Friday, February 15, 2013

Can Women Really Handle Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?





132 comments:

  1. Challenge accepted. :)

    I believe you also posted or tweeted at one point that people don't "take a break"--because they never actually come back.

    I came back. I do know what is involved. I love it. BJJ is here to stay in my life!

    (I do think you have some valid observations.)

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  2. Sorry, but there aren't any valid observations in this post. Under my years I've seen, procentually, more guys quit BJJ than I've seen girls. Not everyone is going to like BJJ and that goes for both men and women.

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    1. No, no valid ones. Really. You need a serious wakeup call.

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    2. Wow Reese. It all seems pretty accurate to me, and I have been rolling for a few years now as part of MMA training across 3 continents and 2 hemispheres.

      Of course, statistically many more men quite than women - there are 5,000x more men that roll than women.

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    3. I'm not sure what about this you feel is accurate, Pete. Of course there are women who jump in and then quickly realize they can't handle it. But so do men. All I'm saying is that based on the smaller number of women who actually TRY out BJJ, I haven't seen any compelling evidence of there being a lower overall retention rate. Comparatively.

      But that's not even what this article or the resulting argument is about. It isn't just about his schoot not being able to keep its female members. It's about his insulting attitude towards women in the sport, as a whole. Perhaps read my full response, or Julia/JiuJiu's response (both links posted in various comments below) if you're unclear regarding what the backlash is actually about.

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    4. Pete, Keith, or any other members of this academy: Please invite me to come to Boise, and help me cover my airfare. I'd be delighted to train at your school for a couple days and let you know if I see anything that is turning off your female students.

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    5. Georgette, I liked your blog. I am not paying your airfare but you are more then welcome to come to our school. Love to have you.

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    6. Serwah--fyi--procentually is not a word. I am a purple belt and I thought this was spot on. This post got me thinking of the main question which is not why women leave bjj but why they get into it in the first place. Some do it out of curiosity, some to get in shape, some because they like all the male attention. A lot do it because their boyfriends or husbands do it and when the relationship ends, so does bjj. A few--the minority in my experience-- do it because they are genuinely attracted to the sport. As a woman, I have been disrespected in countless ways, just as a human being, and secondly my belt, by both women and men. Women in particular seem to feel the need to "teach" you even when it is the first time they are walking on the mat. Tapping them does not shut them up. Some men on the other hand would rather break your neck than tap. But the bad apples are the exception, not the rule. I have met mostly great guys on the mat. I think of bjj as life in a microcosm. It is a long, rough road and only the strong survive. If you think it's going to be easy, or that people should pamper you because you're so darn special, you have a nasty surprise in store.

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    7. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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    9. Sorry if this reply is long overdue but I feel that I need to explain myself.

      What I mean by saying that your "observations are invalid" is that I feel that what you might perceive as a logical and correct reason to why women quit BJJ, doesn't really correlate with how I see things.

      I don't feel that most of the women I train och have trained with are turned off by grappling because they think that it's too hard. On the contrary, I feel that when asking female training partners why they are considering quitting, I almost always get the same answer as if I was to ask a male training partner. It can be due to family duties, work and also a loss of interest.
      I have myself thought about quitting and I've also had breaks.

      I started out with BJJ in 2010 and my experience is limited, but what has made me want to stick with it is that I've always had an interest for sports in a technical aspect. And with that in mind, I felt very compelled to continue training. When I roll with other guys it's very technical rather than based on strength, but then, isn't that the point of jiu jitsu. If the guy I'm rolling with is using too much brute force, I make it a problem to be solved. I'll approach my coach or any experienced grappler with questions after practice, and even if there is no answer, at least I'll walk away with something. I almost always lose in training, but who cares.

      I'm not going to lie, most of the time I am the only girl on the mat. Whenever there is a another girl in class and she's new, I make it my duty to roll with her and show her how fun it can be if you have a technical aspect on BJJ. Most girls, just as a lot of guys, will realise that it isn't for them and be gone within a few week. It's just more obvious when a girl quits since there aren't that many.

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  3. I'd really like to see some numbers or even estimates on the rates at which women leave your gym and how it compares to the rates at which men leave. At mine, we have incredibly low attrition rates for women, but the environment is very supportive of women, with female black belts and pro MMA fighters present, as well as separate changing facilities.

    Have you asked any women why they left or are you assuming it's because they think it's tough? How nice are your guys REALLY? I've known many guys who are loved by all the men, completely polite and helpful and when they got a chance, were whispering inappropriate things in my ear. It only takes one of those to scare off every woman that walks through a door.

    I think it's worth keeping in mind the fact that any woman that will even consider rolling around on the floor with guys is already more of an outlier than most men and already willing to stretch herself. The issue is quite likely somewhere else.

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    1. You took the words right out of my mouth. (Jen)

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    2. Thanks for your opinion. My next blog has a women's reaction to my blog. Stand by.

