BJJ Poll: Do You Feel Comfortable Rolling with Jiu-jitsu Players of the Opposite Sex?

We received this question from a listener to The FightWorks Podcast here in Southern California, who called our toll free number 877-247-4662 and left us this message:

I’m calling you from Los Angeles and I got a question for you regarding rolling with people from your school of the opposite gender. I know at our school we have some smaller, petite female jiu-jitsu players that are also good looking. I know sometimes they don’t feel comfortable rolling with other guys. They only roll with guys they know that they can trust either to not smother them or to not, you know, be discourteous. I’d like to know how many jiu-jitsu players out there of the Mighty 600,000 feel comfortable rolling with jiu-jitsu players of the opposite sex.

So that’s this week’s BJJ Poll!

I look forward to hearing what the results of the poll will be, as well as what some of the comments will be on this post. I know there is a noteworthy cadre of female jiu-jitsu bloggers out there who weigh in on related topics all the time. This should be a good one.

Make sure you vote and leave your comments here on the site!

24 Replies to “BJJ Poll: Do You Feel Comfortable Rolling with Jiu-jitsu Players of the Opposite Sex?”

  1. I am a petite female, rolling with mostly guys, albeit I am older than most. Few women to train with in my area- mostly they are very young, overly competative, and bring that to training- so I prefer to roll with men. People that have not trained with me tend to talk too much and laugh too much, so I assume they are nervous. That allows ME to set the pace for drilling so as not waste time. Have noticed if I can make a comment to bring a smile, they do relax.
    I decline new people and ones that seem uncomfortable until they get to know me better. Some never do and no harm done. It’s part of the package- but I climbed for years with almost all men, so that environment is nothing new to me. . It’s OK to crack SOME jokes and break the tension, just let them know you respect their choice to train Jiu Jitsu! Salud

  2. We have a few woman at our gym and while I have no issues rolling with them I am always concerned with what the best way to roll with them is. I am 185 and most of them are about 100-115 so I don’t want to play a smashing game, etc. I want to make sure that the roll is productive for both. Typically I do more of a flow roll with lighter pressure than normal if they are smaller. When they are closer to me in size then don’t really roll different than normal.

    There is a lot to learn from rolling with females because they have a unique perspective that you can learn from. I am really glad to have the opportunity.

  3. its pretty awkward to accidentally catch a handful of boob. I also feel bad about smashing the boobs in N/S or side control. Also, the hair often seems to get in the way when Im working chokes from the back- feels like im pulling hair out. Im not saying that these are definite deal breakers, but rather things I find myself thing about during a roll when I would rather be focusing on my technique.

  4. i am 38 yo, married, a purple belt and 138lbs. All of these things seemingly mean that I am often tasked with rolling with the women at the academy.

    At first I did not like but now I quite enjoy training with women. They have a different game and way to move. It is a good change and I enjoy that I am trusted with them as students.

    The only negative is their long hair. At least as it relates to BJJ.

  5. I think that the options should be gender divided. Like 1, Im a female and feel comfortable, 2 Im a male and feel comfortable, 3 Im a female and feel uncomfortable, 4 Im a male and feel uncomfortable.. I have no issues rolling with girls, but the hair is usually in the way and the balance of how light u should roll, to benefit both. I usually play guard with women so my weight wont be as big a factor.

  6. No problem at all rolling with women, major problem rolling with “tweenaged” girls. Where I train, the basics classes have a minimum age requirement, but that age requirement is still quite young. Generally, the kids and women choose to roll with other kids and women, which makes sense for all parties involved. Unfortunately, sometimes we do round-robin positional sparring, and it’s pretty much luck of the draw. I have never felt as uncomfortable in my life as I did being inside the guard of an 80# girl, and she was obviously extremely uncomfortable too. I just swept myself to get out of there – uncool for all involved.

  7. It would be interesting to see something like:

    1. I’m male and don’t mind rolling with females.
    2. I’m female and don’t mind rolling with males.
    3. I’m male and Do mind rolling with females.
    4. I’m female and Do mind rolling with males.

    I’d like to think that in 2010 the majority of those who step on the mat are happy to hsake hands and roll with whomever decided to leave their comfy home and drag their tired ass to the mat.

  8. 1. I am a big guy. Rolling with a female, and not using strength and power is a great learning experience, allows me to perfect technique wile not getting sucked into a strength battle. Smaller people tend to develop much more technical game, because they are continually forced to face stronger, heavier people.
    2. Women should train with men often if this is to have any self defence application. Being “uncomfortable” is part of learning. If a woman only trains with 5’3″ 110 pound women, what happens when they are confronted with a 6’0″ 180 pound man?

  9. Really good observations! Thanks for the input about the hair, too. As far as close proximity or touching, we probably all do very quick transitions under certain circumstances, male or female.

