a woman’s experience with something like this – where she said clearly she didn’t want to dance (interact with him physically), and those boundaries were violated physically, and her words ignored: http://amandatheatheist.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/no-and-why-women-dont-say-it-more/
Here’s another article about “the art of NO” by one of my favorite bloggers, Captain Awkward: http://captainawkward.com/2011/03/23/the-art-of-no/
I was not behaving well by agreeing to dates and then cancelling them, but there was a reason I didn’t just say no in the first place. I didn’t know how. Also, I was afraid of Angry Guy.
Angry Guy responds to a cancelled date like this: ”But you SAID you were FREE and you AGREED and PROMISED now you are just being a FLAKE like ALL OTHER WOMEN.” In which case, bullet dodged – you don’t want to spend more time with Angry Guy – but what happens when you turn Angry Guy down in person? Angry Guy is pretty scary.
Captain Awkward wrote about it more here: http://captainawkward.com/2011/03/24/the-art-of-no-continued-saying-no-when-youve-already-said-yes/
In it, she gives some examples of how she set clear NO boundaries and they were continually violated.
It takes about 5 minutes on r/okcupid to see that this is a common thread in real life. Man says “Hey, wanna chat” she says “No thank you” he then either presses her for why, and when given a reason or not he continues by calling her a b#tch, c$nt, wh*re, or telling her she’s picky and will die alone. Think I’m kidding?
In case you think it is only online, there are so many videos about street harassment:
http://ldn.ihollaback.org/ – anecdotes about street harassment, including verbal and physical.
In any case, watch the video above again. There are zero words – it forces us to look at how they are both physically reacting. The man violates her physical space with his approach (approaches intimately), and says something offensive into her ear (assumed by her reaction). She shows a look of disgust (a “no” to cool dudes), she turns away from him physically (a “no” to cool dudes). He then attempts to physically assert control over her by grabbing her arm – not allowing her to exit (a cool dude would not do this). That’s when she reacts.
Okay, so imagine (and it’s not hard to do) that he is Angry Guy. She tells the bartender. The bartender kicks him out. He is FUCKING PISSED. He waits for her outside the bar and grabs her in the parking lot. Sorry, but that’s not a big stretch in my imagination.
One needn’t always verbally say NO to be a no, just as one needn’t always verbally say YES to be a yes. Physical reactions DO matter. Physically moving away and having a stranger physically assert control over you shows they are a scary/creepy/potentially dangerous individual. She put him to sleep and was able to walk away without him following her.
My hope is not that by reading all of the above that you will feel defensive or like “omg I can never speak to a woman again” or something even similar – my hope is that you will be able to watch the video with even just a bit more empathy and to understand that a very verbal NO does NOT always feel like the safest option to women, or it very often feels like, even when said, it will not be respected.
Yes, I’m at a point in my life where I will clearly say no to a dude, and I don’t give a shit how I look saying it. But I’m nearing 40 and not dealing with that type of interaction nowadays. A dude keeps hanging around me and my friends I will tell him “Please leave now” and if he doesn’t I’ll flip my shit out on him – after all, even if he calls me a crazy bitch, he’s still leaving.
As an expert in Brand Management with 15 years of advertising experience I can say that this is a very good ad. It does exactly what an ad does: sell. It sells jiu-jitsu very well. It sets the situation into a very common and relatable experience: a single woman in a bar being approached by an inebriated, “no means yes” guy who touches her without permission and violates her personal space.
She then takes advantage of his mistake, leaving his neck exposed, and applies a choke rendering him unconscious. The copy tells you what she’s doing, which is much more engaging them a voice over. I love the subtle statement that BJJ will help women be competent in this type of situation and not need a white knight to come and save them. Very well done.
I don’t understand the detraction against this commercial. I don’t get why people say that the situation is unrealistic. It’s way more realistic then other commercials I see. A lot of women get approached and assaulted in this manner.
I don’t understand New Girl’s or Mitymous’s statements. It’s a commercial. Would you want to see her struggling to get the choke? What kind of message does that send? Do you think you can jump higher than others when you put on a Michael Jordan sneaker?
Does NG realize that BJJ was developed for a smaller person overcome a bigger, stronger person? It’s not about strength. It’s not about grips. It’s about technique. She didn’t acquiesce too easily. She pulled away and he pulled her in, so she moved into him so he would let his guard down and she took advantage of it. That’s the point of BJJ. Not to mention that you’re assuming the guy would know what she was doing. Especially while inebriated.
