I have a girlfriend who trains in an area without a lot of BJJ options. She just sent me this message and I hope you can help her with her decision.
"This year I've made a resolution to figure out how to get hurt less often in BJJ or quit training. As an example, in December I got my ribs popped and then ended the month with a concussion from a knee to the back of the head. It's starting to get to the point of being just too dangerous to continue training.
So what I would like to know is, do you have any experience (or know of any lady who does) with how to get hurt less often?"
I will say that she's at a gym affiliated with a quality program (it's not a TKD school by far) and her coach, from what she's described, sounds like a good guy, with a reputable black belt.
Tangentially related-- Hillary Williams writes in a Sherdog thread about technique vs. strength, and men vs. women in jiu jitsu:
"The actual strength capability, if it can be mildly quantifiable, is as Mcrow so graciously reminded us: 145 pound guy =/= 145 pound girl as far as muscle composition. I don't really need to touch on that part.
However, *how* women use the strength we have is also interesting and needs to be touched on. It explains why little male grapplers are still not quite comparable to female grapplers. I'm not going to go on feminist babble, but I will mention some gender differences that everyone knows but know one really thinks about.
Men are taught to be boisterous, aggressive, courageous etc. from a young age. They help dad build things, play sports or games with other kids, and use their bodies as tools very young. This allows them to develop a very instinctive sense of using their bodies effectively because they learn naturally. In many male sports, an "attack" gameplay is the norm: movements that involve leaving one's space and aggressively confronting an object or another player. Women, however, are gracefully emphasized. Almost no girls are put into contact sports; volleyball, soccer, gymnastics are common. These all teach grace, movement within a bounded area, and reacting to intrusions in that space.
When you watch women in combat sports, there is a similar pattern that emerges. When men start Jiu Jitsu, they are familiarized with the idea of combat their entire lives from being males and are generally pretty stoked about it. They really want to be fighters. They'll not know one bit what a guard pass is but they will flop, flail, and attack as best they can. They'll be generally aggressive about the learning process itself and will decide their own style of game down the line. Women are almost all apprehensive at first. I'll jump on a 2000 pound animal that's never had a human on its back with no fear, but I know I was terrified the first time I did BJJ. They're out of their element, almost none have ever done anything full contact before (most girls don't "wrassle" with dad or friends, either). Their Jiu Jitsu, initially, is often more reserved, unsure of goals or objectives (many don't have the UFC/MMA familiarity with even seeing the ground movements like many men today do), and are more reactive to movements that invade their space rather than attack outside it. Part of this has to do with our disadvantage of effect use of our body as a whole: We are stronger the more compact we are, and reaching outside this space leaves us exposed and vulnerable.
As we're learning BJJ, girls understand--at least subconsciously--that what we're doing isn't "normal" for girls. We kind of compensate by emphasizing the technical aspect of Jiu Jitsu, which can be manipulated to appear graceful and thus socially okay for a girl to do. Girls are slightly more naturally flexible (the majority of the difference is early emphasis of stretching in female exercise) and so we end up doing very flexible, flowing games that react to the aggressive male attacks that we encounter in the gym. We become sneaky, we learn to be quick and agile, to move around you rather than through you.
Tangent: That ISN'T to say women are more technical, or that the game produced is more technical. I hate that phrase, actually. Who's to say that a black belt doing berimbolo and tornado and rolling around on their head is more "technical" than the person who does the most basic scissor sweep? If both the techniques were effective in their objective, they are technical. Just because something is simple, does not mean it is not technical.
Because women rarely train with other women, quite often our reactive game works well for us. We defend all the time; men can't stand 'losing' to girls, so most of our rolls are defense rather than expansion. I have seen MANY female students (and I have done this myself) abandon certain techniques in the gym because they were simply not effective against big guys. If you don't have female training partners, like me, you end up with parts of your game (that could be vital against equally sized opponents) given up on due to frustration.
This can lead to a lapse in a girl's offensive Jiu Jitsu. When men try to "not use strength," it's a catastrophe. Don't worry boys, it's not your fault, it's just impossible for you to roll like a female would. Even if you're trying to "not use strength" (stupid idea to begin with), your body shape, size, and weight is a challenge in itself. When we run into situations where we're finally with someone going balls to the wall to beat us, we're confused and unprepared. The more you compete and do Jiu Jitsu, the more you can taper your training and prepare yourself, but I don't know a girl in BJJ that didn't say her first tournament was a shock. Men are used to aggressive rolls, winning some and losing some, and have a much easier time of it.
That being said, I think the "technique beats strength all the time" boolsheet that is fed to women as a BJJ pitch is absurd. Women are taught that "if you just focus on technique, technique, technique, it'll all work out." It also implies that strength and technique are mutually exclusive, as if strength is a bad thing. If strength was such a bad thing or not important we wouldn't have damn near every one of our top athletes looking like fitness models and doing S&C daily/weekly. Technique is the effective and efficient use of strength as much as an armbar is. If I can use my shoulder and weight distribution in a way that I can hold down a 190 pound brown belt, I'd consider that some pretty damn technical shoulder pressure. Women think they're aren't as strong, or that they'll never be able to match their male partner's strength, so they don't even attempt to access their own potential."