I had no idea what I was missing.
I never expected to see a lot of other women when I enrolled in my gym. From my start there, I was often the only woman during most jiu-jitsu classes. On what felt like special occasions, all three of us jiu-jitsu women at the gym went to the same class.
I participated in my first competition last month, and meeting the other five women in my bracket as a fellow competitor led to closer connections than when I had attended as a spectator. A few weeks later, I carpooled with a friend from a neighboring gym to a women’s only open mat (do what you want – not structured class) two hours away. We talked, drilled, and grappled together. I left with a lot of new friends. Seminars and competitions gave me a chance to meet more women in sport jiu-jitsu. Those events still left us ladies far outnumbered by the men.
This month, I had another opportunity. I attended a women’s only jiu-jitsu class. It’s offered for free about once a month in my area. Unlike the open mat, this was a structured class. We had an instructor, a woman instructor.
I didn’t know how alone I had been as a woman in jiu-jitsu until women surrounded me. The realization cut into my heart and ripped open decades of scar tissue. In my childhood, little girls could not grow up to be or do what they wanted. Obedient wife and all-giving mother was my given goal. If I had to work “outside the home”, I could be a school teacher (not a college professor, but a school teacher) or a nurse (not a doctor). Until that class, my aspiration to be more sat firmly on an underlying assumption: women in male-dominated arenas would be isolated from other women.Women like me were anomalies. We could do what we wished, but we would be on our own.
More Than Friends
I left the all-women’s class with more than friends. I left with a solid network of support. Now I interact daily with other women in grappling through online groups, direct correspondence, and gym meetups.
From my first class, jiu-jitsu felt like real life (click here for blog post on this). The community of women in jiu-jitsu, gave me a whole new world to live in.
Rebecca encourages survivors of domestic to speak about their experiences and to lean on each other for support.