I didn’t look at it as an ad or commercial but rather the way it was introduced to me, as a self-defense oriented presentation. Your interpretation does change a couple of my thoughts. If the sole intent was to get women interested in bjj, then absolutely, it’s effective, but maybe not smart in our instant gratification society.
If, however, the intent is to show a self-defense option, I don’t change my comments. I am a very small female and I’ve trained bjj for two years.. No way do I feel that even with two years of training, I’d make trying a cross collar choke on a big brute my first option. I know the “BJJ was developed for smaller person to overcome a bigger stronger person…it’s not about strength… it’s about technique” aphorism, but I train 99% with bigger stronger people, and I don’t ever overcome any of them. It gives me ZERO confidence for a situation like this (not that I ever have been or ever would be sitting in a bar).
If you see a Michael Jordan commercial and think the sneakers will make you jump higher, you buy them, and when you can’t jump higher, you still have nice sneaks.
If you see this commercial and think that with a couple of bjj lessons you’re safe from assault, then ….. probably not as benign an outcome.
How is an advertisement not smart? You realize that there are advertisements on TV, right? This wasn’t security camera footage. This was a scripted ad. It’s pretty obvious from the get go.
I’m sorry you feel that you don’t have any confidence, but you do realize that it takes between 15 to 20 years to become a black belt. That’s a really long time and that means that it takes A LONG time to get competent in BJJ. I’ve seen similar comments such as this, why do people assume that the woman in the video is a white belt? She could be a black belt. Or have 5 to 6 years of training.
You’re not alone. EVERYONE feels incompetent at BJJ for a LONG time. I’ve trained for 5 years, I’m a 2-stripe Blue Belt and I just pulled off my first successful triangle for the first time 5 months ago. There are A LOT of things I’m not competent in. We have plenty of Purple Belts in my school who murder me (not in the real sense, just in the sense that they are technically more proficient than I am) when I roll with them. I don’t even get a chance to pull anything off. Can’t pass their guard. Can’t escape their mount. Barely survive 2 minutes without getting tapped 3 times. AND I’m REALLY not athletic. I’m 45lbs overweight and have NO gas tank.
That’s really not the point.
The point of the ad is to sell Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as an art of self defense. It’s not to say that only after 1 hour of training you’ll be able to choke out the biggest, strongest man on the planet. Just like I said, you don’t buy Nike’s and think that the minute you tie an Air Jordan sneaker on your foot you’re going to be able to jump higher.
The ad doesn’t say that at all. It says BJJ 101, colar choke. That is a BASIC, simple technique that you can learn and you start learning from the get-go. That’s the first technique I learned in class and I’m still not competent in it. I haven’t pulled one off ever. But again, that’s not the point.
The ad says, “Hey ladies, you are all aware of this situation, here’s how you can defend yourself, not need someone to save you.” Plain, simple and pretty easy to understand.
Hi Jaime, that’s an interesting perspective. I am aware of the development of BJJ. Perhaps if I explain a little bit of my background, it might help you to understand my reaction to the video. I’m a tiny, 5 foot nothing woman and I’m the smallest person on my BJJ team, which is relatively new to my area so consists soley of whitebelts (other than our instructor). I have zero natural athletic ability, or talent, to make up for my size and I really suck at jiu jitsu (which I’m cool with thanks to Julia’s awesome post on the value of sucking!) While my teammates would not intentionally hurt me, it has been a terrifying reality check to be shown, class after class, how easy it is to physically overpower me. I’ve been training for about a year, and new men on their very first day can easily manhandle me. Technique can beat strength and size, that’s the idea of BJJ and it’s one of the reasons I love it, but it takes a lot of technique to make up that difference and I have not yet experienced it.
It’s very likely that my negative reaction to the video is related to where I am in my BJJ journey. I get frustrated with my (big, male) teammates telling me that it’s all about technique, then proceeding to muscle me. (Being submitted by pure technique feels very different to being submitted by large doses of strength.) I understand that my technique has to be more exact to have the same impact. (I think it was Georgette who wrote about how much harder it is to find the “sweet spot”, the smaller you are.). My reaction to training has not been assurance that I could defend myself, but completely the opposite. I know now that defending myself is much, much more difficult than I ever could have imagined. Of course I do not presume to speak for any woman other than myself – my experiences are mine – but my own initial reaction to seeing the video was a frustrated “It’s not that easy!”
