Girls, Gals and Grandmas—Why EVERY Female NEEDS Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

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I was hesitant to write about self-defense because I am only Bruce Lee in my own mind. I’ve been studying BJJ for about eight months, which means I’m a three-stripe white belt (in BJJ you are a white belt for a minimum of a year). I do have some skills, but I am far from being an expert. In fact, the only thing I am REALLY useful for is my body being used to clean the mats like a human Swiffer. Spray me with Endust and then partner me with a blue belt…

So what would someone like ME have to say about self-defense?

Actually, after chatting with Professor Young, more than I realized. I’ve been reading a lot of great Jiu Jitsu blogs and it’s easy to become intimidated. There is some fabulous advice from generous upper belts, but I think we can get some faulty thinking if we aren’t careful.

See, the beauty of any martial arts, but ESPECIALLY Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is you don’t have to know a lot to know. . .A LOT. There are some basic things we learn very early that can do a lot to keep us safe and fend off most attackers. In my opinion, BJJ is the BEST form of martial arts for females and every female should take at least some classes.

Seriously, Moms. Take a class and bring your daughters. Bring your MOM. BJJ is for all ages and you don’t have to be in ninja form to learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones.

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Thing is, our society can be kind of weird. We have drills for all kinds of things. We run through all kinds of plans and safety training. Get on ANY plane and the flight attendant will train all of us how to put on a seatbelt. OH-kaaayyy. So THAT’S how I do it! They will point out emergency exits and explain what will happen should trouble arise.


Because this drill, silly as it seems, prepares us. We don’t want to wait until the plane is going down to think about what could be used as a flotation device.

We do fire drills at schools and workplaces. We do tornado drills. We drill and practice a speech. We practice our answers for a job interview. We might even rehearse what we are going to say and do on a first date or when confronting Aunt Lulu about her tuna loaf. We war-game how we are going to say NO to sewing bumblebee costumes for the entire Kindergarden class.

We rehearse and drill all kinds of things with our KIDS. What to do if lost in a mall. What to do if a stranger asks for help searching for a pet.

If you are like our family, you even plan what you would do in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse.
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But how much training are we doing for an event that happens every minute of every day to someone? How prepared are we for when someone lunges for our purse or tackles us for a sexual assault? How many teenage girls have an emergency preparedness plan for when for a nice normal date suddenly turns ugly? For a guy pinning her to the ground and who won’t respect the word NO?

How many times have we run through those scenarios so that if (GOD FORBID) it happens? We know what to do.

I’m going to give you a peek into the predator’s mind. The ONE thing most attackers are counting on is that we will panic. That we won’t know what to do. That they can grab us or tackle us or choke us and our minds are going to go a big fat BLANK. They are COUNTING ON that small expanse of panic so they can easily escalate the attack into something life-changing or life-ending.

When they DO attack a person who’s prepared? A whole other ending, and one that is NOT good for the predator. When we fight back, when we are prepared? That is often when it’s the predator’s turn to panic.

For instance, this ADORABLE rabbit…chasing a snake up a tree. Bet the snake hadn’t planned on that…

So. Can even a HANDFUL of classes help? YES. Overwhelmingly YES. Why?

BJJ Prepares the Mind and the Body for a Fight

I find it funny that people believe that because I train in martial arts, I therefore must want to be in a fight. NOOOOOOO. I am a lover, not a fighter. The best way to win a fight? AVOID a fight. But in life, sometimes stuff happens and we need to be ready.

Thing is, it is pretty shocking the first time you get hit. Since many people have never been hit, pinned or choked, they panic when it happens. Their minds go blank and panic sets in and panic can get us hurt or killed.

In BJJ we don’t do much punching and kicking, but we do train to be ready for someone who wants to punch and kick. . . or choke or tackle us to the ground. This means we can experience the moves and feel of a fight (an attack) in a safe environment so if that time should ever come? We are ready and we don’t think, don’t panic, we simply ACT.

This is actually the second time I have taken Jiu Jitsu. I started in waaaay back in the mid 90s when it was a new and unheard of sport. I recall doing a drill for getting free from a rear choke. And I did my thing because it was all a fun workout and I really wanted to earn that next belt. I really didn’t give any thought to how I might use this outside of a dojo.

At the time, I was working nights delivering papers to pay my way through college. Part of having a paper route involved selling new subscriptions along your route. My route was comprised of three HUGE apartment complexes.

So one night, I dressed relatively nicely so people would open the door and at least listen to my pitch about why they needed a Fort Worth Star Telegram. I dressed somewhere in between Jehovah’s Witness and possible Kirby Salesperson, so presentable, but not PLEASE ROB ME I AM WEARING DIAMONDS. I had a decent leather briefcase to hold the paperwork and any checks collected.

