Sunday, October 17, 2010

What do men think of single women that train BJJ?

There's something about cracking 30...not just turning 30, but being officially "in your 30s" (a phrase I heard used in reference to me for the first time at my first private lesson last week) that cements some things in your life. While I feel much more open to change and possibilities in some areas, in the world of relationships, I'm starting to settle down...into singleness. Not just, "not dating now", but I can genuinely and solidly identify myself as being single. It's been...over seven years since a serious long term relationship and, while I don't object to it, I have no pressing ambitions to carry the title of "girlfriend" again. 

I'm reading this paper that's got me thinking about my social positioning in the gym. Out of nine women, ranging in age from 14 to 42, I really think I might be the only un-coupled one there. In any other situation, that might not be that odd, but jiu jitsu would assume...the type of women that are more likely to be single. (Despite the couple "stats" at my gym, though, I do still believe that to be true.) 

As much as I think that fact could be superficial in the face of training, a few classes alternating between being the only woman and being one of multiple women on the mats, and I know the impact of training with women changes the undertone of a training session. I know that women having husbands/boyfriends who also train changes how they are responded to. Not sure if there's any difference between training alone and actually being single, but I'm definitely curious.

Even if it doesn't register at all with the guys at the gym, it's been in the back of my mind since day one. I've heard stories of women that show up for a few classes of man-shopping.  I consulted with my best friend before taking my first private, concerned that people would think I was making advances toward an instructor. Despite being a year in, and while it doesn't change my choice to train, I still wonder, what do people think of a straight, single woman that trains BJJ?


Anonymous said...

This is unrelated, but in case you aren't aware, I thought you'd like to know that the publisher of The Guard has unprinted bonus material not in the book available here: said...

You're a brave & strong woman. I wouldn't have tried bjj without my husband. It took months for me to show up to class without him. The fact that you have stuck with it shows that you are serious about your training. If anyone thinks differently, that's their problem.

Megan said...

@ Anonymous...this is niiiice. The index alone is great. I already feel like I could spend years working through the techniques, this is just icing on the cake. Thanks@

@'s funny that you say that. I think I was so physically exhausted and embarrassed when I first started that while I was aware of being one of the few women training, it didn't enter my mind much. I think now that I'm more relaxed and settled in, it's starting to cross my mind.

Anonymous said...

I am a married woman who's husband does not train and is not interested in BJJ at all. The only concession I've made is to make sure that my husband is also friends with my favourite training partners.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain there. I'm a 42 year old single female. The first female to train at my gym. The first few months were a little weird. The guys didn't know what to do with me. They finaly realized that I wasn't going away, and started to take me seriously. I've been training for 18 months now. My instructor told me yesterday that all of the guys have a lot of respect for me, and that they are all very proud of me.

I do get evil eyes from one of the wives. I ignore her. A lot of the other guys have used me as an example to encourage their wives or girlfriends to start training. Some I talk to and encourage, the others, well let's just say I'm polite to them.

I did about ten years of standup martial arts before trying BJJ. I always felt the same about private lessons that you do. I was afraid that someone / everyone would think I was just trying to get into the instructor's pants, so I didn't. That was probably a mistake, because things were much harder for me to try to figure out on my own. Lots of usless tears shed there.

I think that anybody that survives a year as a white belt in BJJ, is there for the BJJ. Let's get real, if you want a one night stand you go to a bar. If you want a husband, you go to church or the like. BJJ is too hard to just be there to get laid.

The fact that the tone of the class changes when the other women are there says a lot. It sounds like they accept you as one of the guys, because they are more themselves when it's just you.

I'm glad that you brought this up, seeing as I'm in the same shoes. I would like to know what the guys think, too.

Take care,

A.D. McClish said...

Ditto what Jodi said! Except for me being single. I'm kinda sorta married. But I do BJJ alone and my hubbie isn't interested. I think if you're there to train, the guys will be able to sense that. We have had a few girls come to our gym for the guys. They don't last. It's like Jodi said. If you stick with it, it becomes clear to everyone that you're there to learn BJJ, not to peruse the meat market.

fenix said...

I see it from the same viewpoint as Jodi and Allie. There certainly would be easier ways to pick up guys than play BJJ!

I'm single and the only woman who trains regularly at our school. I've been there nearly two years now, but I think people figured I'm serious about BJJ when I lasted more than 6 months. I'm treated like any of the guys. Sometimes new guys seem to feel a bit awkward when they first drill/roll with me, but that soon passes.