Until you mentioned it, I didn’t realise that I wasn’t really looking at the video as an advertisement. I completely agree with you in that it’s an effective ad and it sells BJJ well. Of course ads are misleading. Of course I don’t believe that I’ll be transformed into a stunning supermodel if I only buy that foundation the TV says I need. I normally completely expect ads to over-simplify and exaggerate to sell products. For some reason, it seems that I was holding this video up to a much higher standard than I would normally expect from any ad. I also understand that this ad is not aimed at me since I’m already in BJJ. If I had seen that video before I started training, I probably would have loved it and been even more excited about training. I suspect though that I would have been even more disappointed in myself later when I couldn’t make techniques work on the big boys in class, even the ones with less technique.
Anyway, apologies for rambling on quite so much, this comment is turning out a bit longer than I’d planned! I hope it makes a bit more sense of my earlier statement.
Here’s my background. I’m a non-athletic, 45lb overweight, 37-year old 2-stripe blue belt who has been training 2 times a week (2 hours every class) for 5 years. Also, when I’m not training, I work at a desk job and spend my non-work, non-BJJ time reading books, watching 15 hours of TV a week, eating cheesesteaks (I live in Philadelphia), playing video games, playing board games (Jiu Jiu and I share a passion for Pathfinder) and sleeping. In other words I have a very sloth-like, gluttonous life.
And after 5 years I still don’t feel competent at BJJ. As I said above I just pulled off my first, successful triangle for the first time in 5 years. I have never tapped someone with a collar choke although I have been tapped by them millions of times. Most of my submissions have come from side mount although the majority of the time I simply survive and don’t tap anyone.
And you know what? That’s fine. My instructor is a Black Belt and has trained for 18 years under Rorion Gracie and he still talks about getting better and better every day, every week, every month and every year. If he’s a BB and still getting better at BJJ then isn’t it normal to feel incompetent now and work on getting better? The want to get better is a good thing. That’ll drive you to get better and you’ll see that you are getting better.
As Jiu-Jiu has stated, you’ll suck at BJJ for a long time. All of us do. You’ll feel great at it one day and you’ll feel REALLY bad the next couple of days. I remember the first time I tapped a Purple Belt. I thought “Yes, I am good at BJJ” only to spend the subsequent 6 months getting my ass kicked. Why did that happen? Because the Purple Belt learned, got better and used that against me.
One of the best ways I found to look at my progress at BJJ is to ask yourself “Could the BJJ me of today beat the BJJ me of last year?” If the answer is yes then you’re doing everything right.
I will say though that when it comes to someone struggling with BJJ, especially females training with mostly males that it’s either one or a combination of the following: the quality of the instructor and the quality of his instruction, the culture of the school or the type of BJJ they train (self defense BJJ vs sport BJJ).
Unfortunately, there are A LOT of bad instructors out there. Just because you have Black Belt doesn’t mean you can teach. As a matter of fact it’s probably better that you don’t teach. I’ve seen Blue Belts who were better teachers. I’ve trained at a lot of different places because my work requires that I travel. I can speak to the bad instruction out there with authority. Also, I have found that some instructors think that everyone is like them and can’t come down to their level. Not to mention that they take this “coach” mentality and push people rather than instruct them. There is a difference.
A lot of BJJ academies have harsh, testosterone grind house cultures that call for the students to go balls to the wall when training. Even expecting you to spar on your first day when you know nothing. That’s not only stupid that’s dangerous. I’ve even seen schools where the instructor tells higher belts to hurt visitors from other academies in order to prove their academy’s superiority. That’s not good. Not only that, but there are a lot of guys that train BJJ and they can’t deal with women. It’s really stupid and I wish more instructors were cognizant of that and make sure their cultures and their students were more welcoming.
Finally, sport BJJ is a lot more Greco-Roman wrestling with a gi rather than Jiu-Jitsu. It’s all about athleticism and strength versus technique and timing. And if you don’t have those gifts than you will struggle and your learning curve is a lot bigger and longer than people with those gifts.
If you can find an academy in your area that teaches self defense versus sport I think you’ll see a bigger difference. But that’s up to you. If you’re happy where you are then that’s fine.
The ad does not say that you’ll be able to pull off this self defense after 1 hour of training. This woman could be a black belt for all we know. That’s not the point. The point is that BJJ will give you the technique and confidence to protect yourself should you encounter this situation and not need someone else’s help. That’s a good thing. That’s very positive and true.
