How does BJJ build confidence in women?
Just walking down some streets in cities like New York and Philly or their suburbs can make women feel vulnerable. Add the fading light of day or a neighborhood that is borderline shabby, and women may begin to imagine the worst that can possibly happen.
Let’s face it: Most women are smaller and weaker than most men. There are exceptions of course, but in general a man can overpower a woman. Women go through life experiencing bouts of fear when they’re in in certain situations. They feel defenseless, like they couldn’t possibly protect themselves or their children should a person act aggressively or violently.
What’s more, life itself is filled with stress and disappointment, from lost jobs to broken marriages to the everyday inconveniences of heavy traffic and rude clients.
That’s where Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) comes in. How does this unique martial art help women navigate the emotions and difficulties of life?
By teaching physical technique and mental control.
The techniques and maneuvers of BJJ, which are grounded in self-defense, work for those who are generally smaller and weaker, making them feel less vulnerable. It doesn’t matter that you’re a small-framed woman; when bolstered by the knowledge of BJJ, you will be able to manipulate and control a much larger—and stronger—opponent. Using BJJ’s techniques, such as leverage, fluid movements and body positioning, can help you neutralize violent threats and escape from an unpredictable person who is determined to do you harm. Even while in a typically threatening position, such as on your back with someone on top, you would be able to free yourself with chokes and armlocks.
But there is more than the physical advantage of BJJ. It also teaches you awareness, conflict resolution and the ability to assess a situation. Think about what happens when you’re in a scary or painful situation—not even one that is necessarily violent. You may feel anxiety or panic, your breathing rate increases, and you may have trouble catching your breath. You may feel like you are losing control. In a much more threatening situation, things could only get worse. That natural response may prevent you from performing when it’s most necessary. BJJ, however, teaches you how to use focus, not only to perform techniques, but to diffuse a bad situation.
In addition, practicing BJJ’s techniques in a controlled setting prepares you mentally to transfer them from a comfortable, safe environment to one that is unpredictable and potentially harmful. Becoming skilled in ground fighting not only gives you an advantage over someone who is untrained but helps you overcome your fear—a huge hurdle in a situation that can turn dangerous.
By taking what you’ve learned beyond the mat.
Mastering anything new is rewarding in and of itself. To become proficient at a skill, such as BJJ, you must set achievable goals for yourself, overcome obstacles and revel in the feeling of progression. You must be willing to try, fail and succeed. The outcome of consistently trying and eventually reaching your BJJ goals is self-confidence—and not only on the mat.
Even when you take the threat of physical harm out of the equation, BJJ shows women how to respond in all high-pressure situations, whether it’s on the street, at the office or at home. It reduces both the discomfort with an unsettling situation and the intimidation of facing someone bigger, stronger or perceived as more skilled. The confidence that comes from knowing you can physically defend yourself spills over into other areas of your life where there is competition or uncertainty. And realizing you are skillful, and able to reach goals and tackle fears in BJJ, allows you to have the strength to advocate for yourself in other situations and relationships in your life.
In addition to building self-confidence in the face of uncertainty and competitive situations, BJJ also helps women deal with the ordinary inconveniences and annoyances of life. Many women struggle with stress daily, with working full-time to taking care of the kids’ needs, coordinating schedules and managing a household. The responsibilities and chores go on and on. Modern life is very busy—and stress is a consistent byproduct of that.
BJJ is a great stress-reliever. Because it’s so physically and mentally challenging, it rids the body and mind of excess tension. BJJ students typically feel more composed, productive and in control of stressful situations off the mats too. BJJ teaches you to steady your breathing, calm your emotions and tame your fight-or-flight instinct, and those same lessons can be applied to whatever is eating you alive at work, school or home, allowing you to maintain grace under pressure.
Wait, there’s more! Researchers have found that moderate-to-intense exercise, especially when led by an instructor who makes sure you see it through to completion, has many mental benefits, including easing or preventing depression. Many people have also used exercise, such as BJJ, to deal with anxiety and other mental health problems.
BJJ is a relatively young martial art with less than 100 years of history. Just as is true in many sports, it has been populated mostly by males. It has only been about 25 to 30 years since females have been able to compete at the highest levels, Now, women and girls currently make up about 25% of the BJJ population overall. If you’re a woman having a rough day, week or month, BJJ can help you deal with every negative emotion associated with the many demands on your time. You will walk away from your workout newly inoculated against stress, self-doubt and fear.
In other words, what’s brought to the mat is cured by the mat.