Thursday, August 19, 2010

How men should roll with women.

I read a post today, sent to me by Elyse of Gringa BJJ, on the MMA in DC blog about some ethical guidelines for men rolling with women in BJJ.. it prompted some thoughts. Only now the post is down (I was trying this link) so instead of editing, I'll try to come up with my own.

1. Don't handle us with kid gloves like we'll break. We're a tough bunch. But please DO take into consideration the weight/size disparity. Knee on belly is fine, but be controlled and aware of your weight placement, and remember you can break ribs with your knees.

2. Don't mix business with pleasure. By this I mean what I think is pretty obvious-- we ladies are in the class to learn BJJ, not find a date. If you think we're awesome, by all means, develop a friendship or even cultivate something beyond that, but do it off the mats and outside of class. And really think it through- what will that relationship do to the harmony of your academy (whether you live happily forever after, or break up in a month) and your respective relationships with jiu jitsu? And please be gentlemen, meaning keep your mouth shut about your personal life and hers.

3. Be a little more gentle with the newest girls. I think this is obvious to 99.999% of people. For example-- some survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence take up jits for the self defense and empowerment angle. You probably don't think of mount as a particularly terrifying position (beyond the strategic disadvantage of course) but it might bring back bad memories for her. So be sensitive to the possible needs of the newer ladies.

Drop me a comment-- what do you think should be added?

Last: unrelated music fun. Morgan Page remix. Video a little silly, but it's a good tune.

Another Morgan Page remix.


AKA Mollie said...

Also, please don't assume that since my boyfriend also attends the same academy, I only want to spar with him. In fact, he's the last person I want to spar with.

Anonymous said...

I posted this on Stephanie's wall a few months ago and Leslie quoted me I think too. This is what I think about the whole deal...

1. If it won't work on the guys, don't muscle it on the girls. That would be bad training for both of you.
2. It is ok to win! ...some women will require different intensities. Some will not want you to go easy (even if you destroy them) and some will. Some of them will hand your @ss to you without trying. You just need to get to know your training partners. If you aren't muscling it and are using proper technique, you should not be feeling guilty. Go for it!
3. It is ok to lose! ...sometimes I notice that guys wig out when a woman gets a good sweep or goes for a submission. Take this feedback and use it to improve your game! If you aren't tapping, you aren't learning. Relax and leave the ego at the door.

4. Mind your weight - if you have 100 lbs on your opponent, it might not be a good idea to put all of that weight on your teammate's rib cage...after all, they ARE your teammate. Use just enough to pin them when appropriate.
5. Girls are intuitive - if your intentions regarding grips are honest, girls will know it. If your mind starts straying from bjj, we will know that too. That is when you lose good training partners. Basically, just focus on bjj and don't worry about the ettiquette. We know what we signed up for.
6. Listen to your training partner - if they ask you to do or to not do something, listen to them. If you aren't sure about your intensity at any point, just ask!

SavageKitsune said...

6. Listen to your training partner - if they ask you to do or to not do something, listen to them. If you aren't sure about your intensity at any point, just ask!

+1 on that. Communication, communication, communication. This is good for training partners of any gender. Ask, "How's my pressure?" "Is this speed working for you; do you wanna go slower, faster?" Not to an obnoxious extent that will make it seem like you are being overly daddyish and condescending- but enough that it is clear that there is an open line of communication to negotiate training boundaries.

Meg Smitley said...

Really enjoyed this post, Georgette, and I don't disagree with any of your points and you make some excellent observations. I can't help thinking, however, that what this is really about is size/skill differentiation rather than gender, or even sex as this seems more about biological differentiation than identities. Of course, we happen to be a dimorphic species where males are generally larger than females, but, equally not all men are larger than all women.

In terms of BJJ, my assertiveness in rolling depends on the skill level and size of my partner. I'm a lightweight (130lbs/60kgs) and there are men and women in my academy 10-20 kilos lighter and I will adjust my weight placement, distribution and etc, as you say, when working with them. However, two of the women are very tough and seasoned and I am much more assertive with them than with the newer man and woman who I outweigh (and out-experience). This courtesy is, by and large, extended to me. It is training after all, not a fight to the death. However, the body awareness and emotional sophistication required for controlling your weight and power and for moderating your tempo is something that develops with experience, so, for instance, newer white belts can be much more of a handful than giant purple belts (you've met Simon); while the noobs want to smash and give you a great self-defency type energy, the more experienced take the opportunity to work particular aspects of their game, just as I do when working with smaller players, be they men or women.

I think I'm preaching to the choir here, but I suppose I think it is important to not be too hasty to necessarily conflate size/skill disparities with gender.

Family Mat-ters said...

Great advice

Anonymous said...

There's a funny guy at my gym who I've bonded with and we're always joking around and messing around. It's really nice to have someone I feel super comfortable with, and he makes comments that would be really over the line with other guys, but because our relationship is solid he can get away with it. Then again, I also get away with tapping him on the face :) By tapping I mean pretty much slapping several times :D He's super fun--it feels like a big brother.

Georgette said...