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  4. Can Women Really Handle Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?…… REALLY? This is the title of a obscure sexist post to why women don’t seem to fit or handle BJJ. I get it, this post is trying to encourage women to ‘’Stick with it’’ but unfortunately this post is an epic fail on that matter!

    http://ottawabjjwomen.com/women-can-handle-brazilian-jiu-jitsu/

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    1. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  5. http://www.reddit.com/r/bjj/comments/18pm81/can_women_really_handle_bjj_yet_another_exhibit/

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    1. Great!! Let the discussion begin.=)

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    2. I suspect this cavalier attitude to questioning the intrinsic worthiness of an entire gender comes from the fact you don't live with it every day of your life. You think this is the first time anyone has ever wondered if women were capable of tough sports? What part of this question is entertaining to you? The part where you've succeeded in making a group of people who have struggled to belong in bjj feel alienated, or the part where you've contributed to the barriers for newcomers stepping on the mats for the first time? And, you know what, perhaps you were just failing to use your empathy skills- it happens. But any way you look at it, you really ought to apologize.

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    3. Women can do Jiu Jitsu. Its in my blog. Thanks

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    4. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  6. I think you have just had a bad experience with women attempting bjj... make no mistake that quitters come just as easily from either gender. Rolling as a female can be very disheartening when you are having to work so much harder to hold your own against males, however you better believe there are many women who stick with it because they love the gentle art as much as any man. In my experience, there are more male come and go training partners than female ones though the females tend to be more memorable because of their sex. If you can't keep a woman at your school, it's for more reasons than her being a woman. Thank you for wanting to encourage females to train because your right, GJJ is designed for us.

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    1. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  7. Martial arts is a journey. If a woman leaves for pregnancy or any other reason, that doesn't necessarily mean she'll never return. (How do you know those women didn't leave to train elsewhere?) Women are the queens at reinventing ourselves AFTER we've taken care of everyone else who we deem important in our lives. We give up things (temporarily) in order to help our family gain success. I've trained several styles, and left them for a variety of reasons, before finally being able to commit to Hapkido for the length of time I needed to achieve black belt. Now, I'm continuing my Hapkido training and including jiujitsu. I stopped attending a women-only class (on Sundays) b/c it disrupted my family's schedule too much, but am fortunate that I can work w/ my Hapkido instructor who also trains jiujitsu. I had to work around my "grappling with men" challenge. (I'm fine grappling my 200+# husband -- it's strange men that creep me out.) I trust and respect my current instructor, and am confident he feels the same way, as did my first male Hapkido instructor. You may want to consider spending more time observing your methods, the methods of the men who consistently train under you, and create an annonymous way to receive feedback. You also may want to devote time to observing women-only classes elsewhere and/or other schools that teach jiujitsu to men and women (outside of your comfort zone, i.e., away from your teacher's schools.) You state that you "don't have time for a women-only class," but clearly you do have the time to assess the many "faults" of women in jiujitsu. When so many women are leaving your program, you are better served assessing what you are or aren't doing to negatively influence the behavior. If your expectation is that women should train like men, then that, in my view, is where you should begin your analysis. Women are different. And, that's okay. We have different strengths/weeknesses. The true focus of martial arts training is figuring out one's limitations while accentuating one's strengths. OPED out.

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    1. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  8. As a BJJ women and gym owner, I know first hand being a female in a male dominated sport can be challenging at times. I taught group class up until the day I went into labor. I trained MMA with my infant in a travel crib next to the mats (big thank you to all the fighters in the gym who between rounds rocked my son). Every time I had a heavy period and was afraid of staining my GI I skipped class. When I was nursing my children and became engorged I skipped class. Women deal with different issues then men. I think it is important to recognize the different challenges all individuals face. I also agree that, women are just as capable as men. I strongly feel the strength of the team can be reflected by how many women train at a particular gym. If women are not around or succeeding it is probably because the gym doesn't have a supportive environment. No one wants to feel the odd one out or less important. It sucks when you are 110 lbs and your training partners are all 165- 200lbs. and the instructor says partner up and your the female (odd one out) and Mr. X 200 pounds, (odd one out) always get paired with each other or worse yet, two women show up at a class and ALWAYS get paired together just because they are the only women; this especially stinks when the higher rank women keeps having to "teach" the less experienced one. These situations and others like this are what keep women away from the gym. How to solve it? Build a strong team who support each other and their differences. My teammates are amazing people. It doesn't mater if your blind, missing limbs, women, man... We are all there for each other and for that level of commitment and experience I am blessed.
    -Back in the day: Mr. X you taught me to pummel like none other, thank you for your smiles ;)

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    1. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  9. I appreciate that you are trying to encourage women to stick with BJJ, but frankly having an attitude like this: "It then makes me want to do a male only class because we don’t want to waste time on someone who is just going to quit even though we are excited to have her and we try to take care of her and make her feel welcome." I'm sorry, but do you feel that way about males that start but have no idea what jiu jitsu is really about and so they quit? Are you "wasting your time" on them?