It was during the time of year it got dark early. As I was making my way through the parking lot, I came across a drunk who started hitting on me and asking about my briefcase. I was polite and firm and kept on my way (this was WAY before cell phones). Anyway, about an hour later, as I was making my way to the next building the guy came out of nowhere for me and used…

A rear choke.

I didn’t even have to think. It was as if I moved of my own accord. I broke the choke, threw the guy and then. . . .beat the SNOT out of him with the very briefcase he was trying to steal. Within two minutes, my small amount of training tuned this 6 foot 3 drunk from predator to prey.

Because I was chasing him to get in another hit (at 5’3″ and 110 pounds). . .

The rabbit and the snake again 😀 .

When I called the cops and they asked for a description, all I could recall was tall white male, drunk, and probably had an impression of my briefcase in his face.

But how badly could that have gone had I not drilled what to do in case of that attack over and over and over? If I had never felt the sensation of being choked? If I’d panicked?

I’ve been in martial arts enough years to witness the kinds of people who sign up (and I’m mainly referring to females here). Two kinds of females take martial arts—those who’ve never been attacked and those who don’t want it to happen ever again.

Prevention is always preferable. Those first seconds of a potential attack are the most critical. So drill for tornadoes and drill for fire escape, and rehearse for what to do in the event of a plane crash, but the odds of us being attacked by another PERSON are far higher than being in a fire, a tornado or a plane crash.

In my opinion, one of the BEST gifts for that high school graduate is a class in BJJ. Bring the kids. Spend a summer together learning and training together. But above all?

Stay smart, stay calm and stay safe 😉 .

~Dojo Diva

22 Responses to Girls, Gals and Grandmas—Why EVERY Female NEEDS Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

    • Actually we do have workshops that are designed more for a basic self-defense. Like what to do if someone grabs your arm, wrist etc. It is called the gentle martial arts because people practice it well into their 70s and 80s. So might not be as bad as you think ;).

    • Fortunately we don’t have any crime here in Canada. Just kidding. I’ have thought about taking something like this forever, even though I have long since moved to a (relatively) semi-rural neighbourhood. Now if it would only work on the 500 lb bear that is roaming our neighbouthood these days.
      A compelling argument. I’ll think about it.

  1. I’ve wanted to take self-defense for years. I’m not sure if we have BJJ in northeast Louisiana, but if I can ever get my health under control, I’d really like to learn. I have a disease that keeps me homebound, so I don’t get out much. But over a year ago this “vacuum sales” couple tried to force their way into my home even after I told them I was sick and their perfumes and chemicals could send me into anaphylaxsis. I would like a better option than a handgun to send them running…not that I used one that day. Guns make me nervous, and you have to actually fetch them and be willing to seriously maim or even kill. Not for me. We also have a lot of drug business farther down the isolated dirt road we live on, so I have reasons even if I’m no longer the pretty little thing hopping all over town at all hours.

  2. Just checked. The closest place is over an hour away. What other types of self-defense classes are good?

  3. My BFF in high school taught me a single move. Many years later, I dated this guy that wouldn’t accept the fact I wanted to break up with him. He grabbed me in a rear choke-hold and tried to drag me into his house, saying ‘you can’t break up with me until I -say- you can.’

    I knew ONE move. Just one. If somebody grabs you from the rear, grab their arms, back-kick him in the crotch, and then drop and pull them forward so they go flying over your head. I bit him. I kicked him in the crotch. I dropped like my friend had taught me. The guy went flying over my head and I got away.

    I immediately drove to the police station to get help, and would you believe, the guy claimed -I- had attacked him? Luckily I had his fingerprints bruised into my neck so they arrested him. I later found out this guy had horribly stalked a previous girlfriend who had a restraining order against him as well as a previous stint in a mental hospital for that stalking.

    So … even just ONE MOVE that you practice enough for it to be automatic can save your life. Me, and all three of my younger children, study USA Urban Goju karate, while my eldest is in the army and has her own M16. Just because you WISH the world is a nice place, the fact is, it only takes one nut-job to make it all go horribly wrong.

  4. I’m getting up there in years and have always intended to take a self-defense class. Your post (and comments) are reassuring. Now to squeeze in self-defense class with writing time. Yes, I know it would be good to get off my butt for a while.
    If you tell me how, I’ll leave a hyperlink:
    is that correct?

  5. Kristen,

    This article is absolutely spot on. Everyone, and now having two girls getting ready to enter their teens, especially girls should learn both escape self defense techniques and the more aggressive self defense techniques you describe here. God forbid they ever need either, but you’re absolutely right on how essential they are just in case.