I guess in my favour is the fact that I'm 46. If I were a good looking young girl, it could be a bit harder for the guys. Firstly there is less likelyhood for them to think that I'm there to find a boyfriend, and secondly, less chance of someone wanting to hit on me :-)

I have often wondered what assorted GFs and wives think of their men rolling with me. Nobody has ever mentioned anything, and it's very rare indeed that their better halves come to watch the guys train. There, too, the fact that I'm not young and hot would make the women feel "safer". But whatever, honestly, I don't think I'd care too much, and dagger eyes wouldn't deter me at all.

What on earth people outside the school think of my hobby, that is questionable :-). I don't talk about BJJ that much and I don't advertise the fact that I do it. I'm too old to care what is said in hushed tones behind my back.

If people have time to worry why this single woman goes and rolls with big and sweaty men in her free time, then evidently, the current soap operas on TV are too boring to engage all their brainpower.

Sean said...

From my (guy) perspective, if/when a single female shows up to Jiu Jitsu, it would be my 1st assumption that they were there for self defense, and my last assumption that they were there to pick up dudes.

For anyone to stick with it after, say, two months, it's most likely because they've become attached to one or more aspects of BJJ-- as mentioned above, it's too hard a sport to keep showing up for ulterior motives.

Just as long as someone takes the instruction and the class seriously, there shouldn't be any negative judgement. And if a female's motivation happens to be to meet guys and winds up falling in love with Jiu Jitsu, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that.

SavageKitsune said...

Many people who are *not* MA'ists assume that if you're single and doing MA, obviously you're a butch lesbian. The other MA'ists don't seem quite as prone to jump to that conclusion. They stay on topic, though- at least so far in my experience. I almost never have people hitting on me in the dojo (and I have no lack of people hitting on me elsewhere).

Liam H Wandi said...

The gym "vibe" is not something that just happens. It's something very very valuable that needs to be guarded more stringently than the secrets of the kimura!

At our gym, we make it very clear that this is a place of love, growth, sport and hard work. We have lots of fun with each other and respect each other. Anyone who doesn't get "with the programme" either leaves or is asked to adjust their attitude. Luckily, We've never had a SERIOUS issue. Well, not for a couple of years at least :)

Georgette said...

Great question... I have observed with great interest the sociology and psychology of intergender relationships at the academy. We've had every combination of attractive/unattractive, older/younger, single/dating/married, low ranked/high ranked women at our academy and some of each have stuck with it, left quickly, or left after a long time. I haven't come to many conclusions yet but a couple have been percolating in my brain. For sure if you take it seriously, you'll be taken seriously. Whether attached or not, you're a sister in the blood family of jits.

Megan said...

@Georgette, I'd be curious to hear some of your theories. I'm thinking I want to write more on it as I get some more time on the mats.

@TPTG You are so right. I was talking to my instructor about the very first gym, and we both agreed there was NO way I would have made was just too manly.

@Savage...very true. I can tell when a guy's attracted, and when they might even be thinking of doing something, but aside from a couple of minor incidents (that were more tame than what happens on the street), the guys (and ladies) have refrained from making any romantic advances.

@Kirsch, I really wish all guys thought like that.

@CY, I made a point of putting my age out there early on, hoping that 30 would be decently old enough since I can pass for a few years younger. I know outside they think I'm nuts/a dominatrix in training, but so be it.

@ A.D. ...and it's definitely a meat market. I've noticed ladies stopping by just to watch lately.

@Combat...serious respect for you. When I started, there were two other female white belts, a green, three blues and a brown, so the gender mix wasn't that intimidating. I do tend to shy away from no-gi for that reason though.

Zen Mojo said...

Single, married, "it's complicated," I don't care. I'm just glad they're on the mats. I think BJJ is the best martial art for women as both self-defense and for exercise (I think it is the best for men too :-)).

My mind is more occupied with how to keep them training long enough for them to truly gain some useful self-defense skills (about 6 months). If they are still around after that, they are just one of the guys (the same amount of time that any white belt becomes a true part of the "family").

Personally, the only "issue" I have with women is the wide range of "physical contact" they are used to (find acceptable) when they start. Some are ready to jump right in and don't want to be treated any different from the guys, others are ready to break into tears the first time they feel a submission or they feel a guy's full strength holding them. It takes a little time/patience to get this second group used to the physical contact that is required to effectively train and get to the point where they see BJJ gives them an effective response.