    You say your atmosphere is welcoming to women, and yet your words here tell a different story. No one is saying you have to have an all female class if it's not conducive to your schedule. Of course there are differences between men and women when doing jiu jitsu. But, frankly, women don't need your patronizing B.S. anymore than men do. So maybe when you loose this idea that you're "wasting your time" on women because they just "quit" you'll find more women sticking with it.

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  10. Thank you to everyone for your opinion. Next blog will have a women's reaction to this current blog. Nice!

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    1. Oh, dude, no. No no, just a thousand times no. that is absolutely the wrongest and most hurtful conclusion you could draw as to why you cannot keep female students in your gym. Other gyms are keeping female students. There are entire female classes and female divisions. Just because you don't know what you're doing wrong doesn't mean you aren't doing something wrong. Take the fact you thought it was ok to pose this question, for instance. It's not. Women have enough real trouble in BJJ without blackbelts creating mythologies about how they can't cut it despite real world evidence they can and do every day. Just thanking people for their opinions like every topic is inoffensive and worthy of discussion is insufficient. You really ought to apologize for adding to the pile of crap women have to overcome just to train in BJJ.

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    2. I see you came back again :-)

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  11. I have been doing martial arts for almost 6 years and I have been doing BJJ about 2 years. I thought a lot about your post as I am 5 feet tall and about 115 pounds. I consistently train with large men and I am often the only female in the BJJ class at my gym. I agree that women need to be aware of all the risks they face in training BJJ. Yet I take exception to some of what you say. First, it is not fair to blame women for stopping training when they get pregnant. This is biology and it is going to happen. Men cannot give birth. Also, it could be very unsafe if they continued to train while pregnant. That was my only comment the first time I read it. Now, reading it again, I am thinking that perhaps you are just slightly burnt out teaching and so you are targeting women. Perhaps you should try offering a women's BJJ class before deciding it is a bad idea. Or take a vacation...I am a teacher so I know burnout happens. Either way, remember, both men and women quit martial arts.

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    1. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  12. My husband and I have launched a teen outreach program based in BJJ in Jackson, MS. The girls are definitely sticking around, and with FERVOR! I conclude that this is because I co-teach with my husband. In this super early stage of ALL of these kids' training, we mostly have girls partner with each other and I work with them pretty closely. Are there higher level belt female instructors at your school??

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  13. Sexism aside, I have issues with how you've responded professionally to something you identified as a problem.

    1. Identify problem.
    2. Defend current practices.
    3. Decide it must be the students.

    Ultimately, deciding it's a gender problem and defending all your own practices is not helpful.

    From a paper by Thomas S. C. Farrell, an expert in the field of reflective practices:

    "Results from this type of research (Johnson, 1990; Burns) have indicated that a gap may exist between what teachers believe they do in the classroom (beliefs) and what they actually do (actions). One way of exposing gaps between teacher beliefs and actual classroom practice is to encourage teachers to engage in reflective practice (Farrell, 2004). Valli (1997) has suggested that reflective teachers “can look back on events, make judgments about them, and alter their teaching behaviors in light of craft, research, and ethical knowledge” (p. 70)."

    Perhaps those actions you identified are not giving you the result you intended. Perhaps your students have picked up on your beliefs that women teammates put their male teammates' relationships at risk. Or that you treat them differently by even setting the precedence that "all men roll but women can choose to roll or not depending on if they feel comfortable or not" (who knows - perhaps you give everyone that choice).

    I wrote about this more on my blog here:
    http://jiujiubjj.com/2013/02/19/women-and-bjj-quitting/

    If you'd like to skip the bits where I respond to the sexism and go directly to my thoughts as a teacher trainer, you can simply click here:
    http://jiujiubjj.com/2013/02/19/women-and-bjj-quitting/#The%20Professionalism

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    1. Great to see input from someone with a professional background in instruction (and instructing instructors:)

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    2. well done jiu-jiu your response was perfect, thank you for saying what so many of us wanted to say.

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    3. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  16. "....instead of treating each and every STUDENT who walks through your door as...what? That's right, a STUDENT. A unique individual, who may or may not be the same as any other individual who's strolled into your gym."

    Indeed. I think you nailed the problem right there. The schools I know who treat everyone as a STUDENT do not have the problems which Keith complains about.

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    1. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  17. http://shebeastbjjhistory.blogspot.com/2013/02/re-keith-owens-can-women-really-handle.html

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    1. She Beast...Now that's a name that can probably be tough enough to get a BJJ BlackBelt. =)

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    2. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  18. Keith, I'm much more interested in hearing your response to the comments posted than another blogger's response (that's actually already been done here http://jiujiubjj.com/2013/02/19/women-and-bjj-quitting/).

    There are a lot of good points made on this post already that I think merit addressing.

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    1. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  19. This is some sexist piece of shit.