    Regarding Chris’s second comment (Re self defense) It can be a challenge to learn with say, a similar size partner and then apply it effectively to a much larger one. At my Academy, we are encouraged to practice techniques with various sized partners. Also re: Doobie’s ’round-robin positional sparring’ comment- I welcome that oppurtunity because otherwise I tend to partner with the same people, and round robin broadens my experience and breaks the ice with people. Occassionally I will respsectfully rotate out of a match up.

  10. Caleb –
    This question hits on two fundamentally different issues, that none of the previous commenters seems to have grasped:

    1) Gender

    2) Size

    1) “I know at our school we have some smaller, petite female jiu-jitsu players that are also good looking.” – This comment is directed at the question do you feel comfortable rolling with a woman who you might also be physically attracted to? i.e. Can you keep it in your pants? I don’t think this issue can be restricted to men because many women BJJ players out there also experience good and bad feelings when rolling with men they find attractive. Different people have varying levels of tolerance for sexual attractiveness, it’s your ability to contain that reaction that matters.

    2) “They only roll with guys they know that they can trust either to not smother them or to not, you know, be discourteous.” – This has nothing to do with gender, but rather is a question of size and strength. Even if a man and women are the same height and weight, the man could be much stronger. I’ve had many conversations with other women about not wanting to roll with people who use all strength or “spazzes” who have little to no controlled technique. However, I have also rolled with women who ARE themselves, “spazzes”, and women who do not know how to control their strength. It’s a matter of personal preference and /experience/ to know which opponents will be safe, and which ones could potentially hurt me. For BJJ fighers with less experience, they may not be able to judge their opponents as well, and so issue blanket statements as a matter of self defense – “I will not train with guys because they might hurt me.” It’s not the fact that you’re a “guy”, it’s the fact that he/she doesn’t KNOW you, and doesn’t know if he/she can TRUST you. Better safe than sorry.

    Direct response to Chris’s comment: “2. Women should train with men often if this is to have any self defence application. Being “uncomfortable” is part of learning. If a woman only trains with 5′3″ 110 pound women, what happens when they are confronted with a 6′0″ 180 pound man?” –

    Maybe they don’t train jiu jitsu for self defense!

  11. I believe this is a healthy topic to address without a doubt. For the growth of BJJ for boys and girls. I have no issue at all rolling/training with the opposite sex. If the student is there to learn BJJ for whatever the reason, let’s do it. I’m 6’0 220lbs. I can roll/ flow with just about anyone. I tend to keep an eye out when I see a woman paired with another man, especially if I do not know him. Usually though the Instructor would designate groups within the class for drills etc, or match pairs up accordingly when it’s time to roll.

    One thing I find interesting is as Elyse pointed out in her post on some “women” who spazz out too. One time I observed a roll between a young 24ish yr old woman and an almost pushing 60yr old woman, both blue belts. I had to intervene a few times to remind this younger woman who she is training with could be her mother, basically like ” chill out ” lady. It was uncomfortable for me to watch at the time. Do I have to say what is so obvious? I’m 31yrs old.. and if I roll with a 58 something year old guy of the same skill set more or less, I do not to be informed of the obvious.

    I see it between men.. and now between women. So I notice that across the board there has to be more education and awareness for the students to grasp. We can train hard, roll at a 100%, but we can do so in a proper manner without hurting eachother. The ego is the main factor, that super jock mentality that some people bring into the academy. The instructor(s) are who sets the tone for the class and academy, and if we all work together there will be less and less negative attitudes and experiences on the mats.

  12. Girl here. The other day I was no-gi grappling and working a pass on a dude who has a good closed guard. I managed to get my knee in the middle and was arching my back to break his ankles open. When I used this pressure he started wailing and grabbing his crotch. Look, I’m not trying to prevent you from having children some day but if someone’s got their knee in your crotch and it feels uncomfortable then you may have to unlock you ankles and move to open guard. That was kind of a drag because I never had to deal with this when rolling with women. It doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable about rolling with guys though-it just makes me uncomfortable rolling with THAT guy.

  13. Great to read all the responses above.

    I have a problem rolling with women. I have a problem rolling with men. And kids. And that’s the whole point. Rolling, in my opinion, all about problems. Your job is to be the problem-solver. Simple.

    It helps I guess if you (the guy) has had a few years of experience and can adjust pressure, speed and technique accordingly. I’m a purple belt who has trained for about seven years and as I am about 60kg (125lbs?) I do get paired up with women and kids more often than the bigger guys. But I enjoy the rolls, many women are super technical and I learn a lot from them. And for the kids, it really is a unique chance for you, the training partner, to help them in their journey. You never know, that kid might one day be a Mundials champion.

    I have a lot of respect for female grapplers. Most of them train in academies where they are one of only a few women, or more than likely the only one and they have no choice other than to roll with guys all the time. so for ladies who persist and in fact excel in this male-dominated sport is something to be admired I think.

