I’ve been practicing BJJ for nearly two months. I take both an all-women’s class and a co-ed class and the other day, one of my friends asked me which I liked better. “Both,” I think I said… or maybe it was “Neither.” They’re different- it was apples and oranges to me. I thought about it later and here’s what I’ve decided.
After the co-ed class, my upper back is sore, my arms are tired and I’m generally spent. I’m practicing mostly with people larger and heavier than me who use their upper bodies much more effectively than I can… and ever will. Yes, I speak of men. The upside is that I worry less about hurting them and actually enjoy the rolling a little more because I’m not worrying. I worry. A lot.
But in the co-ed class, even the girls I work with are so used to working with men that I get tossed around by them, too. So, in essence, it’s fun for me. I laugh so much. I feel privileged to work with a higher belt who can put me on the floor with grace and style. And control- that’s important. I’m working with people who know what they are doing. I might get pulled off my feet, but I’m usually kind of lowered to the floor instead of actually thrown, or rolled over a shoulder in a way that enables me to come out of it unscathed. Let me tell you, it’s appreciated. I like my work-outs to NOT include dislocated anything. I find the guys in the co-ed class are very encouraging. Since I still get to claim Newbie status, even in a roll my male partner will say “Well, do something!” and I’ll say “I’m thinking!” And he’ll suggest a way to take him down. Sometimes it even works! Chivalry is NOT dead!
After the women’s class, I’m spent and my abs are killing me. A women’s center of gravity is in her pelvis and the women’s class is all about making that work for us. It’s Pilates on steroids, and fun in a completely different way. As a woman, I care about the whole person. I want to know about your day, how’s your mom, did you like the restaurant you tried last week? The woman’s class is a perfect meld of strong women who care about each other way beyond BJJ, but we don’t shirk the work, which is why my abs hurt.
I have found myself trying to use what I learned in the woman’s class more often when I’m rolling in either class. I don’t know if that’s because it’s more “for me,” or I just understood the technique enough to remember it later. All I know is that I only go to the women’s class once a week but I can recite how it will sound from memory: “Hips off the ground…pivot…use your legs…keep your hooks. Ladies! No slackers!” I love the lack of sympathy in a sympathetic environment. I think they call that irony. I’ll have to look it up.
There are some important things that are the same in both classes, besides having awesome coaches.
Practicing a technique with someone else is like dancing. If I’m sweeping (knocking that person over so I can be on top), my partner will tell me if it “feels right” or “feels smooth.” And then they will do the same technique to me so I can experience how it works… or is supposed to. When we both have it down, it’s so satisfying.
Also, I have found in my adult life that unrelated grown-ups rarely touch each other. We might shake hands or pat a shoulder or fist bump, but it’s “hands-off” most of the time. If you watch children play, you’ll realize how odd that is. Human touch is so important to everyone. The one thing in both the women’s and co-ed class that has struck me the most is the ease at which people lean on each other or sit in close proximity and maybe knees are touching. People hug more. We end classes with the teacher walking the line of us and thanking everyone for coming and doing their best. We follow and do the same, congratulating, clasping hands and hugging, telling each other “Good job today!” And people are winded and smiling… and happy. Like when I was little, playing with my friends. I like that.
Take good care.
Kimberly Petit is a white belt newbie at Fenix BJJ in Nashua under Kyle Briere and Fenix BJJ in Lowell under Raphael and Juliana Carneiro. Kim owns a machine shop in Nashua, NH with husband, Marc. She also handles the marketing for Dewzen drag racing accessories and is “team mom” to the sportsman racing team of husband and daughter. She likes to read and write romance in her spare time. As an unpublished novelist, she fully appreciate the dedication and effort it takes to be a blogger and hopes readers enjoy a very inexperienced but honest viewpoint of a sport she still knows so little about.