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    1. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  20. Instead of responding in pieces here, I'll just link you to the response on my own blog. Enjoy.

    http://reeseny.blogspot.com/2013/02/stripes-and-sexism.html

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    1. I am not one to comment on my husband blogs- but since our email is full of comments from Reese on a daily basis I thought I would. So to you Reese- you are using a lot of mental energy and time with this blog. I have read Keith’s blog numerous times wondering what all of this is about and I am not sure we are reading the same thing. I have been doing this for 21 years - running a business with him and what he says is correct- women in our studio have not stuck and it has nothing to do with how they are treated or if they have felt welcomed. We go above and beyond to make them feel like they are part of the studio family.
      So to be blunt as you have- why don’t you build a bridge and get over it. This is just a blog – you are using too much of your time on this where I am sure it could be used for better things.
      Shirlane Owen

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    2. Shirlane-- I'm curious! How do you explain the apparent contradiction between your academy's inability to retain female BJJ students and the enormous growth of women in BJJ elsewhere? Or do you see a contradiction at all? Thanks!

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    3. Let me go over the list for you of our experience...
      1.One student got pregnant
      2.One student had to have surgery for a bad caesarian
      3.Numerous were tired of being sore all of the time (a couple were black belts in another form)
      4.One had too many responsibilities at home as a mother and wife and had to quit
      5.One female student’s husband did not want her rolling with other men
      6.One had female issues and had to quit
      7.One could not handle the cardio aspect of it
      8.One student got divorced and could not afford it anymore


      Do you want me to go on?

      This has been OUR experience for 21 years and the blog is so we as adults can share our thoughts and ideas about the subject. It is not to name call, to belittle and degrade the person who wrote the blog as some are doing.
      Keith has been polite throughout this whole thing and has not said anything impolite or rude back to anyone. People are actually mad because he is saying “thank you for your comments”

      So let’s be adults- not blog bullies as many are being – people can share their opinion without attacking someone’s character.



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    4. I hope you don't think I was being a blog bully in questioning you :) I would absolutely love for you to go on because it is my sincere desire to understand (and possibly to help, if I can.)

      What I hear is that you had 7 plus "numerous" women quit BJJ over 21 years. [I assume that you are not including participants in your "Adult Sport Jiu Jitsu" program in these numbers... because I see that one of the instructors there, Kristen, is a black belt in ASJJ (and is thinking about getting a blue belt in BJJ, meaning she is still a whitebelt in BJJ... was she one of those "numerous"?) And there's Alanna, also a blackbelt in "ASJJ"...] How many women started BJJ in your academy's 21 years?

      How many men have started training BJJ in those 21 years, and how many of them have quit? and why, if you know?

      Of the reasons given by those women for quitting, how many are related to "women not being able to handle BJJ" as opposed to some other athletic activity which cost money? I assume you would not count pregnancy, surgery, soreness, home/child responsibilities, female issues, lack of fitness, or financial reasons-- as all those reasons would/could equally keep a woman out of crossfit, soccer, triathlons, volleyball, swimming, am I correct?

      Perhaps the soreness will be said to be unique to BJJ because some of those ladies were already blackbelts in other arts (and should have been used to being sore?) Unless they weren't sore while performing their other arts, in which case we might hypothesize that they didn't practice those arts with real resistance and aliveness? and if they had, might be they'd be more familiar and comfortable with it, and if they weren't then it's not BJJ they can't handle...

      So far I'm only looking at one lady who quit because her husband was insecure and she was caving in....

      Please help me to understand :)

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  21. Drop out rates are high for both genders. Instructors notice more when women leave, because there were fewer of them to start with. I'm not convinced there's a significant difference in retention rates between men and women across the sport as a whole. Clearly, individual clubs may find that women are more or less likely to drop out, depending on various factors. In my experience, whether there's a good number of similarly sized training partners (not necessarily female) will affect whether women tend to stay at a particular club.

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  22. Hmmmmm. You say you are a teacher? THAT'S.....Interesting.
    Saying, 'Can Women Really Handle Jiu Jitsu?', is, of COURSE, going to sound sexist, ignorant, and rude. Following it up with a statement along the lines of, "Women ALWAYS drop out of jiu jitsu, and since my classes are all but perfect, I've come to the conclusion that there is something wrong with the women." tells me quite a bit about you, and the class that you offer.
    Gymanstics is a sport dominated by women. Is it because men can't handle it?
    Figure skating, another sport dominated by women. Again, is it because men can't handle it?
    Nope.
    Does that help you see how your logic is flawed? You really are missing a few steps in between "There are not a lot of women in jiu jitsu" and, "it must be because women can't handle jiu jitsu."
    If you had given this a little thought before posting, you may have been able to come to this conclusion yourself.

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    1. A lot of men can't handle Jiu-Jitsu either. Thank you for leaving a message Lauren.

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  23. http://reeseny.blogspot.com/2013/02/stripes-and-sexism.html

    This reply is really spot on. I would like to know what you have to say in reply to it. The points she brings up are quite valid.

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    1. ya..I read that. I don't agree. =)...Thank you Lauren.

