Thursday, June 09, 2011

Why have a women-only seminar?

From: [name deleted]
To: georgetteoden@yahoo.com
Sent: Thursday, June 9, 2011 11:33 AM
Subject: Female BJJ Seminars

Hi Georgette,

This is [name deleted]. I met you at the __________.

I just read your post on the Leticia seminar and wanted to know your thoughts on why women seem to only put on female only bjj seminars. I have heard from some female teammates that they get more from seminars when they are taught by women. It would be nice to be able to experience it.

Have you been to a coed seminar taught by a woman? Why do you think they tend to only put on female only seminars?

Thanks.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Hey ________! :) Sorry this is gonna be a long one, but you asked excellent questions that made me do some thinking and I'm posting my answer for the blog too, though I will anonymize your question.


You posed (I think) three questions. Why do women teach women-only seminars, why do women like woman-taught seminars, and why don't they have them co-ed instead.

I (personally) don't necessarily get more out of a seminar taught by a woman, or less out of one taught by a man. To me gender isn't as relevant as their ability to communicate and instruct how size and leverage influence technique. I (so far) tend to get more out of seminars taught by small people because they seem used to dealing with the size disparity that I experience, as a smaller person. I really like Royler's seminars for this reason, and Cleber Luciano's, and Hillary Williams', and Leticia's.

However, at the women-taught seminars I've attended, I have appreciated their insight into competitive strategy offered, because women seem to roll differently than men (in open mat, and in competition. For example, there's a LOT more guard pulling by women, and a LOT more closed guard playing, too at least so far at my belt level and at whitebelt.) I have actually competed against men in a tournament setting (though I lost!) and I have trained with Hillary Williams, who has also competed against men.  I believe women do offer a unique insight into women competing against women that men (who usually teach classes and seminars but usually have *not* competed against women) don't offer.

But that only addresses why women might get something unique from a woman instructor. Then there's the question of why wouldn't women allow men to take part in the seminar too.

One reason is, some woman might have to be partnered up with a guy for the technique drilling. Men are usually bigger, have different upper to lower body strength ratios, and generally feel very different in terms of what it's like to attempt a technique against (even if they're the same height and weight) especially when it comes to sweeps and takedowns.

Women usually compete against other women, so it would be nice if we could maximize our time training with other women. A corollary to this is, some seminars (usually women-only ones) offer rolling/sparring time at the end, and we women get plenty of time rolling with guys. We get precious little time rolling with a (variety of) other women. (We might have 7 women training at one academy if we're lucky, and maybe 4 show up together in a class; more often, more like 1-2. So we get used to their game, and would like the challenge of a new opponent with a different body shape or experience level, yet with the same type of physicality i.e. lower body strength, lower body base, etc than a guy.)

Another reason is more on an emotional level, I suppose. It's very empowering and exciting to see a roomful of women who all train and all love this great sport, especially since seminars uniquely draw attendees from other schools around the state, country, world. It's a rare experience for us to see more than one upper belt woman at a time. This Leticia/Bia seminar will have women from other states and other countries in attendance. Normally at my school there's 1 female brown, 1 female purple, and 2 female 4-stripe blues, and rarely are we all on the mats together. Our 2-3 whitebelts have a limited exposure to black, brown and purple belt women. I love women-only seminars because they draw these experienced ladies who can offer advice and encouragement on more than just pure technique, but also on dealing with interpersonal and emotional aspects of the game (and some would say guys in attendance result in less of that dialogue.)

Some new girls who only take women-only classes so far (they're a great intro to the sport) might get WAY more out of a women-only seminar environment than they would if they had to also deal with guys.  Maybe they wouldn't go to any seminars at all till they were advanced enough to be comfortable rolling with guys... and I do think it's EXTREMELY important to get as much exposure to high-level instructors/blackbelts teaching the basics early on. So I really want baby whitebelts even on their 4th or 5th class to come to seminars. In fact, we have someone from another martial art coming to this seminar for what I believe will be their first taste (or one of their first tastes) of jiu jitsu. Maybe she wouldn't have come if it were coed. What better intro for a woman into the wonderful world of jiu jitsu, than to meet Leticia, this tiny delicate looking thing, and see and experience how strong, empowered, technical and graceful this game can be! Better to get the best habits on your basics started early. I can't tell you how many seminars I've been to where I walk away with a detail for a basic that I use every day... and have totally forgotten the cool flippy-spinny-flying-reverse-gogoplata.

Women do teach co-ed seminars, though.  I'm not sure why there aren't more of them to be honest.  Without having asked, my guess would be that maybe there isn't as much demand?  Maybe the best women are not asked to teach co-ed seminars as often as they're asked to teach women-only?  Maybe men need to be asking them to teach more! :)  I haven't been to Hillary's or Leticia's co-ed seminars, but I know lots of guys have indicated interest in attending. 


I don't think we're trying to exclude men out of misandry. (Yes, the equivalent of misogyny, only against men. When I googled it, I found it listed as "humor" which I did in fact find funny.)

Bottom line: I have been to classes where women were teaching students of both genders (Christy, Val and Tatiana) and I think in jiu jitsu, technique is king/queen. If your technique is solid and you are capable of expressing yourself, students of both genders will (and should) flock to you regardless of your own gender. If your game has giant holes, if you're resistant to teaching outside of your narrow comfort zone, if you're crappy at LISTENING to their questions and EXPLAINING the answers or you can't teach without making people feel stupid for not already knowing stuff, then it doesn't matter whether you're a man or a woman. The level of respect you receive is directly connected to the quality of your product (and in the rare instance that you do experience bias against your gender, ignore it!)

