Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Empowers Women To Take Down A Stronger Opponent

Many countries in the world have serious problems with violence against women, as well as femicide (the intentional murder of women). While men are generally physically stronger, and able to overpower many women, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is one martial art form that enables a woman to take down an assailant — without needing to be stronger than him.

By Luna Salinas3 min read
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Empowers Women To Take Down A Stronger Opponent

According to UN Women, the rate of women who experience sexual or physical abuse from an intimate partner is as high as 70% in some countries. 37% of Arab women reportedly have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime, and that number may be even higher. In Latin America, the total number of murders targeting women across 19 countries was 3,801 in 2018, with Brazil and Mexico having the highest numbers. 

While there may be a perception of the United States not having these problems (at least, not to the extent of other countries), the country actually has a pretty high number of human trafficking victims. Nevada has the highest rate of human trafficking: 7.5 per 100,000 people.

Take your defense into your own hands. 

Firearm laws in some states can impede someone from arming themselves; New York, for instance, has a “May Issue” gun permit system for concealed-carry, meaning that it’s ultimately up to the issuing authority whether or not you can receive the permit. It’s not enough if your criminal background check comes back clean, at the end of the day you can be denied this permit for no reason at all. Additionally, some people just don’t feel comfortable with or empowered by firearms. So another way a physically weaker person can “arm” themselves is by learning a martial art. There are several forms of martial art that focus on taking down opponents larger than you, like Aikido, Hapkido, and of course, BJJ.

The History of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

BJJ is a ground-based form of martial art, and it focuses mainly on teaching a fighter how to fight from their back. Many Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters practice BJJ because of the success they have when applying it to a fight.

Instead of relying on his strength, he focused on leveraging that of his opponent’s.

In 1914, a Kodokan Judo master by the name of Mitsuyo Maeda taught Brazilian man Carlos Gracie the art of judo. Carlos’ younger brother, Helio, refined the art that was taught to his brother to suit his smaller frame. Instead of relying on his strength, he focused on leveraging that of his opponent’s. Helio’s refinement led to the birth of BJJ: a grappling art that taught practitioners how to utilize joint locks and chokeholds to their advantage on the ground.

Why Girls and Women Should Consider Practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

In many parts of the world, violence against women is a rampant problem, as well as femicide. Even countries with a high Human Development Index (HDI; developed by the UN to quantify a country’s human development factors, like life expectancy, per capita income, and education) aren’t guaranteed to be safe. In Norway (with a high HDI index value of 0.953), police uncovered at least 151 sexual assaults in a remote area of the country, and they’ve acknowledged even more cases may have gone unreported and uninvestigated. As of 2017, England and Wales (HDI: 0.922) had the highest rate of police-reported sexual violence, at 257.2 per 100,000 people.

Many articles on the subject of martial arts for children encourage Karate, Kung Fu, and Aikido. Popularized by such celebrity martial artists as Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Steven Seagal, these martial arts teach respect, humility, and discipline, and offer rank progression that encourages children to feel confident in their achievements. However, they might not be the most effective martial arts against someone much bigger than you. 

In the real world, an assailant won’t show restraint.

If you want your child (or you) to be able to defend themselves against someone larger than them, who can ordinarily easily overpower them, you need to accept a steeper learning curve, and work through the difficulty of being a novice in a challenging martial art to the long-term goal of being confident (and competent) against stronger, resisting opponents. Especially because in the real world, an assailant won’t show restraint for cinematic purposes.

While the learning curve can be higher with BJJ, the payoff is amazing. Even when my partner and I both new to actually practicing BJJ, I was able to take him down (he’s about a foot taller and much stronger than me). While it’s rough and hard work being on the ground and leveraging your opponent’s strength for very long, it’s rewarding, and nothing if not empowering. 

You don’t have to take my word for it — UFC fighter Royce Gracie, at 176 pounds, was able to take down his opponent Kimo Leopoldo at UFC 3. Leopoldo weighed in at 240 pounds and only 5% body fat — a 64-pound difference, of mostly muscle. With BJJ, technique trumps size and physical strength.

How Can You Get Started?

Depending on where you live, some places may be in tight lockdown (at the time of writing). If getting started at an actual gym isn’t an option yet, you can get started like I did with the Zoom introduction class. Getting started by practicing the basics with a boyfriend, husband, or man in your life that you trust, is a good way to ease into it, before enrolling in a class.

If getting started at an actual gym isn’t an option yet, you can do a Zoom introduction class. 

One more thing to note, BJJ classes may be made up of mostly men. There are some women-only BJJ classes, but they’re not commonplace everywhere yet. It’s important to know that you will very likely be pinned down, and the learning curve will seem especially steep. It may help to have a friend join with you, if anything, so you have someone in the same boat as you, and you can learn together.

Closing Thoughts

This isn’t to say other martial arts are bad or not worth learning. You can learn things like balance or how to strike with other martial arts that focus on that, over grappling or ground work. There’s a reason why MMA was popularized, and not just BJJ. There are beauty and fun in watching an MMA fight, but in the real world, there’s no referee to stop you from getting seriously hurt, or killed. Take your defense into your own hands. Be empowered. Be your own referee: learn jiu-jitsu.