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    2. This is the last thing I'll write here and then I'm done because your attitude as an instructor is incredibly concerning. How can you claim to be a good teacher when you hold these types of views of women? Instead of replying "I don't agree" to some of the responses you've gotten (mine, Julia's, Georgette's, others), maybe you can do the courtesy of actually addressing the points we've made, one by one - as we did for you - so that we understand exactly what it is that you don't agree with. Because writing sexist garbage (again, I ask you, would it have seemed acceptable if you substituted "women" with "black people" or "gay men?") and then not even having the decency to elaborate on why you feel the many negative reactions are wrong, makes you look even worse.

      I'm sure a lot of people would appreciate it if you would explain why the points many of us have brought up are not valid to you, because chauvinistic posts like this can be a real turnoff to women who might be interested in trying out BJJ. You claim to want more women in the sport, and then turn around and write an article that could have the exact opposite effect. The rest of us have explained why we're upset by that. Now it would be nice to understand why you don't think we have the right to be.

      And to your wife - tons of emails from me on a daily basis...really? I wrote one reaction (spread over two replies), then removed them and put them on my own blog instead. And I've replied to a couple other comments here and there, as have other people. It took maybe 20 minutes in all, including this comment, so I've hardly spent much time on it. You say you've been "doing this" for 21 years...what is "this" exactly? Running the business or jiu jitsu? And if women in your studio "have not stuck" and it's got nothing to do with how they are treated, why do they "stick" elsewhere? Why are more and more women getting involved in the sport at other schools and not staying at yours if you're doing everything right? Please take a second to think about how that sounds.

      But don't worry, I am "over it." I don't live anywhere near Idaho nor do I have any reason to go there, so I couldn't care less how you and your husband run your boys club. That said, for him to use your own gym's failings to go online and make highly insulting generalizations about all women in the sport, who are already working their asses off without having to deal with bullshit like this...well, if neither of you sees a problem with that then good luck to you both.

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    3. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  24. oh yeah... and "Simpsons did it" already

    http://breakingmuscle.com/martial-arts/surviving-socially-beginner-phase-bjj

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  25. Though I believe you had the intention to empower or inspire us, I do believe that the tone of your article is rather condescending and judgemental. I co-own and operate my own co-ed academy, in addition to co-owning and operating a women's Bjj camp, and serve additional roles within the greater Bjj community. What I find as a student, competitor, instructor, employee and business owner is that it is most important to support your students big or small, man or woman, adult or child by creating a positive environment in which people are provided the opportunity to make Bjj their own, without your opinions or judgements on what you think they need to be, or what they should get out of it. Our camp has served over 500 women in the last 4 years, we often invite men to come teach/train with us and we have an incredibly high return camper rate. We have seen many of them come back to us over the years as they progress on their Bjj journey and there is nothing more wonderful than to be invited to be a part of someone else's growth. Most of our campers have never quit. Though they take time to travel, work, and raise their children they know when they find something that empowers them in all sorts of ways - and they are thrilled to find a community of men and women who support them and motivate them to continue moving forward, no matter how difficult. It should not be our jobs as instructors to ward students off and express what we think they should expect and what you think is wrong with them or their circumstance. I've always believed it important to learn from everyone, whether they be a white belt or black belt, and perhaps you could try to listen and learn from the women around you. We are resilient and strong, we don't need to be 'tough' and when we find something worth dedicating ourselves to, to our careers, families, communities, we will.

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    1. Opala, I completely value your opinion but you need to break up your paragraphs. What you are saying is valuable but So hard to read. Thanks for commenting.

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    2. maybe you should google the difference between "women" and "woman" then.

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    3. Keith, I had difficulty uploading my comments through my smartphone - if I took too long a pause, the comments section would freeze and I was unable to upload any reply at all. I'm sorry that this technical hiccup prevented you from absorbing my response.
      Supporting Kadyelle's comment, your stance once again is to find something to criticize vs. truly appreciating or accepting any of the perspectives, comments or advice you've received.
      I'm not sure what you value since you would rather point out formatting details vs. the content.
      Thanks for creating the dialogue.
      Sincerely,
      Emily Kwok

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    4. Oh..I guess the "Completely valuing your opinion part that I posted earlier didn't get read by you." I read your comment it was just difficult. I just want your opinion to get read Emily. It won't if it's all jumbled.=)

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    5. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

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  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  27. Keith, you know me. I have survived in a Jiu jitsu class or two. I also own my academy. I have seen just as many men leave before and after the blue belt as women. Everyone quits. I would estimte the majority of people, male or female, quit. You may notice more that women quit because less of them try, but that doesn't mean that women can't stick with it or that they aren't "worth your time" to even try to train women. Jiu jitsu is difficult for everyone. Ask Professor Sauer how many people have stopped training with him.

    I know what you were trying to say in this post, but I think it is very difficult for a two hundred pound man to try to speculte about why women don't stick with grappling. It is a long and difficult road for small people, male or female.