Jaime your post is making me LOVE my BJJ instructor. Professor Jucao (Ailson Jucao Enrique Brites) is incredibly thoughtful and gentle in his teaching approach. He doesn’t allow white belts with white belts and expects the higher belts to teach us through movement. He started having us role with no gripping – just body movements that don’t go all the way to submission – a flow of movement to train us into thinking how one position leads to another and how to counteract various movements. It is such a nice contrast after doing the “stand up” MA (which used to be just Tai Kwan Do but now is very mixed). Even though I’ve been doing that for close to five years and am now a “candidate” for a black belt I still feel like a neophyte in that too, but I have seen progress.
New Girl – I can relate. I am also five feet tall and both smaller and OLDER than everyone else. Professor Jucao underestimated my age by 10 years and is really welcoming to all students regardless of size, shape or age. There was another instructor in the dojo before that I always found too intimidating to even try BJJ despite being told that it would be really good for me as a black belt candidate in the mixed stand up form. I’m finding Professor Jucao’s attitude actually calms me for the other and helps me spar more intelligently rather than with aggression.
Jaime, I appreciate you pointing out the situation as being “very common and relatable”, her taking “advantage of his mistake”, and not needing “a white knight to come and save” her. And I’ll touch on each one separately.
“very common and relatable”:
Calling back to the panty-raiders, how many women can relate to a home invasion scenario? Too many, but not a ton. How many women can relate to being harassed at a bar/club? I’d venture to guess the vast majority. And when they see this woman aggressively pestered, I imagine they might’ve recalled their own experience and even envisioned themselves onscreen.
“taking advantage of his mistake”:
Countless loud and proud chauvinists have commented on her being deceptive and “tricking him”. No, what she’s doing is another Jiu-Jitsu/combat tactic that wasn’t spelled out: baiting people. You feint right so they slip…directly into the path of your left hook. You throw up a half-hearted armbar from guard so they can escape…directly into your triangle. Lately, Professor’s been showing us how to bait a crucifix from side-ride.
Others have commented that this technique would never work. Strength and skill-level discrepancies aside, let’s focus on the argument that any guy would stop her in her tracks. Yeah, if she flicks her hand out and fumbles with his collar, of course he’ll know something’s up. That’s just poor strategy. But what does she do? She baits him. She feigns interest and uses his own predatory lust against him. Sure, maybe she’s playing a little rougher than he’s used to, but ultimately he’s getting what he wants. Therefore, why WOULD he stop her? That is precisely why this could work. His arrogance was his mistake. And she took advantage.
“a white knight to save her”
Why didn’t she yell for help? Why didn’t she tell a bouncer or bartender? Why should she have to?
Imagine this portrayed some bookworm sitting at a bar, quietly sipping his soda, and a bunch of bigger guys started antagonizing him, pushing him around. And the little guy says, “Excuse me, bartender? Would you be so kind as to have your bouncers escort these men from the premises? I feel threatened and am having difficulty enjoying my drink. Thank you.” What do you think the commenters would be saying? “YEAH BRO WAY TO ASSERT AUTHORITY.” No. They’d call him every name in the book. And in turn recommend that he do exactly what they’re chastising the woman in this video for doing. And there’s your double standard.
What she’s demonstrating is agency and initiative. There’s not always going to be someone there to save you. There won’t always be a white knight. And constantly relying on one isn’t the best way to prepare for the day when there isn’t. She very justifiably felt threatened and very literally took matters into her own hands.
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While I’ve previously come across a lot of the idea’s & links you referenced, the piece I’m probably missing is the net reality that all of them cumulatively add up to [for women].
In terms of being able to empathize with the position of a woman in that scenaro, I probably need to recognize that I may never adequately understand just how awful such a situation actually feels, because I don’t have any comparable life experiences. This discussion made me recall a line from a South Park episode that, while specific to race within the episode itself, seems to fit:
“Token, I get it now. I don’t get it. I’ve been trying to say that I understand how you feel, but, I’ll never understand. I’ll never really get how it feels for a black person to have somebody use the N word. I don’t get it.”
Hahaha Rich – sometimes South Park is wise. ^_^ There were a few points that I read online at various points – ones I think that most men can relate to – or at least imagine because of pop culture/media.
1. Walking in a very dangerous neighborhood known for robbing people. That paranoia when you hear footsteps behind you or someone approaches you.
2. Folks from a very poor, crime-ridden neighborhood who are approached by the police. The potential for fear, wondering if this cop is corrupt or to be trusted, especially if that person has had run-ins with shady cops.