  14. I have read all of the comments and much of what is being said boils down to “trust” issues. I do believe that it’s the responsability of the Instructors, the school, and your fellow training partners to make sure that there is a high level of trust and respect. BJJ is dangerous, you HAVE to be able to trust ALL of your training partners. The insutructor has to be experienced enough to know his students. If someone is new, or coming from another academy than he should train with more experienced partners for a while.

    @ Elyse. You said “what if they arent training BJJ for self defense.” I personally feel than they are NOT training BJJ. We train BJJ for sport, entertainment, MMA, Health, Lifestyle, ect… But, we should never forget that BJJ is designed for self defense. Take self defense out, and it’s just wrestling in a gi… it’s Judo with different rules…

  15. I am a smaller (but not the smallest) woman, and I am comfortable rolling with women and with men – that I trust. Rolling is about trusting your partner, and if you cannot do that, you cannot have a good roll. I feel much more comfortable rolling with some of our 260lb guys who know how to play, than I do rolling or even drilling with some of our women who smash, spazz, and use all of their strength.

  16. Beside the attractiveness aspect … do we guys feel okay to tap when training with a woman?

  17. At my academy my instructor really emphasizes the technique over size concept and many of the practitioners highly subscribe to it. I roll just as hard with the women as I do with the men. If size isn’t an issue as they claim, then they should have no complaints when I use a strength advantage. I don’t always do this though, sometimes I use it as an opportunity to not use strength and just focus on technique, but often the women in my academy are willing to roll hard to test themselves against an opponent with a size and strength advantage.

  18. “Also re: Doobie’s ’round-robin positional sparring’ comment- I welcome that oppurtunity because otherwise I tend to partner with the same people, and round robin broadens my experience and breaks the ice with people. Occassionally I will respsectfully rotate out of a match up.”

    I didn’t mean to imply that I disliked RR positional stuff – I agree that it can be a good way to meet people you end up enjoying rolling with, and it obviously means you train with a larger variety of sizes and skill levels. It does, however, put people in bad spots occasionally, like when two people dislike each other and are paired up like that. Sometimes it works out badly.

    Generally, in class at least, I’m a very easy going guy – I have no problem “tapping to women” or “tapping to kids” (sucking tends to take the ego out of things some, I think) and I generally enjoy training with women who actually want to roll (though I have to admit that I tend to go much slower and softer with them). I enjoy helping other people with their game as much as I enjoy being taught by the higher level belts when I roll with them, and generally just try to learn something every time I roll. I just didn’t enjoy that situation I described at all, and maybe that’s just a hangup *I* have that *I* need to work on. Honestly, I think that if she’d been more game I’d have felt much less awkward. As it was, I ended up feeling kind of creepy.

  19. I’m female and I don’t mind rolling with males. In fact, I think it’s the only way to go really, if you care about your progression. There probably isn’t a single academy in the United States (perhaps the world!) where there are sufficient numbers of consistently training women at all the belt levels such that a beginner could count on having same-gender training partners to bring them up through the ranks. Just think what would happen if the gender proportions were reversed and it was a mostly-female sport. If a man only wanted to train with other men, he’d have a very hard time making progress at the same rate.

    I don’t agree that if you don’t have self defense in mind as a goal when training, you must not be training BJJ. So what if it was originally intended to improve your survivability in a street fight… fortunately most of us (I hope) won’t have many street fights in our futures. I practice and train my heart out for love of the SPORT and the ART. I appreciate many elements of BJJ that might not be applicable on the street (spider guard? inverted guard?) but are still valid, useful games in sport jiu jitsu. To each their own.

  20. My wife hates it when it comes to me grappling with the opposite sex. She also trains in MMA but never wants me to grapple women, let it be training or sparring. Once i remember I got caught up in a triangle by a senior female player who is even quite older than me.. she openly started hating it from there onwards as she might have thought Im having fun with it. everybody knows itz no fun being trapped in a triangle, unless the fn of going to sleep in a matter of seconds. In competition, u never feel sex but only intimidation, no matter even that woman who traps u between her legs and pushes so hard to tap you out or seconds away from hyper extending your arm..

  21. I think getting narky or uncomfortable about being asked to roll with someone of the opposite sex is something that the person needs to just get over. It’s BJJ. It’s the nature of the sport. When you’re in the street you don’t have a choice in who you’re defending yourself against. I won’t turn down a wrestle with anybody based on their size or gender. It’s all experience.

  22. Ourico,

    Maybe give that guy another chance – it’s possible that you did catch him in his testicles (and it does hurt). That alone doesn’t make him a bad partner or bad guy. I, as a guy, have caught other guys in the testicles, and have heard about it.

    So yeah, it happens, and that alone shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

  23. I think another aspect of it to consider is I am 1) I am a married man/woman and uncomfortable to roll with…. 2) I am an unmarried man and uncomfortable rolling with… For me, if I were single, I would have no problems rolling with either sex, but being a married man, but I and my wife are uncomfortable with rolling/being mounted by another woman, for the sake of having healthy boundaries in marriage.

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