    Jared, John, Heath and the Eastern idaho gang have done a wondedul job of helping me and several other women keep on the road to black belt. I plan on being Jared's first lady at the front of the class, but it will not be without tears of frustration or injury.
    Jessica Ralph * Precision Jiu Jitsu Brown Belt

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    1. Ah..Finally a Women who has been through the fire of Jiu-Jitsu. When I was writing the part about women who are purple belts and over I was thinking of you. =)...I like your last line... "it will not be without tears of frustration or injury." Thanks for your input.

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    2. Excuse me, Keith, but I think most of the women who have posted comments here (if not all!) have "been through the fire of jiu jitsu." If you don't recognize the name Emily Kwok (aka opala22) , please, allow me to enlighten you...

      http://www.bjjlegends.com/bjj/bjj-news/jiujitsu-mma-news/item/417-emily-kwok-world-champion-jiujitsu-black-belt.html

      Not to mention that many of the rest of us, though merely blues, purples, browns, are likewise "fire hardened" and know what jiu jitsu is all about. And... we're belted in Brazilian, not Adult Sport, jiu jitsu.

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  28. I think there maybe a few flaws in your argument
    1. how many people have you polled
    2. how many schools have you polled.

    it seems an issue of proportion. In a given year 100 men may try Jiu Jitsu and 50 may quit. That 50 out of 100 men quit jiu jitsu. if out of a given year 10 women try Jiu Jitsu and 5 leave then 5 out of 10 women quit. Even though it seems more women who try Jiu Jitsu end up quitting in both cases it is still 50%. The fact is that more men try Jiu Jitsu and although it may seem that more men stay, as compared to the proportion of men that try to women that try my guess is that it would be closer to even.

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    1. How many schools did you poll to come up with that Alex?=) You should write a blog on that. Thanks for the math and your input.

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    2. I did not poll any schools, I am not making grand generalized statements

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  29. I predict that after writing an article like this, you will not have the pesky problem of women signing up for your class any longer.

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    1. Just had two sign up this week. Thanks for making me laugh Matt.

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    2. Please let us know how long they stick around, and if they'd be willing to be interviewed by me.

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  30. FWIW, I'm a woman that earned my blue belt from Mr. Owen at an affiliate school. As such, I haven't attended classes at his main school, but I have attended numerous classes that he's run at the affiliate. From my experience, he is not sexist. He's a good dude and he wants all of his students to be successful (male and female).

    I don't agree with all of his points, but as someone that has taken classes from him personally, I can vouch that he's a good instructor for all of his students.

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  31. Wow, amazing all the haters that clearly can't read the content of this article and take it so entirely out of context and make Keith out to be a machoism chauvinist who is discriminating to women and unwelcoming and can't keep retention. Having met, and trained with Keith many times , he is one of the biggest supporters I have and has been NOTHING but encouraging. I agree with every point he makes and he is only commenting on what is common among so many gyms. This is not an easy sport and you need to be tough, realize injuries WILL happen and have the grit to stick it out! I find it insulting to be treated differently than the boys because i am a woman! I always tell the guys, treat me like one of the guys> If they go easy on me, they usually change their tone when they get tapped. I will pick and chose who I roll with because some guys are egotistical and cannot handle a woman tapping them. These are the ones I get injured from so I learn. I have never had an issue with any of the guys at Fierce where i train with Ari Bolden and Keith ensures his gym is respectful and welcoming to woman. At what part in this blog did Keith turn into a woman hater and deserve all the spiteful blown out of proportion and ridiculous comments and spite thrown at him. Ridiculous. I have trained 8 years now and see women come and go. I can attest to every point he makes and have the credibility to comment. I have had a baby, and came back, broken bones, suffered injuries and haven't nor will i ever quite. Keith has been nothing but a huge encouragement to me and I respect and value his point immensely. Simmer down people and reread the blog before you go off ranting and taking everything out of content. Ridiculous

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    1. Ruth, it seems you train at another gym in another country, not at Keith's. I am so happy you have a great experience elsewhere and I'm not saying it's Keith's fault ladies leave his gym. Keith himself says none of the women stick it out therefore he wonders if women can handle BJJ. You are empirical proof that they can. Don't you wonder why it is that women at other academies are doing great, and they're not sticking it out at Keith's?

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    2. Ruth just earned her blue belt through me Georgette. =)

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  32. http://breakingmuscle.com/martial-arts/womens-grappling-camp-we-come-peace

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  33. Hey Keith and Shirlane-- wanted you to know I have posted part of our conversation on my blog, and I'm inviting comment about it. I would definitely welcome any input or insights from either of you. Thank you :)

    http://georgetteoden.blogspot.com/2013/02/thinking-about-keeping-women-in-jiu.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

      Delete
  34. How old is too old for a woman with no martial arts experience to begin BJJ training?

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    1. man or woman I don't think there is a age. Many people would say the goal is to roll for a lifetime so start whenever you want. I started at 37 and we have a wrestler in our gym who is well into his 70s.

