One of the guys

Lately some of the guys I train with have been telling me that I have become one of the guys. What this means in the shallowest context is that they will say things about girls who come in for the other classes or they will talk about their weekend shenanigans with no thought to edit it for a lady in the room. I roll my eyes and make sarcastic comments when they do it but I really don’t mind.

I don’t mind because I know it is their way of showing that they respect me and consider me one of them. One of my teammates told me “you’re one of us because you train like us”. It actually makes me really happy to hear them say things like that. I train like a maniac and it’s very hard for me because almost everyone I train with is stronger and bigger and sometimes it just sucks. So knowing that the guys see my hard work and respect me for it gives me the warm fuzzies. I am glad they don’t consider me to be different than them because we are all jiu-jitsu nuts at heart.

But I am different. Sometimes I can’t deny this. I often have my own changing room at the gyms I go to, that’s kind of nice. I don’t have to wear a cup which is both good and bad (the guys often use them as weapons!). I can’t wear a gi without anything underneath the jacket without causing controversy. These are basic differences we all know exist between men and women.

But I know I am not one of the guys when I roll too. It saddens me to admit that but it’s true. I know that sometimes the stronger guys have to completely hold back any use of strength in order not to just crush me and hold me down. I know that they often go to extra efforts to not put all their weight on me so I won’t get smashed. I know that for guys it is tricky to roll with girls sometimes and I really am appreciative of the guys who are not only willing but eager to train with me.

But as much as it is tricky for guys to roll with girls, it is equally tricky for girls to roll with guys. If a guy is using no strength on me than I don’t feel like I can use any on him and it just turns into a flow roll. On the other hand if a guy is using a ton of strength it is sometimes tricky to know whether it’s in my best interest to try to use strength back and thus encourage him to turn it up a notch or just go into defense mode and hope that I survive the round. And sometimes I can just feel my training partner’s lack of desire to be rolling with me, either because he is uncomfortable, afraid to hurt me or whatever reason and then it’s just an unpleasant roll for everyone.

This is not really a problem for me when I train at my gym because I know those guys so well and we are comfortable with each other, but I often go to other gyms to train and am faced with these awkward situations when rolling with new guys. I would like to point out that I am not complaining or trying to say these guys are jerks. I understand that it takes a tricky balance to roll with a girl when you are a big, strong dude and I really do appreciate any guy who will take the chance to train with me. But if you are a man who has ever had a difficult time trying to figure out how much strength and weight to use when rolling with a girl and find it to be somewhat puzzling, imagine being a girl who has to figure this out every roll!

So no matter how much I love rolling with the guys, it will always be different than rolling with girls. I know that they often have the capability to out-muscle me and escape techniques because of size and strength disparity. I have learned to handle strength much better and I know as I keep training and my technique gets better this won’t be as big an issue anymore but even when I can beat a strong guy with technique, he is still stronger and I have to adjust my style to handle that. The same goes for size. There are techniques to deal with someone bigger than you (isn’t BJJ supposed to be the small man’s defense?) but again you have to adjust your style of BJJ when fighting a big guy. How I roll with the guys will always be different than how I’d roll with girls who are closer to my size and strength.

While preparing for the NY Open I had the opportunity to train with women that I don’t typically train with. It made me realize how important training with women is, especially if you want to compete. It is a very different experience to be able to give 100% of your strength and technique to a roll and be able to handle your partner giving 100% back. Also it is so much easier to move around when your partner is closer to your size! The NY Open has come and gone but I have pledged to make it a priority to keep training with these women. I think that it is beneficial for us all plus it’s just really fun.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still love training with the guys. I will probably always train with guys more than girls, that’s just the nature of the sport. I also think that training with the guys is important for every woman, especially when you are training for self-defense. But if you are a woman and you want to compete, or you just want to know what it’s like not to be outsized and outstrengthed all the time, than I think it’s crucial for you to find other women to train with as well.

I enjoy my position as one of the guys at the gym. I earned it and I feel like I am one of them as well (you know from the training standpoint…boys are still hairy, smelly and gross). But I think now and then I just need to be one of the girls.

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