3. Going to prison and being approached by inmates – are they going to rape you or beat you up or something else?
The first point is the most basic – that heightened sense of awareness. Anyone who approaches is Schroedinger’s Mugger – you don’t know if he’s a mugger unless he starts mugging you. And if he intentionally enters your space, it’s demonstrating aggressiveness.
But in any case, I appreciate your summary – I think it’s accurate. I respect folks who can say that – I won’t understand it,at that same depth, but I can recognize that the depth/importance/___ is there.
I agree with a lot of the points being made, and I sympathize with a lot of the difficulties being discussed. I’m 5’1, about 105 pounds, a four-stripe blue belt, and only in the past maybe six months have I finally felt like I broke through a wall with my game. I spent a solid year just getting smothered (not in a mean way – my teammates are very nice people, but pretty much all of them are bigger than me), and I was incredibly frustrated. Something finally just clicked for me, and I realized that I had been accepting bad positions as inevitable, rather than trying like hell to find ways out of them.
I agree that the technique being shown, although basic, is not necessarily easy, especially if you’re smaller. However, like other people have mentioned, the idea is that it’s possible (but not without training!). Being smaller doesn’t mean you have to accept being overpowered, and I love jiu-jitsu for demonstrating that.
I’m also thrilled to see people intelligently discussing the fact that there is a real threat present in this situation and that there are many ways to say no – trying to leave a situation being one of them. I was particularly excited when I read Rich’s last comment, because one of the most common responses I’ve seen in the Youtube comments is a refusal to consider various perspectives and examine whether or not those other points of view might have merit. I think it’s really difficult for a lot of people to admit that if they’ve never experienced something, they may never be able to genuinely understand it, so it kind of made my day when I saw someone say, “You know what, I might never fully understand this, and I accept that.”
I just felt compelled to tell you how happy this thread is making me. I can’t tell you how many uninformed, disrespectful comments I’ve seen in other places, and it’s so refreshing to know a conversation like this one is happening.
This thread is making me so happy, too! It brought up points I had never considered as well. Plus, how cool is that that a brand manager commented on the effectiveness of it as an ad? Daaaang, as Rener would say!
I can’t bring myself to look at the Youtube comments. I always feel like it’s the equivalent of taking the S-bend in your sink and drinking it as a cocktail. Blech. It leaves me sad and grossed out.
I’d like to begin by saying that I have been a fan Jiu Jiu’s blog for a little while now, but have never commented. I have little to no experience in BJJ other than the few lame connections the Army has tried to incorporate into our combatives training and the one BJJ class my girlfriend took me to.
I love the video and I think the message behind it is very positive. After the guy ignores the obvious gesture that says “get the hell away from me,” she baits him and lures him in close so she can submit him, ending the conflict without any further escalation of physical violence. I agree that a cross collar choke it is not the easiest method to employ correctly, but this is an advertisement and not a self-defense tutorial. To me the goal of the video is to get women interested in BJJ and I feel this ad does a good job of that. I don’t know if they have watched it yet, but I have both of my sisters a link to this video.
As Rich pointed out at the end of his last comment, as a man I may never fully understand what it means to be in that situation. However this ad and conversation has struck a chord with me for another reason. As I said earlier I have two younger sisters, they are both petite in stature and would have a difficult time warding off physical advances from men similar in size to the one in the video. I would love to think that all men were brought up as I was, to treat all women with respect and dignity, unfortunately that is not the case and as a concerned older brother I worry about them all the time. I hate to think that some day they may find themselves in a situation similar to the one depicted here, if they haven’t already. I know that I would feel much better knowing that they had some sort of knowledge base in a self-defense technique, especially one like BJJ that uses an opponent’s size and momentum against them.
As a final statement, I’d like to take a moment to agree with with Shannon and say that it is refreshing to read and participate in an intellectual and respectful conversation such as this one. Thank you everyone!
Zeke! Thank you for joining the discussion! I’m very curious about what your sisters think about the post. This week I’m going to post my non-BJJ friends’ reactions to it.
My boyfriend watched the video and immediately commented on how creepy the guy was and his lack of respecting her obvious”get the hell away from me” gesture – and his attempt to physically dominate her. Seriously creepy.
Agreed – the idea of taking someone size/momentum/movements and using it against them is all so important for jiu jitsu – and she did that in a social setting. ^_^
Hope to see you around these parts more!
[…] I really liked Shannon’s comment regarding the above conversation, and whole-heartedly agree with it: I’m also thrilled to see people intelligently discussing the fact that there is a real threat pres… […]
Did anyone else notice the very beginning. The guy is out of focus, but seems to be putting something in the drink he offered the protagonist?
