Going Over the Edge

Many years ago my oldest son Micheal asked me,  “Mom, what’s the hardest part of rapeling?”

“Why, going over the edge.  After that gravity takes over.”

     As with anything in life, the most difficult thing is that first big step.  The same is true with martial arts.  I’ve frequently been told by noobs, that there concerned about martial arts being too hard.  Then I tell them that they’ve already done the hardest part.  At which point I get a really crazy look.  Then I clarify. 

“The most difficult part of martial arts is stepping onto the mat that very first time.”

This is an email I received from someone who is considering taking BJJ, but still has some reservations.  I thought you guys could help her by reading her survey and then providing support by writing your thoughts and well wishes in the comment section below.

Thank you guys.  You are the bestest!

Ran into your post about how to get more women into BJJ and wondered
if you’d be interested in my perspective. I am very interested in
starting BJJ, but haven’t so far. Part of that is purely practical – I
don’t currently have transport to where it is taught. I would like to
think that I will go to a class as soon as the transport is sorted
out, but in truth I don’t know. It’s kind of intimidating.

1) What is the general region of the world in which you reside?
The Netherlands

2) How old are you?

3) Do you have a significant other?
4) If you do have a significant other, how do they feel about you
training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
5) How many children do you have?  If so, what are their ages?
n/a all three

6) What element of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu do you find interesting?
The way it’s intensely physical while also requiring that you tune in
mentally. I’m one of those people who ‘lives in their head’ so
something that needs me to be very active while keeping me thinking is
appealing and much more likely to keep me interested and motivated
than half an hour on threadmill or something similarly boring.

7) What element of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu do you find offensive?
I don’t know about offensive, having no experience, but offputting:
– a large part of the online BJJ community is rather sexist-macho,
with a whole lot of objectification of women going on. Seeing that
almost everywhere makes me expect it at the school I intend to start
at (which is the only available), and that’s intimidating as hell. I
get that it’s probably not like that at every school (though my local
one is a good candidate for the stereotype sadly) and once you’ve been
somewhere for a while you’ll probably settle in okay, but as out of
shape, complete newbie… man I don’t know if I could keep coming if I
didn’t feel acknowledged as a person rather than as ‘the new chick’. I
am less concerned about physical safety than about emotional safety
(the feeling that your wellbeing matters to your training partners and
instructor, and that it’s safe to be inexperienced, unfit, bad at
something or otherwise feel vulnerable).
– (over) competitiveness in training. I think both of these depend
hugely on school culture.

8) If you only had two hours in a week to train in Brazilian Jiu
Jitsu, what day and time would be most convenient?
a week day evening, I think

9) How much would you pay to train two hours a week in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Maybe at most €50 per month. I think having either a non-contract form
or a very short contract could help getting people to try it – like a
1-month/4 class tryout contract.

10) What would your reasons for training be? (fitness, self-defense, sport, etc)
I specifically enjoy grappling, but I’d also go for having fun,
learning new cool skills, getting fit.

11) If you currently train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, what things about
your school made you stay?
Different take on this question: what could attract me?
– a school that clearly has space for women, both practically (female
changing rooms, showers, etc) and in the atmosphere. No super macho
‘man up’ crap, no smashing people for imaginary ‘points’, no sexist
comments or atmosphere. (and I think this is only really possible if
you have instructors who are leading by example, paying attention and
correcting this stuff when it starts to happen)
– a women’s class… I think I’d start out there and probably very
quickly go to normal classes, but I think it would be helpful to get
over the first intimidation factor/discomfort with all the physical
closeness etc in a class with other women.
– Are there other women training there? White belts only or coloured
belts too? Are they part of the team atmosphere? I think this tends to
be a really important indicator or how welcome women are in any given
group. If school can’t keep its female students, presumably there’s a
reason.. and not just, as Sherdog assumes, that ‘women don’t like BJJ’
– More general, a school that has a specific plan for newbies,
something more than ‘chuck you into a class and get tapped 600 times’.
If a school told me that the first (few) classes they put newbies with
an experienced training partner to go over basics (or whatever other
approach to the first few lessons), that would give me the impression
that they are interested in specifically teaching me, rather than just
hoping I pick up basics by osmosis and at the mercy of a random
training partner. You can’t play until you have some tools to play

12) If you have left a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school, what things made
you leave… and what could have been done to keep you there?

13) How were you introduced to BJJ?
I have grappled with friends a few times and really enjoyed it, I’d
like to do it more often and get better.

Hope this is helpful.


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5 Responses to Going Over the Edge

  1. georgette says:

    Hi Newbie! 🙂

    I really hope you decide to take the plunge. It’s the best thing I’ve decided to do (and I’ve been obsessed with a few cool things in my life, including horses, photojournalism, scuba diving, travel, cooking, racquetball, and practicing law among others.)

    GAH! The online community. What a bunch of asshats sometimes! Don’t judge us by what some of those fools write when they’re safe behind their anonymous screen and keyboard. They’re NOT like that in person at their home gym I tell you. They’d get trounced post haste.

