Why Girls Should Learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Great Post from a few years ago
The Advantages of Participating in Jiu Jitsu for Girls: Health, Strength of Character and Self Defense
“But shouldn’t she be taking dance classes instead?”
My daughter is 9 years old and a fourth grade honor roll student. Besides being smart AND the most beautiful girl in the universe (as I am sure your daughter is, too!) she is also creative and energetic. She enjoys playing with dolls, reading horror books (like R.L. Stine) and sewing. She likes boys, too, which of course is new territory for me as her mom. Often she spends hours braiding her hair or changing her outfits six times per hour. In other words, she is a typical nine year old girl!
Three days a week, however, she (along with her younger brother) dons a gi, kicks off her flip flops, bows respectfully and joins a large group of (mostly) boys for her class in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. For an hour she sprints, rolls, cartwheels, and performs all manner of difficult Pilates-style exercises before spending twenty to thirty minutes participating in full-contact grappling with boys and girls of all sizes and ages. Her instructors are tough – the children are expected to have self-control and discipline. There is no striking, kicking, hair-pulling, eye-poking, or roughhousing allowed. If a student feels concerned he or she will be injured, a simple tap on the sparring partner’s body alerts the person to ease up and then they begin again.
So why do I allow my daughter to participate in a full-contact grappling sport?
The short answer: Because I love her, and I want her to be independent and secure her entire life.
A slightly longer answer:
It can be a dangerous world for girls
Statistics show that 1 in 5 girls have been sexually assaulted by someone they know by the time they reach high school. Far from the media-perpetuated myth of armed strangers attacking helpless girls, the most common sexual assault is perpetrated by someone the girl knows. Source
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is based upon the concept that a “smaller, weaker person can successfully defend themselves against a bigger, stronger assailant using leverage and proper technique.” Wiki In a date-rape scenario, often girls are pushed to the ground, and the attacker will then be positioned between the girl’s legs. This is why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, more than any other martial art, is the most effective against a sexual assault: fighting “from the guard” is a practiced skill. If the victim can secure her legs around her attacker’s waist, she can then use a variety of techniques to use his own weight and balance against him, thereby gaining control and enabling her escape.
I would like to mention that boys require this skill as well; most fights eventually move to the ground, and being able to grapple is much more advantageous than attempting to strike in this situation. More on that in a future article…
Today’s children are fatter than ever
17.6% of elementary children are classified as “obese.” That number is rising annually. In addition, 80% of obese children go on to become obese adults. We are all familiar with the medical hazards of obesity -diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems- that’s in addition to the social difficulties for these children. Source
Many American children spend their days sitting in a school desk only to return from school and spend the evening participating in the inactivity triangle – television, computer, video games. I would wager to bet that more kids participate in sports via video games than engage in real world sports! The CDC recommends: “Children and teens should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily.” Source
Approaching obesity from the standpoint of diet alone can result in devastating consequences – eating disorders of all types, and resistance to a particular diet. What I have found with my own children is that increasing activity levels decreases their “empty calories” without a battle. Why? Because a child sitting on his or her derriere watching television will put away much more food than a child who is busy playing sports or doing martial arts. Also, the child’s need for healthy calories in order to sustain the activity will lead to naturally better food choices.
For example, my daughter refuses to eat sugary foods before Jiu Jitsu class; she says that it upsets her stomach while she works out. Instead, she eats healthy protein such as apples with peanut butter or a cup of yogurt. She made this choice on her own because she is learning to listen to her body! In this way, food ceases to become a battle ground between parents and children.
Incidentally, both of my kids also tell me that P.E. at school is easy for them compared to the strenuous workout they get in Jiu Jitsu. This tells me that participating in Jiu Jitsu helps them to excel in other sports as well, which certainly boosts their confidence at school!
Girls should be empowered rather than sexualized
Our culture sexualizes females far before we empower them. Girls are encouraged or expected to participate in activities which accentuate their beauty and their bodies, such as dance classes or beauty pageants. We allow them to strut around on a stage with lipstick on at age 3! Activities such as cheerleading and dance may indeed be great exercise for girls; however, the primary attraction to these activities is far more the visual spectacle than any kind of female strength or empowerment. How can anyone justify raising a girl who believes her primary contribution to society is her beauty?
The gi equalizes gender. Girls walk out on the mat in the same clothing as the boys. All of the children are taught the same things: the art and practice of Jiu Jitsu is very unique and, in many ways, more challenging than other martial arts. Along with the knowledge of grappling, the children are expected to be disciplined, respectful, and kind – both to their instructors and to each other. I have never seen a child in class behave in a sexually inappropriate way toward anyone – they simply know it is not acceptable, so they would never do it. At school, my daughter has been a victim of aggressive and sexually deviant behavior; this is the unfortunate reality of the world. The knowledge she gains in Jiu Jitsu class, where she is safe and supervised, will help her in coping with real-life bullying scenarios which, by their nature, often occur when a smaller, weaker victim is alone and unsupervised by adults.
In her practice of Jiu Jitsu, she learns that being beautiful is only one aspect of who she is. Another aspect is that she is STRONG, physically and mentally. She learns that she is capable of defending herself rather than requiring a man to defend her. That she doesn’t have to say YES to every offer made to her, whether that offer is sex, drugs, alcohol, or anything else. My daughter will stand strong, when others succumb to peer pressure. She will know that being a girl is NOT being the “weaker sex,” but rather that being a girl means overcoming her own challenges and knowing she is strong enough to reach her goals.
There are a myriad of reasons for children to participate in athletic activities, specifically Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I intend to explore this topic further in future articles. The purpose of this article is to encourage you to think outside “typical girl” activities and encourage your daughter (or son!) to participate in a healthy, safe sport which will help empower her to reach her goals and overcome obstacles she may face as she matures.