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  35. I don't know if this helps, but I wrote a little piece about How to Run a Female Friendly Martial Arts School after reading your post. I hope it helps! :) http://pacificwavejiujitsu.com/blog/how-to-run-a-female-friendly-martial-arts-school/

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  36. My new blog http://keith-owen.blogspot.com/2013/03/video-how-to-get-more-women-in.html

    ReplyDelete
  37. When I first started BJJ it was tough. I wasn't worried about rolling with guys I was worried about looking like an idiot because I didn't know what I was doing. I stuck with it. My first white belt tournament was Pan Ams in 2009, I had 6 girls in my division. Last year in 2012 in my blue belt "masters" division there was 26 and 32 in adult which means 58 woman in one weight class! From 6 to 58 in just 3 years! That's a lot of woman sticking with BJJ and growing. This year will be my first Pans as a purple belt and cant wait!
    I have wanted to quit so many times for so many different reasons. Without my husband and my teamates support I may have quit. You need support to survive in this sport! Man or woman.

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  38. I truly believe that a major factor in why women don't get into or stay in Jiu-Jitsu is for hygienic reasons. Mentally I think men are less turned off by the whole idea of being in close contact with sweaty people (or being exposed to skin infections and what not. Chances are they probably stick to something like kickboxing instead of BJJ). I think women want to learn self defense badly in general but they of course have barriers to get through like anyone. Women will probably always be a small minority in the Jiu-Jitsu community but I would love it if they could prove me wrong. The women who stick with BJJ will have a lot of grit and determination that really want to succeed. Now for starters I think we need to not underestimate the physical abilities of women who can be just as technical on the mat as men, treating them as equals. In BJJ competitions women don't usually get the same amount of spotlight as men.

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    1. As a female I don't mind fresh sweat. But stale gis and BO? Not so cool.

      Delete
  39. I don't understand what everyone is all up in arms about this article. I read it several times, and no one is saying that women are in anyway incapable or unwilling to do BJJ. No one is even suggesting that they can't participate at a high level, and be every bit as good as a male counterpart or better for that matter. The ONLY issue on the table is their drop rate, or ACTUALLY, there level of participation in the sport as a whole. BJJ, MMA, and contact sports are primarily MALE dominated. Owens is only trying to say that first and foremost, why is this, and secondly and how do we (as a bjj community) change it. His posed a question as a statement based on the realistic fact that plenty of women (just as their male counterparts) come in guns blazing then have a tendency to drop off. The difference is MORE MALES COME IN MORE FREQUENTLY! (which is kind of a well duh statement, considering it coincides with it being a male dominated sport)
    And to briefly address the few comments that questioned the statistical feasibility of all this, I should point out that since more men join, the statistics are sound just by the nature of statistics. For example it is safe to say that at a typical gym for every five guys, one girl will walk through the door...maybe. Say of those six people, half of them quit. Because of ratio of men to women in many gyms at that participate at higher belt levels, one could make a rather safe assumption that one of those three was the woman. Now that assumes a great deal of factors that would be a ludicrous attempt to place empirical evidence or quantifiable relevance on. WHICH IS WHY The issue is NOT statistics (quitting statistics/turnover ratios/whatever), its female presence in the bjj gym. No one cares about percentages, but whose at the gym, and whose not. Whose leaving, staying, training, improving. Owens is merely stating that we as a community need to figure out how to get less women leaving, and more women training, learning, and improving.


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    1. Wow..From your fingers to God's Ears. Thanks for the Post =).

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  40. I am a woman in my late 30's who just joined my very first Jiu-Jitsu class. This article was very helpful to me and encouraging. I do not think there was anything negative said. He just stated the facts...through his experience. First thing he said was "I WANT women students in my class". Im glad I actually came across this article because it let me know that I am not the only woman who feels intimidated and I just need to let go of whatever holds me back and stick with it. Which is exactly what I want. Thank you for posting this article.

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  41. Hi. I know that there has been some significant backlash from this post, so I don't know how much you even want to read comments right now.
    However, I am a young female who has been doing jiu jitsu for about a year and a half. I believe that most comments made in this blog were offensive linguistically and most likely do not reflect your actual goal.
    It at least seemed to me that you would like suggestions. I am not an expert, but I am a young, small girl who is terrified of confrontation, so Jiu Jistsu has been hard for me and several things helped me to never even consider giving it up:
    1. In our class we generally talk about different ways to adapt techniques in terms of size, not gender. There are several small girls and guys in our class as well as several large guys and a few girls that have a weight advantage. We talk in terms of size and strength to determine what techniques will work the best depending on who you are partnered with. Gender is not an issue, size and strength is.

    2. Everyone is encouraged and many times assigned to work with people of every body type. The only way that you can ask to not work with someone is if there is a personal issue that has been discussed with the instructor.

    3. There is a 3rd degree black belt who is a women who leads class often and several other strong female belts. I realize if you don't have many women this will be hard for you, but know that once you do, the example will help encourage a lot of people.

    I hope that this perspective is helpful. I obviously have no idea what you are doing in class, I just thought that I would share what has helped me.