A few of my non-BJJ friends noticed and mentioned that!
That ratchets up the creep factor by an order of magnitude.
BTW that comic was stolen from Mariste. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marist%C3%A9/378464682247758
Thank you for letting me know! I’ll update it this weekend and give her credit! I’ll also send her a Facebook message!
[…] the phenomenal conversation that took off on my blog about the Why Women Should Train Jiu Jitsu video, I realized a few things about this […]
[…] Malcolm stopped by to let me know that the graphic about Why Girls Should Do BJJ was taken from an artist called Mariste. Her work is great – you should go check her out and “like” her page! ARTISTIC THEFT IS WRONG – DON’T REMOVE COPYRIGHTS, FOLKS! DON’T SLAP YOUR GRAPHIC OVER SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK! […]
I’m a bit paranoid when it comes to the subject of personal safety. Coming from a law enforcement background I’ve dealt with enough physical altercations (assaults, muggings, fights) to have become pretty jaded. It shocks me how little we as a culture think about our safety. I like the ads. I take a positive view on anything that highlights the issue and gets the discussion going. I’ve been trying to get a female friend to start training BJJ. She is terrified of the idea of being held down against her will. To the point where she gets visibly upset just thinking about it. Every time I saw one of these ads I would send it to her to try to motivate her a little. I don’t know if it’s the bar ad that did it, (or me being a pain in the butt), but she starts a women’s BJJ class this Thursday. Oss.
I have mixed feelings about the “Why women should train” thing, because I’ve noticed that a lot of people who train for self defense come for a few months, think they’ve learned enough, and then leave. Some of them never even get beyond the “I don’t want to roll with guys really” stage, and I’m worried that they’ll be getting a false sense of confidence because the moves work on other women who aren’t resisting during drilling. If you’re not comfortable with the contact in a controlled, friendly situation in the gym, how will you stay calm to pull something off against a bigger, stronger guy that really wants to hurt you? That guy might not know BJJ, and he might leave his arm vulnerable to an arm bar, he might even let you grab a collar for a choke, but if you don’t get it in tight first try he’ll probably dump you on your head or otherwise seriously hurt you.
That’s not to say that I don’t think BJJ is worth training – just that it takes significant time investment, and effort investment, to get good enough to actually work on someone who massively outweighs you. My karate school does women’s self defense day courses that involve pressure points and groin strikes, etc, and I hate those for the false sense of confidence they breed too.
I’ve been in three self defense situations in my lifetime (all before I started martial arts), and I found that being fit, assertive, and willing to fight back at all was sufficient. My response of shove, shout and sprint served me well the first time when I got cornered by a threatening guy. The second time I swung a heavy bag full of college books over my head and hit the guy (who wanted to mug me) with them, then ran away. I should have just gave him my stuff, but I was acting on instinct. Believe it or not I got a talking to from the police for hurting the mugger…
I do think it’s good to have something that will help women to handle themselves, but situational awareness, calm, and being prepared to respond quickly and just get out of there is more important than breaking arms – unless you’re willing to invest years of hard work in learning to break arms!
There’s another side to that too – right now, I train three martial arts (BJJ, Karate, Muay Thai) and work in an industry that has a high percentage of martial artists. I was talking to a friend who works as a negotiator with the police, and the statistic about how many sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows well. I stopped to think about the last ten men I’d been alone with after dark and realized that every single one of them was either a pro MMA fighter or some other form of highly skilled martial artist. I don’t go out to night clubs very often, and I live in the middle of nowhere so I don’t have much to fear from “random street thugs”. My friend asked “does it not worry you that you spend so much time with people that could really mess you up?”. Honestly, it doesn’t because I genuinely believe they’re all good people. Maybe the best form of self defense is to choose to surround yourself with people you can trust?
Good post: I agree, the term ‘self defence’ is thrown around far too easily in martial arts. I see ‘self defence’ (mainly about the kind of things you mentioned, such as self-awareness, not hanging around dodgy places, being careful of your choice in friends, etc, plus things like a knowledge of legal ramifications, ability to understand different environments, the chemical effects of adrenaline) and ‘martial arts’ (systems of combative techniques) as separate things. Unfortunately they often get blurred together, largely because ‘self defence’ is both useful advertising and difficult to clearly define. I babble about it at greater length here.
[…] while back I posted an article about different messages of why women should train BJJ. In it, I posted a really cool video called “Why Women Should Train Jiu Jitsu,” and it […]