I do think there are people out there who don't teach well even though they execute well. And I think all instructors should be concerned with whether their students are comfortable, motivated, and aren't deterred from asking questions-- but that's not a gender issue either.

Thank you for asking and (if you made it this far) for reading my babble. Thoughts?

G

11 comments:

AJ said...

Great points! Also some women- especially new white belts- do not feel comfortable with some sweaty heavy dude on top of them. And then there's the male ego as well. I can see how women don't want to worry about that crap when they're at a seminar.

HomeImprovementNinja said...

Good points. I agree that most women (because they are smaller) have a different game that's not based on strength. I can also see why you like women only seminars, but all of us could get something out of learning from people who use technique to overcome size.

The senior student who taught one of our classes was 155lbs so he would always show us helpful "little guy jiu jitsu" techniques to control larger opponents. And if you ever have an opportunity to take a seminar with Felipe Costa, DO IT!. The dude is tiny, like 125 lbs, but his moves are so technical and everything he shows works on bigger people.

If there was a high level female competitor offering a seminar that was open to everyone, I would take it.

Georgette said...

HINinja, I agree-- you're making a good argument for a co-ed seminar taught by a woman. Of which there are some! but probably not enough :)

I know for sure Hillary and Leticia have taught them. Personally, I take seminars wherever and whenever I can afford them, regardless.

If you want more high level female competitors offering seminars, SET THEM UP AT YOUR SCHOOLS. Cough cough, Ninja, you might ask Jennifer Sutingco or Nyjah Easton (bronze and silver medalists at this year's Worlds, I think light feathers? and both in DC!)

Georgette said...

I should have added-- bronze and silver in the blackbelt division.

Anonymous said...

Let women have women only seminars. Nothing wrong with that at all, it makes sense. They have to endure a male dominated bjj scene and frequently get overlooked or taken for granted. I like the idea of women getting together to share things unique to their bjj experience. The key thing is they are training, thats what matters.

Ashley said...

Good question and superb, well-written, comprehensive response. I approve!

DagneyTaggert said...

Great post Georgette. Women DO roll differently and rolling with more women DOES improve your game, heck, it lets you DEVELOP a game, as opposed to spending your days escaping from the mount yet again.

Are you doing the Vegas Open? Or Southbay?

Georgette said...

Sadly no... torn meniscus, cracked bone in my foot, so I'm resting for now...

Elissa Hope said...

I grew up with older brothers, so this is the type of BJJ interaction that I have been most comfortable in. Stronger, aggressive, white belt women are who I fear most. But if there was an upper belt female who was supportive and wanted to help me... I think that would be awesome! I have never been to a woman-only seminar, or been taught by a woman, so I can't say for sure, but I really feel that the female empowerment aspect is important. Generally speaking, it is women who know what it is like to feel vulnerable, ignored, pushed aside, belittled, condescended to, taken advantage of and/or disrespected on a regular basis. These are aspects of gender that my not directly occur on the mat, but that may be coming onto the mat with someone. I tried out a gym that had a huge locker room with showers for me... and a closet for women. There are lots of ways to say women don't belong. This isn't really for you. I shopped around for a bicycle for over a year, and nothing felt quite right. It wasn't until I found a line of Giant bikes that are made for women, by women, that riding a bike was actually comfortable. I bought one of the very few Gi's designed for women and it made a HUGE difference. I have a BreakPoint and it's great. Next, I want to buy a Fenom because I like their organizational mission. This is also something that I only learned about through the female blogging community. Thanks, Ladies. I guess, overall, my hunch is that the women who come to the mat and stick around are the ones who have already had enough positive experiences with men in their lives to work through any uncomfortable or frightening feelings.

juliajohansen said...

I also agree that the female empowerment aspect is extremely important. I had only met white belt women until I went on my jiujitsu tour of the west coast and I was SO EXCITED to meet any COLORED BELT women. In fact, at each school, I generally took a picture of the team, me + the instructor, and then me + the women. In the entire time I traveled to the 13 different locations, the most women I saw at any one place was...3? at one school. I think I may have seen 2 at two other schools, but most either had just one or none. Seeing a room full of women doing jiu jitsu together would feel so wonderful--like I'm actually PART of a LARGER group and not so isolated.

juliajohansen said...

I also agree that the female empowerment aspect is extremely important. I had only met white belt women until I went on my jiujitsu tour of the west coast and I was SO EXCITED to meet any COLORED BELT women. In fact, at each school, I generally took a picture of the team, me + the instructor, and then me + the women. In the entire time I traveled to the 13 different locations, the most women I saw at any one place was...3? at one school. I think I may have seen 2 at two other schools, but most either had just one or none. Seeing a room full of women doing jiu jitsu together would feel so wonderful--like I'm actually PART of a LARGER group and not so isolated.

I don't get so many opportunities to meet women doing BJJ, so getting to meet a LARGE GROUP would be fantastic. I feel like I can meet men doing BJJ all the time. And for a seminar, every spot taken up by a man is one not available for a woman.

I think the ideal situation is to have a two day seminar--where one day is women's only and the other day is coed. That way you can get a good mix.