I’m proud to say there are 7 women at my [former] BJJ gym. Of them, I’m the only American. The rest are Korean. There are a lot of differences between us, and I’m sure that many are culturally based. The women are MUCH less aggressive than any women I’ve ever met. They are shy and slightly giggly. They don’t usually spar men, and so will sit out a lot. I think I intimidate them because of my size, but I always try to smile and connect with them and be silly with them so they’ll feel comfortable.

Neither a woman, nor in my class, but wearing a pink gi

Here is the cast of female characters at my gym:

Pink Gi Girl: A very determined woman who will often burst into moves very quickly. She’s definitely the most forward of the bunch.

Spider Girl: She’s very quiet, but once you get her on the mat she’s got mile long legs and arms, which is weird because she’s not very tall.

Little Girl: She’s a super sweet 19-year-old college girl. She does the shy giggle, but will often be surprisingly aggressive during a roll. She’s bruised my face twice πŸ™‚ I really like rolling with her.

Slowly: A very shy Korean girl. Whenever we roll she says “Slowly slowly” or “softly softly”.

Giggles: She is also around 18 or 19, and she just giggles a lot. When she’s embarrassed, when she doesn’t understand, when she’s nervous, when she’s breathing πŸ˜‰ She’s funny and she gave me a back rub the other day, so no complaints! πŸ™‚

Iron Woman: I don’t see her very often, but she’s got an adamantium frame. This woman is crazy strong despite a really tiny body!

When I first got to the gym I was hyper aware of being a woman in BJJ and I had mixed feelings about these women. I was worried that guys would lump me in with them and dismiss me as a giggling girl. I was also frustrated when I felt like I was paired with them just because I was a woman–even though I sincerely was double their weight. At the time I almost wished I were the only woman.

Now I am more relaxed. I don’t usually feel like “OMG I’M A WOMAN IN A MAN’S SPORT” like I did at first. I know that I’m different from those ladies, and it’s okay. I understand that the only person who will truly cause people to have a negative reaction to me is me.

I also realize that these women are likely shy due to age, lack of confidence, new to bjj (they’re all white belts as well), and partly because of culture. They aren’t encouraged to be aggressive generally. So I do what I can πŸ™‚ I will grab them and ask them to roll. I’ll joke around with them to make them feel more comfortable, and I love love love when they leave bruises on my face. Grrrl power, etc etc etc.