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    1. I love confrontation Christine and I read every post. =) Thank you for your opinion. It is very helpful and Thanks for not calling me names..lol

      Delete
    2. I like this reply. I don't do BJJ but I do judo that has many of the same issues. I was 38 when I started having been attracted to the sport through watching my eldest and my youngest was 6 months old. To do judo you have to have a masochistic streak a mile wide. Getting thrown on the mat by someone up to 30 kg heavier than you can hurt. Finding yourself consistently on the bottom in newaza can be equally discouraging.


      It can be really disheartening always being the smaller person training with the guys because sometimes it feels like you just can't do the technique. And then you have the opportunity to fight someone your own gender and you realise that you can do it against an appropriately matched partner. Mind you, I find if I can pull off a technique against the guys with their physical advantages then I have the technique sussed. Men and women also fight differently and I really think that a coach has to teach each player a few techniques that they can own as their own. I have o guruma in my repertoire which is a bit of an odd throw but it works well for me.
      I am really flexible so throws that require your wrist to be rod-like are not going to be throws by choice. I love going to ground because I can use my flexibility and strength. But some strangles and chokes I find genuinely hard because I just have to put so much more effort in than the guys. So make sure you include some different ones that don't require brute force and can be advantageous to thinner, bonier arms.

      I also find that knowing what it is like to be out-muscled that I tend to teach newbies extra bits during randori. If I keep pinning them in certain positions I ask them if they know any escapes and talk them through some. Makes it a bit for fun for both of us.

      To stay in judo you need to have competition. The junior coach is a new black belt who I have been fighting since I started. She has the advantage of experience and youth, I have the weight advantage and I'm naturally strong so I'm not the easiest person to out-muscle. We both are stubborn as hell. I've never beaten her but I'm getting closer. Too often in inter-club competition we are the only senior women on the mat. If one of us has to work, the other gets no chance to fight. That reeks.

      Rolling with guys as being a source of friction? Never seen it happen. Most of our guys are young enough to be my sons and the ones closer to my age are happily married. I'm considered an honorary guy. In a gi, it isn't an issue. It may be more of an issue with no-gi training because those shapeless pyjamas hide the good and the bad. Being a bit of a rarity I find when I train at other clubs or go to out of area competitions that the guys are really encouraging and helpful. Most are genuinely supportive and want to see more women on the mat. Some guys are flirts but keep it at a harmless level.

      The idea of women-only classes doesn't appeal to me as a regular thing. It honestly comes across as being a second rate activity. And if you are the kind of female that is attracted to a combat sport, you actually do want to push yourself against the guys at times. And if there is too much oestrogen in a room it can get nasty if conflict does arise for some reason.

      The best way to encourage parents on the mat is to have an existing parent on the mat. The best way to attract women is to have at least one other female slightly more senior around. Get your kids to recruit their mothers.

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  43. As a female blue belt (and the only woman in my class), I think that you are completely correct on all points. I have gotten so excited to see new gals step on the mat only to be washed with a wave of disappointment when not one, but ALL of them have ended up quitting. Every few weeks I want to quit for a day or two because the big-man-white-belts smush me, but I AM TOUGH, and I will never quit.

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  44. Hello, I'm here again, seeing updates. Excellent post, congratulations.
    Greetings from:
    http://campeonesmarciales.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  45. Man... I don't know why you're getting attacked so much for this. I'm 18, a lady, and just recently started getting involved in BJJ, and I see how all of this can be really accurate. I know a lot of girls who say they really want to learn self-defense, how to protect themselves, whatever, but they aren't willing to put forth the effort and it makes them uncomfortable.
    Is this every woman? Hell no. I love rolling with my guy friends, I love being treated just like any other student, and I am willing to be just as tough as any guy. I'm sure there's a lot of other women who are like me.
    I see what everyone is saying, that it just seems more magnified because of the small amount of women practicing. I'm sure that's part of it, but I think what you're observing is accurate, and I'm glad you're calling attention to it, and getting people fired up about it.
    BJJ isn't for everyone, that goes for men and women. But a lot of women can get easily discouraged, and if that discouragement or frustration drives them to quit, then they don't have what it takes. Simple as that.
    So thanks for writing a good article, and I'm really enjoying your blog. Wish me luck as I get better and tap some sweaty dude-ass!

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    1. Also, suggestions for keeping women in it that my instructor has done (even if he doesn't realize it):

      -explain how something can be used to protect yourself. I think a lot of women turn to any of the martial arts for self-defense as well as something fun, so knowing that, 'Hey, in a bad situation, I can feel confident using this!'

      -emphasize that technique is more important than just out-muscling someone. Sometimes, you'll just be weaker than the huge guy rolling with you. Happens. But if it's a huge guy who has no idea? Go for it! Let women know they're just as capable through technique.

      -And I know it's been said, but having other women in the class who are committed is a great example.

      There's awesome, tough ladies out there... We just gotta find them!

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    ReplyDelete
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