I was reading BJJ GRRL’s post, “If You Build It They Will Come“. It brings up the topic of building a viable women’s program. My instructor Jeff Messina has done that recently. Magically he went from one girl to over a dozen in a very short time. I’m not quite sure how he did it, but I can tell you some of the things that I noticed at Revolution Dojo, that I believe contributed.
- It was all about the BJJ, no politics or drama.
- They were patient with me (I am that stubborn hard-headed tomboy).
- They always included me. Initially, there would be times when I was the odd man out. The upper belts would always notice and say, “Jodi, you can work in with us.”
- They didn’t treat me like a girl, they treated me like a small fighter.
- They didn’t treat me like I was stupid, they treated me like a student.
- They encouraged me to train and compete.
- They believed in me and each other.
- They realize that I’m built differently and help me to tweak the techniques to work with my tiny frame.
- There was no significant-other drama. I’m just one of the guys. (Once upon a time I trained a school… Let’s just say that I was on a first name bases with all the guys at the neighbor hood tire shop. Every other month, someone would put a nail in my tire.)
- They respect me. There have been no lewd or crude remarks. Like I said, I am treated like a fighter, not a girl.
- The male students wanted their significant others to be able to defend themselves. So they encouraged them to train.
- The male students wanted to share their love of BJJ with the love of their life.
- Mother’s realized that it was a good family activity, and joined.
- The once a week women’s class is dirt cheap. Women usually sacrifice everything for their family. They’re not going to take money away from the family budget without some serious contemplation. The fact that the women’s class was cheap, on a Friday night (no homework for kids), and women only, all contributed to the argument that it was worth a try.
- They had that one stubborn, hard-headed tomboy who wouldn’t give up.
I can’t take any credit for the success of the women’s program at Revolution Dojo, the guys, students and instructors created an environment where women could train safely. They deserve all the credit. But you still have to start with one. I may or may not have been the first woman to train there, but I was the first to stay. (It’s hard being the only woman.) A school has to get that one woman who will stay and train and be an example for the others. It’s a selling point. If a perspective female student asks Jeff or any of the other students, “Do you have any female students?” What they can say is, “We have one that only weighs about a hundred pounds soaking wet. She’s a mother in her forties with two grown sons. She holds her own in class and always takes first place at tournaments. And everybody has a lot of respect for her.” They probably don’t tell them about the stubborn, hard-headed tomboy part…