A small girl’s perspective on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

As my tiny feet hardly sunk into the zebra mats for my first afternoon intermediate class, I gazed around the room at all the upper belt males each being at least over 170lbs and pondered how I would make it through this hour and a half class. There were no females or white belts in sight and the pitting feeling driving through my stomach told me that these men were probably just as unexcited to roll with my 110lb self as I was thinking that I would be miserable laying in bottom mount the whole time.

I instantly felt disheartened and wondered if coach had even seen me yet. Maybe, I could just leave quietly and quickly. Before I was able to second guess further, coach entered the room and had us all circle up for techniques.  Luckily, my boyfriend was present and more than willing to be my partner for drilling. This was my safe zone, I thought; he was my crutch and I did not want my teammates to take pity on me in what would soon become line drills and intense rolls.

I will never forget my first few rolls – a blue belt, a purple belt and a very large purple belt. To my surprise and excitement, they were so happy to have a willing and motivated woman on the mats. I almost felt praised hearing things like, “You are so quick, you fit in such small spaces, your hips are always moving, it’s hard to control you, etc.” I soon realized that each of them had something in common; they were not using their strength to just bully me; they were utilizing technique solely to advance positions and allow me to try and do the same.

Moving forward, it has been a little over two years on my Jiu Jitsu journey and I am now a blue belt. I am feasibly the smallest adult at the gym but after my first few classes, I have never second guessed myself on the practice mats again. I have actually learned to embrace who I am and gain more confidence in myself through my teammates and coach at my gym. There are days when I feel run over and hammered through (but who doesn’t?).

I look around and see people three times my size and experience level daily. I have to work extra hard to keep up sometimes but it only makes my progress that much more rewarding. I have learned to take pride in what I have been given like being small which allows me to be first to a position, get out of difficult spots easier and give the bigger guys a unique roll that they may not be as used to training. I may be the nail at practice but the hammer has to hit the nail precisely or it will miss.

Like me, a nail pierces into a wall at rapid pace and can hold the weight of many items five to six times its own size. It is small but mighty as nails are known for accurate placement and durability to withstand tough demands.  Nails must be removed with force and correctly in order to not leave damage. Jiu Jitsu has taught me that men can be humbled but mostly, they are rooting for me to succeed just as much as I want to succeed.

More importantly, Jiu Jitsu has proven to me that all women are stronger than they appear and when given the opportunity, even the smallest person in the room can surprise you. As Kai Green puts it perfectly, “The weight is just a tool. Do you focus on the hammer or the nail? You better focus on the thing you’re trying to hit.”

Leave a Reply

  1. Laura

    That’s a great way to put it.

    I am a smaller practitioner as well, however, I have the added challenge of Cerebral Palsy, so I do not possess the speed or flexibility to make up for it. That’s okay though. I still love Jiu-Jitsu.

    What I find most compelling in your post is that your gym members are encouraging you and prioritizing technique. I am not sure I have found that environment yet, but I am so glad that you have.

    1. Cathryn Millares Listing Owner

      Thank you for taking the time to read our post and provide feedback! CP is no easy disease to live with. We are so impressed and proud of your commitment to try the sport and maintain your movement and posture. We don’t always get guys that go easy but for the most part, they are all very encouraging. Best of luck in your search for finding a place that fits you! It is definitely out there and of course, if you’re ever in the PA area, feel free to come train with us!

  2. Bruce Dickinson

    Nice history and great post!

    1. Cathryn Millares Listing Owner

      Thank you! We loved hearing your thoughts.

  3. Byron

    Great post, sounds like you have a great team!

    1. Cathryn Millares Listing Owner

      Thank you! We definitely think we do 🙂 thanks for your feedback, it is greatly appreciated!

  4. JCB

    Very positive point of view.
    I armire women who can get a blue belt in bjj : it’s difficult for a man, but much more difficult for a woman.
    Take care and safe training.