@Meg-- totally agree that most of this is a size issue, not a gender one... but I tried to also address issues that come up specific to gender. For one, the hesitancy about "where to put the hands" (and DrSeuss's #5 addresses this)... the original post I reference (I wish I could have posted the original article!) advised men to keep hands palms UP or TOGETHER in guard (presumably to avoid inadvertent boob touching) which I think is silly...

And for another, while men survive sexual assaults as well, the majority of survivors are women, and as such, men should know that some sensitivity to possible "trigger situations" when rolling with a new girl is important.

Meg Smitley said...

Georgette I find that advice re. the palms up a bit silly and am going to mosey on over to this original post. I agree and felt it was a very astute observation in your post re. the potential 'trigger situations' :) Great reading, as usual!

Anonymous said...

I think we should really be talking about how WOMEN should roll with men. We are in their world and WE, being the minority, should make sure that WE make the adjustments.

Mind you, I am not talking about the groping or generally pervy things that could go on. That crap is totally on them. However, the weight and strength differences can be brought to light by us accepting them and verbalizing. (Many women are good at talking. . .lets use it! =) )

Here is in my experience a surefire way to get a man to understand how he should roll with women. After rolls (especially with lower belts) acknowledge the fact that they are strong and big. . . do this by thanking them for not smashing you and throwing you across the room like they could if they wanted. (I even do this if they have been a little bit smashy or if I feel like I'd kick their ass even if they tried to throw me across the room) I have found that this creates dialogue between me and my new sparring partner. (AND it keeps my pride in check. . .if we want them to do it we should lead by example and accept our inherent short comings)

I think this works because they get the recognition that they are in fact strong and masculine but then are held accountable for the fact that this is the case. i.e. if I've recognized that you could use your 80+ lb weight advantage to smash the crap out of me or that you curl my weight on one arm this makes it absolutely silly for him to actually do these things to me.

For those guys who I have thanked for not being to0 smashy (even though they were) there is usually a million fold difference the next time we roll.

I think this works because it allows him to realize that he doesn't have to look at me as a threat in the same way as he may look at other men. Basically, he knows that I can't out muscle him so he starts to work more technique. . .his game opens up because there isn't that fear. . . and then my technique is able to work and we end up with great rolls! =) It is win win for everyone. It is also good because when you do get him he knows that it is because it is from technique and is then able to realize the true nature of BJJ.

I'd say that 95 percent of men i've worked with either understand these things right off the bat or are easily led to understanding through the above method.

Basically if we tell men what they are doing RIGHT instead of what they are doing wrong (minus pervs and dangerous situations) they will learn how they can be better partners and how both you and him can mutually benefit.

Anonymous said...

I just checked the link, and it works, but the post apparently no longer gives the advice about placing the palms up..however it does mention being careful about where you place your hands in guard....

Although I suggest reading the comments, someone posted that if men are "serious" about training in bjj, they shouldn't train with women...a sport shouldn't have an unwritten "code of chivalry"

Honest! go, read it for yourself!

Kirsch: said...

More of a question then a comment, but for new female student that aren't necessarily gung-ho off the bat, is it best encourage them into (light) sparring right away, or ease them into that after a class or two? This question can apply to male beginners, too, but I'm going on the assumption that it might potentially be more daunting for a girl new to BJJ to roll with a stranger, than it is for a guy (feel free to dispel that assumption, too, if it's incorrect).

jmoh said...

Coming from a guy...every time I've grappled with a woman something triggers in my head where I go into survival-like Jiu Jitsu mode. I figure it's the adrenaline pumping that that clears my mind completely.

As long as the guy training partner is actively trying to improve position, or fight for submissions or sweeps it's impossible to say they have perverted motives.

If they stall in position though, then you definitely should avoid rolling with that guy in the future.

Karna said...

Just because we are women doesn't mean you have to go out of your way to be overly "teachy" and stop when we're rolling to show us "proper" technique.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate when ANYONE helps me, but there is definitely a time and a place for it.

Oh and if you're going to stop and show me something mid-roll, make sure 1) you're showing it properly and 2) you're not just stopping because you're in a bad position.

Georgette said...

@Kirsch: I think it depends on the woman. I know I loved grappling from day one and wasn't at all intimidated by rolling. Which isn't to say I haven't tapped on occasion because of sheer claustrophobia (from a girl's top pressure actually!)

Frank said...

@Karna, some guys can't deal with loosing to a girl, so they use that as an excuse.

@Julia, one of my best friends is a girl at my academy and we have a great brother/sister relationship. It's awesome!

As far as where to put your hands and such, I just fight and don't even think about it. If I know my training partner real well we may even joke about it, like one time this chick was passing my guard with a leg lasso and accedentally grabbed my junk, and said, "you're welcome." So it works both ways. But if I didn't know the person real well I could see it being awkward, especially if they were a beginner.

Anonymous said...

The fact that there are different rules for rolling with men and women is ridiculous (and it is about gender not size).

When I roll with a dude that weighs 135, he doesn't ask me to keep my extra 50 pounds off his ribcage. When I roll with the 450 pound guy I don't tell him not to lay on me for 5 minutes at a time while he rests and I start draining. That's the match up and that's what we agreed to.

I say abolish the rules and pick training partners better. If you want to be a part of the boys club there can't be different rules for you.