Guys are a little more homogeneous (or at least our pride doesn't let us cry in front of other men :-)), but there are still plenty of guys who stop coming after experiencing the "in your face" nature of BJJ.

Sorry for the ramble. But if you're not bored I've got some more thoughts on my blog here:

Jiujitsunista said...


Most of the guys at my school have FIRM policy about the girls who train. They are off limits. They basically feel you don't crap where you eat about it. The police each other about it too. lol Though, there are only 6 regular girls where I train, and of those 6 only 2 are single. (Prior to the rule, twice dating in the dojo ended in horrific disaster, with people leaving totally.) So, I understand why they feel that way. Our BJJ family is like family... it hurts to lose people.

As female though, I always assume when girls show up, they are there to learn BJJ... for health, safely or otherwise.

People in it for the wrong reasons never last.

Megan said...

Yeah...I can't imagine going through all this just to pick up a guy. I can see the potential for disaster though...all the bondiness and whatnot.


I train in BJJ, roll with guys and girls alike, and frankly, my relationship status ain't none of anyone's business. We're not there to hit on each other, we're there to roll! Let haters hate and people judge.

If it's your passion, none of these things will stop you. Your actions will speak for you.

Georgette said...

Well put, Intellectual.

Megan said...

Georgette! Miss ya dude...

I agree Intellectual, but at the same time, perception does impact reality. While some of us may not be there to hit on each other, others are...or they decided to be once somebody showed up. Haters or lovers may not get someone off the mats, but they can very much change an experience.

Mike W. said...

Your teammates are exactly that, teammates.

When a new girl enters the gym to train, there is always talk about it. Its very much like high school in that regard, however it is understood that everyone is here to train, and that is how it should remain.

Women who come into gyms just to meet guys have no business there. Go to a 24hr fitness if you just want to meet inshape guys, please save the drama and theatrics for another place.

Personally, this is why i prefer the idea of having Women's only classes. (Instructor can be either gender)

Not only does it keep away drama, it opens up to a broader group of women who otherwise might not want to train Jiu Jitsu because they would have to train with all men.

Megan said...

I'm glad to say it seems like most gyms seem pretty proactive in making people who come there just for a date, feel unwelcome.

I do like the idea of women only classes, but only from a marketing/recruiting/competition prep perspective.

Women come in very large size ranges (there are three of us over 200lbs at my gym), so it's not like it would cut back on size discrepancies and as far as unwelcome advances are concerned, that's not limited to men.

Anonymous said...

I think it's awesome that single women train BJJ (and MMA too). It's athletic, healthy, and an attractive quality - just generally, not from a shopping/advances/meat market perspective. Guys in general like it.

Good gyms have a solid core of people in them that know how to handle situations and keep the good vibe there everyone is looking for. This can include mature upper belts to handle the stripper types or girls with ulterior motives as well as to handle the teenage type immaturity from males. It's a difficult enough sport that people with ulterior motives usually don't last, so a chill and laid back attitude dealing with things is always a plus.

It's good for guys to roll with girls to learn to roll technically and in control without the spazoid-testosterone-based-rip-an-arm-off-at-all-costs competitive contest approach we do sometimes. And if a girl is better than you technically that won't help anyway.

Anonymous said...

"Despite being a year in, and while it doesn't change my choice to train, I still wonder, what do people think of a straight, single woman that trains BJJ?"

Probably not much more than skill capabilities, and less about gender or sexual orientation than you might think. We're all there training for individual reasons (and with our own limitations) so these considerations shouldn't matter to anyone so long as it doesn't interfere with the common goal.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I would say that being a single woman is actually somewhat risky, as there are some men who just don't respect women as equals. That's a problem in a sport so personal and requiring so much trust. There are no rules, really, as long as everyone treats each other with respect. But there are black belts who, let us say, are willing to abuse their position to take what they can get from women... any women, even those they are supposed to be training. It's disgusting, but let's face it: it's still a boys' club. If there is a problem, 90% of the time it's the woman who leaves. I've seen it personally a couple of times; and heard about many more.

I think that everyone is right: BJJ is way too hard to do as a way to pick up men. It's also too hard to maintain good vibes at the gym when there's relationship drama.

I don't know what men think about single women, but I know what I think: be extremely careful. If you don't want to sacrifice your training environment, keep your personal life off the mat at all costs.