    I honest to God think that many times what’s perceived as “sexist” is just “boyist.” It’s not antiwoman, it just doesn’t happen to include women, because it’s “boy in his natural element.” By that I mean, guys in their usual, athletic, competitive, all-guys atmosphere tend to kid each other about the same sorts of stuff. But all the smashing, macho, man-up verbage that you mentioned really does disappear on the mats and often disappears in the presence of a lady (unless, like me, you’re a bit of a tomboy, and eventually you start kidding them in the same way.)

    ALL the guys started in the same place you or any other chick are starting– less fit, uncertain, ignorant, intimidated. They actually start a little worse off, because their egos often don’t let them acknowledge even that much, even to themselves. And everyone who’s done this a while knows that, and understands, because they were there once too. So unless your school is just apeshit crazy (more on this in a moment) there won’t be much of that silliness on the mat. Because egomania like that results in injuries and injured people don’t train. Usually a really spazzy whitebelt will get corralled, contained, wet-blanketed and schooled by an upper belt until they chill out and relax. It’s a very self-limiting sort of thing.

    You’ll know if your school has potential for apeshit crazy if there aren’t many people training, and if when you ask if this is a usual class size, they respond “well John is out with X, Bill with Y, Jim with Z” and the list goes on and on and on. (Injuries are common, but they shouldn’t take out more than a small handful of people at any one time.) It’s possibly apeshit crazy if you watch a class and you hear a lot of groaning and explosive effort from everyone the majority of the time. (Most jiu jitsu practice doesn’t involve Herculean effort all the time.) It’s potentially apeshit crazy if you don’t see anyone over 21 years old, anyone female, anyone in a gi, or anyone not sporting an Affliction/Tapout/Dethrone tshirt.

    Keep in mind this sport, while suited to older, weaker and less agile people still tends to attract a lot of younger men. They’re not known for their emotional intelligence at times (not to be sexist myself!) So don’t go in expecting a whole lot of cuddling and handholding (I’m not saying you are.) But I have trained in a number of different academies and can confidently say that 99.999% are some of the warmest-hearted most caring and protective people out there. You have to be, when you’re learning how to do things that can break bones and spirits. It’s a family, a brotherhood/sisterhood, and we watch out for each other. As a woman beginner, you’ll probably get more coddling and care than a guy would.

    Are you, Ms. Newbie, here in Texas? Please come to a Girls in Gis then! Next one is in San Antonio Sunday Feb 27th, 12-3pm. Find our page on facebook for details, or don’t hesitate to email me or find my blog.

    Hope you jump in 🙂 🙂

    • Georgette, all I can say is, “You Rock!” Thank you for dispelling the evil negatives that people associate with BJJ.

    • Anon says:

      Thank you for your reaction. I think it would be less intimidating if the local school wasn’t ‘MMA-grappling but you can do gi in the lessons’ and from what I’ve seen mostly or even exclusively has late-teens & early twenties guys training. I will go and at least sit in on a lesson though, once I have the transport sorted, and unless it shows all the hallmarks of apeshiteness, participate in at least one lesson too.
      I don’t expect cuddling or handholding, but I do hope for an atmosphere of some patience and care. I have had some bad experiences in the past (not that I’d be willing to share that with the class, but self defence is one reason I’m interested in BJJ) and some of the positions will take some getting used to, especially with strangers. I guess I’m only willing to put myself in that situation if I can reasonably expect that if I were to freeze up when somebody has high mount, the reaction will be ‘hey, are you okay?’ instead of ‘what the fuck is wrong with you’.

      Thanks for the invite, but I’m in Europe 🙂 I did find a women-only open mat style session that will happen not far from here in a couple of weeks, and they say newbies are welcome, so I will see if I can make that. It’s not near enough to go there for regular lessons, but I hope it will be a good intro.

  2. Allie says:

    Georgette does rock. (lol at the “boyist” comment. Too true!!) She really said it all. I can only reiterate that the meatheads in the forums are not a good representation of what my school is like–or like any of the schools that the girls from the bjj blogs train at, as far as I know. At my school, I was immediately accepted into the family. The guys are like a bunch of big brothers who definitely love to give me a hard time, but will jump to my defense at a moment’s notice.

    The other thing that I would say in favor of training is that BJJ has forced me to face a lot of my own weaknesses. It has made me change the way I deal with fear, pressure, frustration, success and failure, ego, need for approval, selfishness, etc. The list could go on. BJJ has helped me build loads of confidence, but it has also taught me how that confidence shouldn’t come from a need to enforce my will or convince others to love me, but from a quiet assurance that I will adapt to whatever comes and try to make the most out of it. I know all of that sounds sappy, but it’s true.

    Hope you decide to jump over the edge!! 🙂

  3. Georgette says:

    Thanks ladies 😉

    May I humbly suggest a post I wrote about why you should train?


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