  6. Kristen,

    When my daughter was in her early teens, the two of us enrolled in a series of self-defense classes. Not only did we both gain invaluable skills, including how to be prepared ad not panic, but it was also highly therapeutic. Think about it. Tell me one mother who hasn’t wanted to put their teenager in a good choke-hold at least once. What better than to learn by doing! And it goes both ways. My daughter had a blast taking me down over and over, each time being told ‘great job!’ We laughed, and we learned, and in the years since both of us have been glad we did. My daughter is a striking young woman now, and one no one messes with. Self defense is something ALL women should know, and personally speaking, it is a great mother-daughter bonding experience. You’re put in a padded room, you can beat your kid and no one’ll call the authorities. But you’ll also know that if anyone every really tries to hurt your child, they’re prepared, because they’ve practiced it on you.

    Oh, and learning self defense is ideal research for any writer who wants to write good fight scenes…which reminds me…I was reading something else and squirreled. Hmmm. Fight scenes. Oh, right!

  7. I took Kung Fu in college and your blog makes me want to go back and start classes. I loved the mental aspect of the art and came away with concepts that work, such as using a person’s momentum against them. However, you are right about practicing until your response becomes second nature. Thank you for the reminder.

  8. I took ju-jitsu in the mid-80’s from a fellow NCO who was a black belt trained in Japan. I did a year and still can feel the moves in my mind all these decades and several pounds later. Punches, throws and even some (wooden) knife training. I received my yellow belt. The instructor was assigned back to Japan so the lessons ended but I still remember how confident I felt to know that I had a way to fight back if necessary.

  9. Brazillian jiujitsu just sounds scary – but I completely agree on the need for self-defence courses! Both my girls and I have trained at Korean karate for years, and self-defence is the first thing you learn; your first couple of belts are based around the skills.

  10. I agree! If more women had some self defense training and/or a conceal to carry permit, there would be a lot less crime against women and let’s face it, there are a lot of assaults directed against women.

  11. I used to teach martial arts ( I still train) and another female instructor and I put together a ten week self defense course. We were amazed and slightly horrified by how frightened the women were who came along to train with us, and found very quickly that part of our course was going to be about teaching them to face that fear. As you say, the first time someone hits you, you panic. It’s a natural reaction. We had to break it to them that, after ten weeks, they weren’t going to be superheroes, but they would learn some basic techniques, target points and, most importantly, experience how it feels to be attacked, but in a safe and supportive environment. I really like your point about how we practice drills for so many other things in life, yet for assault, which happens every hour of every day, so many of us would have no idea how to react. My own daughter is now studying karate and I couldn’t be happier about it.

  12. Hi Kristen,
    I have followed your blog for years and read your books. Of course I had to see what the Dojo Diva had to say.

    And did I take your BJJ post to heart? I did. Did I research BJJ classes here in Northern California & pick one that offers self-defense and BJJ on alternate nights? I did. Do I think these classes are the best thing ever? I do. Did I take my teenagers & do they also love the classes? Yes, indeed.

    BJJ is a life-changer. It’s only three weeks into the classes & I can see that already. Gracie Barra sounds great, wish I lived in TX to go to it, but I’m happy to have found a place here in Menlo Park, CA thanks to your inspirational post.

    If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have tried BJJ & learned it was so powerful. So empowering! So fun. How can I ever thank you?!

      • Kristen, I’m just being serious here.
        With all your training and training…. I could still floor you with one shot. That’s it. Months and months of training, and one punch and youre out cold.

        Don’t go acting tough and making it out to seem as if guys are evil. The facts are this, you’re really wasting your time. Learn to run faster if you want better chances at not getting hurt. Because in a street fight, with all of that pointless training, youd still be quickly taken down.

        • I don’t feel I am tough, only that I am wise enough to prepare for what I hope never happens instead of sticking my head in the sand and believing nothing bad could ever happen. I certainly do not believe all guys are evil. I feel all predators are evil. Real men don’t hit women, but we do have to be prepared especially because we ARE physically at a disadvantage. And while running might be a good option and I am not opposed to it at all, sometimes it isn’t available and we have to have other options.

  13. Seriously girls…. Don’t take bjj if you think it will help you beat up men. You’re not string enough… And, if you get punched in the face, it’s all over for you.

    • You have the right to have an opinion, even if I don’t agree. And Jiu Jitsu is not about size and doesn’t depend on strength which is why it is ideal for a female. I’ve been on the victim side and a much larger man went right for a rear choke (to rob me) and I threw him and beat his tail soundly. Thus my actual application seems to trump your opinion.

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