#103 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Women (Rebroadcast)

women bjj girls hanette staack gabriela bermudez
Hanette Staack wins the 2007 lightweight world championship in the womens’ black / brown division. Her opponent, Gabriela Bermudez, would take the silver medal.

This week on The FightWorks Podcast we discuss the experience of women Brazilian jiu-jitsu. If you’re a guy, is it awkward when training BJJ against a girl? If they are a higher jiu-jitsu belt, are you afraid they’ll tap you? If you are a girl and train BJJ, does getting that close to sweaty guys for a long time make you uncomfortable? And what about dating another person at your BJJ school?

Fear not, 600,000. We will speak with Valerie Worthington, a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu who writes the popular BJJ blog Prancing and Sucking. Val has been training for quite some time and due to her position in the BJJ community, has had the opportunity to train in schools all over and has lots to say on the topic of being a woman in jiu-jitsu.

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Excerpt of Val Worthington Interview:

Caleb: For those who don’t know you Val, you won the Best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Blog of the Year in 2007, so congratulations!

Val: Thank you! I was honored.

Caleb: No problem. This is a good time to give a basic background about you to the few folks out there who haven’t heard of you. We’ve talked about your blog on the show before. Could you talk about your background a little bit? How long you’ve been training, and what rank you are?

Val: I was trying to do the math earlier. I think I’ve been training about nine years. I started out with a couple instructors in Michigan, one of whom is Ryan Fiorenze, who is now a black belt under Rigan Machado, then I moved to Chicago and trained for six years under Carlson Gracie and Carlson Gracie Jr. I was honored to be able to train under them, and had the singular honor of having Carlson Sr. tie my purple belt around me. So right now I am training at New Breed Academy in Santa Fe Springs, California, which is all in the family because the instructors there, Johnny Ramirez and John Ouano are blackbelts under Rodrigo Medeiros, who is a Carlson Sr. black belt. So right now I have three stripes on my purple belt.

Caleb: In a very last-minute move I emailed and sent out a blast on MySpace asking folks if they have any questions or ideas on the topic of females who train BJJ, that experience for them, and how it affects everybody on the mats. I got a few in. Do you mind if we start with some of these?

Val: No, that would be great.

Caleb: A listener of ours named Sara sent in this email: “Specifically, I would ask if they have ever had people refuse or be reluctant to grapple and if so, how you reacted. A lot of people seem to get hung up on ‘my momma said I can’t hit a girl’, which is understandable. But how can they be convinced you are a legitimate training partner as well?”

Val: That is a really good question and something I’ve been mulling over a lot recently. I’ve been thinking about what it means for me personally to be a woman who trains, because I happen to be a woman and I happen to train. I’ve been refused for several reasons. One of them is religious. Some men’s religious beliefs preclude them from training with women. Another reason is that men have told me that it would make their wives or their girlfriends uncomfortable. And a third reason is that sometimes men who are significantly bigger than I am assume that there wouldn’t be any benefit in the two of us training together because of the size difference. So obviously I am going to respect someone’s wishes. If they don’t want to train with me it gets frustrating sometimes when that diminishes the number of training partners that I have. But what I have just done is what I always do, because it helps my jiu-jitsu improve: I come to class, I pay attention, I joke around with people because that’s the way I interact. It’s kind of my personality, and I find that it does help to put people at ease.

2 Replies to “#103 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Women (Rebroadcast)”

  1. Awesome Interview! I love these old episodes. There are a few things you should do if you have a friend who is on the fence about training that weren’t mentioned. The first thing you should do is to suggest that she comes and watches a class. This will allow her to meet and get to know the guys before she begins training with them. The second thing you should do is offer to be her training partner or have her bring a friend she is comfortable rolling with to class with her. This makes the world of difference when you are just starting especially if there are no other girls in class. It will help her get over that awkward phase and ensures that she won’t get stuck with the guy no one wants to roll with in class…

  2. Just to correct a typo in the write up on Val… She’s now a Black Belt!! I think she got it a couple months ago.

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