Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Small Man Conundrum

Almost five years in and I’m still uncomfortable with men who are significantly smaller than me…and that’s on multiple levels. There is a difference between training with a man who's slightly smaller, but still stronger than I am, and training with a man who I know, without a marked difference in skill, I could likely cause some physical damage. 

I showed up to drilling class last week, and most people were working on their tests. I ended up partnering up with one of our new blue belts…he’s probably about 5’3”, 140lbs, fast and technical—a stark contrast to my slower and definitely less detailed 6’, 210lbs. I’ve rolled with him before and he dismantles me easily—partially because I’m still quite clumsy with people when I know any drop of my weight could easily result in the crack of their rib.  To be clear, he’s quite a bit better than me, but with him, I’m quite a bit worse than myself.

He needed a partner and since I’m not testing, I was the best choice—thankfully he asked me to train. I’m always slow to initiate with a smaller man unless I know him well. That’s not out of protection of my own ego—years of salsa and learning to risk the rejection in asking a shorter man to dance has left me generally insulated against the slight indignity of being shot down as a partner because you are, in fact, a large woman. Unfortunately, it has also left me with a heightened awareness of the split second of confused panic that frequently runs across a man’s face when he’s put in the difficult position of training with a woman that might be able to dominate him in some way—even if that way is only getting stuck under a crushing mount for a few seconds more than he might be comfortable with. I also fear that little extra oomph of machismo that's prone to pop up every now and again...whether in dance or on the mats, I've never felt compensatory danger from a similar sized or larger man. 

This newer blue though, I believe understands the complex dynamics of gender and strength and seems to be ok with it. I’ve heard him remark very matter-of-factly that some of the women in the gym are stronger than he is, and I take his ability to even form those words as an indication thereof. 

So we adjusted as we went—comments of using someone lighter than me were initially delivered with a hint of reluctance, and I apologized a bit too much for my weight when applying armbars from mount. As to be expected though, as we worked, the genderedness of the exchange melted away and we made it to a point where we were simply two bodies, training jiu jitsu.  


Kintanon said...

Every time I read something of this nature from you I want to giggle a little bit.

You only weigh like 200lbs, yet you have the same kind of mental reservations that I hear from men who weigh 50% more than you.

My AVERAGE training partner size for years was 200lbs, and I'm 5'7" 140. Even as a white belt I was getting squished by people 50% heavier than I am.

Don't be afraid of crushing people. They deserve to be crushed. Shoulder of justice them until the pass out from the pressure. Knee ride them until their ribs creak.

I've told guys more than once that if they don't hear my breath WHOOSH out when they settle into side control, then they are doing it wrong. And these guys were 230+.


Megan said...

How'd I miss this!

Haha...I'm always scared I'm going to break a rib and not just hear creaking. I'm hoping balance will come around purple:/

The Locomatic said...

I was afraid of crushing people, but after constantly being told...."Why don't you use your weight as an advantage", I'm always in CRUSH mode. I want people to feel "Shamu". LOL