If you’re going to ask Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coach Sally Arsenault what she would change about her training if she could go back in time, she’ll tell you that she would choose to start BJJ in a women-only beginner class. When she was just a beginner, learning BJJ was quite different from what it is today. Unlike today when there are a growing number of women becoming interested in the martial art, Sally was the only girl in her beginner’s class. What’s worse is that her experience with her fellow beginners was quite hellish, to say the least.
While Sally is now lucky to have awesome and respectful male teammates at her current gym, the same thing cannot be said at her first BJJ school. According to her, while she doesn’t like bashing the members of the opposite sex, the men whom she trained with during her white belt days were very rude and unpleasant. If it weren’t for them, her training experience could have been more fulfilling and productive.
She explained that one of the reasons why she would have wanted to attend a female-only beginners’ class is that she was greatly disrespected and mistreated by her male classmates. Her bottom was groped during rolling or drilling on several occasions and she has been called derogatory terms simply because she’s a woman. She has also experienced bullying and having someone spit in her water when she refused to let that person drink out of her bottle.
Sally can’t also count the times male white belts had injured her. One time, her training partner smashed his hips so hard into her back during a positional sparring match that she developed persistent back pain afterwards. Another guy pulled her arm so hard she had to go through months of rehab for a torn rotator cuff.
This attitude and display of complete disregard for other people makes brand-new male white belts dangerous to themselves and to others. Because many of them don’t have a clue about their own strength or are being difficult on purpose and just want to get that submission, a female beginner might be traumatized and consider quitting BJJ right before she gets better at it. This is something Sally wants to avoid at all cost.
Because she knows how great Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is and how helpful it can be for people of small stature, she wants to encourage as many women as possible to be interested in the combat sport. Not only is it a confidence-booster and a provider of great workouts, BJJ can be quite handy for those who want to defend themselves against much larger opponents.
According to Sally, the women in her class told her that they would never have tried or stayed with BJJ if they had had to train with men and gotten the same treatment as hers. This is why she’s encouraging gym owners to set up female-only beginners’ classes. In order to attract more female practitioners, gym owners must create a much friendlier environment or at least teach male practitioners to behave themselves and treat everyone with respect, regardless of their gender.