Confronting the fundamental sexism in MA

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by Mangosteen, Aug 29, 2020.

  1. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    Martial arts (BJJ wpecifically) communities are largely participated in by normal sized, able bodied males. That is males between 60 to 120kg, with all their limbs, eyesight etc and normal strength and ability to become stronger.

    People that fall outside of these parameters make up the minority (especially in smaller clubs).

    In the lenses of these parameters, other groups, specifically women are at a disadvantage due to the sexual dimorphism of our species (males and females of the same weight and training history have vastly different strength levels). Unkindly put, in this lense, if they had Male genetilia, they would be viewed has having some kind of "disability" (I prefer the term differently abled so as not to patronise).

    This doesn't mean females aren't worthy of promotion to greater ranks but the general criteria in bjj for a blue belt is the ability to defend yourself against higher belts. For females that is so much more difficult as they a majority of higher belts that they will roll with will be males. Therefore it seems the criteria for females requires them to defend themselves against higher belts of vastly greater strength. The skill requirement is much higher for females rolling against males but I feel it is not appreciated or acknowledged.

    Additionally lack of opportunities for females to roll with equally bodied peoples (i.e. with other females) creates an unfair environment as I (as a male) have a myriad of opportunities to roll with with equally bodied males.

    I believe this leads to the development of a skillset for females that isn't as assertive or aggressive and pigeonholed them into always playing as the smaller and physically weaker opponent which is rubbish when competing with other females.

    It also leads to fewer rolls were females can go all out in rolling without serious risk of injury.

    In the same vein of anti-racism, being anti-sexist, I believe, is important. We should probably take steps to address the imbalance in opportunities to roll.

    My suggestions to my club were to ensure we invite high level females from other clubs when we have seminars.

    Additionally I believe we should ensure and equal number of guest seminars from men and women. If women can learn from men, men can also learn from women.

    Would you have any other suggestions?
    aaradia likes this.
  2. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    I'm not sure saying that females, are the equivalent to being a disabled male is that helpfully.

    Having women only intro classes, regular women open mats, and having women regularly over for seminars helps, what also helps are having aims that also fit in with the financial concerns of running a club, more women equals more income is good.

    Enforcing an equal number of seminars from each sex, is not as usefull, due to the smaller number of women who are blackbelts, and may also mean not having seminars run by popular male blackbelts which will reduce the income the gym gets from attendance.
    Nachi, Pretty In Pink and Mangosteen like this.
  3. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    i agree, "disabled" is maybe the wrong term. differently abled is definitely a better term. Apologies, this is a tricky topic language wise and i was really wanting to get out my thoughts on "if we view male bodies as the norm then all else is regarded as abnormal" when in reality we do little to foster the devlopment of around 50% of the global population, if that makes sense.

    We definitely need to put out more marketing out for getting more females involved in bjj.
    For a sport that bills itself as "the best self defence for women", we really dont have much marketing toward women.
    The open mats and womens intro classes are a great one.

    I agree, the lack of female blackbelts is a problem in pure numbers but the alternative is to ask any male blackbelt to bring along a higher levelled female to assist with teaching. This allows female members to get feedback from someone on a more equal playing field. It also allows male members to see a high level female at work.

    Another aspect females at my club (especially newer ones) struggle with is gauging their own progress as when they roll, they are dominated by a male due to strength differences that overcome skill (i've used weight and strength the easily break through female blue belts solid and technical defences before). Even when they do all the right things, the difference in bodies makes those things not work as successfully as they would for someone bigger, stronger, differently bone structured etc.
    So they arent getting the same kind of physical feedback they would get from rolling from someone equal bodied.
    Dead_pool likes this.
  4. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    What DP said. Encouraging female only classes is important for many reasons not least of which is comfort. When I run a gym I hope to run a womens intro class but also a womens only competitive class, giving them the advantage of rolling with someone they're more likely to compete against.
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  5. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    How would you go about actually getting female members and also in the interim (as the female members are new and developing) making sure they are getting adequate feedback and recoignised for their skill?

    This came about from a conversation I had about a teammate who is a small woman (40kg). She rarely gets the chance to roll with women, especially women of her weight class. But when she turns up to competitions, she competes against women a good 10kg heavier than her at the best and 20kg at worst. Sher has won most these competitions and a lot of the women she competes against have been promoted.

    Everyone at my club (all the coloured belts and 2/3 coaches) agrees that she should probably be blue belt but the third coaches points that it is difficult to assess her progress due to inherent sex difference and the expectation that all blue belts, regardless of physical ability, should be able to defend themselves against higher belts of any size in regular rolling (again there is only limited evidence of her doing with to people of the same sex at competition).

    Little effort has made to accomodate this students differing needs e.g. the coaches could assess her and recieve feedback by inviting along a higher level female student from our affilate club (that has plenty of women) when we have out regular monthly seminar with the blackbelt there.

    I want to make sure we can put a system in place at our small club with very few membersto fix the sex bias of the sport. things like inviting along female higher level students from the affiliate club on a regular schedule.
  6. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Actually getting female members? Probably through having a female class, maybe a ladies membership option, and also get loads of them involved with a female self defence class.
  7. Nachi

    Nachi Valued Member Supporter

    Wow, first time I heard someone call women as abnormal men :D Thanks, lol :D :D :D

    Can't speak from a BJJ perspective, but for karate, the highest ranking woman in our association holds 7th dan and we had her invited to our seminar and an additional class women-only was very popular. Even though her classes tend to be one of the hardest.

    This is one of the reasons that I think it is not a bad thing that for grading, unlike in Bjj, we determine the skill by kata, technique etc., even sparring, but the requirement is not to win, just to show your skill and we would usually have to switch partners after short rounds. Therefore gender doesn't really matter, which I think is really good. As you say, it would be annoying if we had to look for partners of same gender and size. Who would ever grade? Maybe the rules of this type of grading are more of a disadvantage than being a woman? And there may be other disadvanteges any individual can have.

    And I thought I read here on MAP many times that Bjj is mainly determined by skill, rather than strenght. So if two people are of similar weight, but different gender, does it really make so much of a difference? If the grading for women would be separated by inviting other women from different clubs all the time like that... it would likely bring less opportunities for women. And would women generally really be happy about being separated like that? Not that I have any particular opinion about this, just wondering.
    Mangosteen likes this.
  8. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    What is a ladies membership option?
  9. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    Thank you for your perspective.
    BJJ is generally graded on skill under pressure. When pressure is involved strength usually plays a part and a lot of the fallacies perpuated in jiu jitsu is that skill overcomes strength in all scenarios, really its a spectrum of strength and skill iin that more skill aids in overcoming strength but there is a level of strength that can overcome a level of skill.

    From the women I've talked to at my club, they would like more opportunities to train with higher level women. Theres a lot of knowledge on injury prevention, what to look out for when training with men (unfortunately many new guys in jiu jitsu like to "prove their worth" by trying to "beat" the women).
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  10. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    Also sorry to everyone on the thread - im elaborating as much as possible as it is a difficult topic to discuss.
    When trying to suggest it to my club, many of the men took it as a personal attack for me to suggest that our club/sport had inadvertantly created a sexist system that was fit for the needs and capabilities of some (men) and not others (women).

    Maybe other clubs promote in different ways and mine is just backward?
  11. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    Lightweight men have similar, but not the same issues.

    You have to be carefull how you approach these matters, as gym people arnt always in the upper 50th percent of the EQ and IQ graphs, and they're quite used to their little safe spaces, and don't always want to change.

    I would definitely not suggest change how gradings are conducted, you don't want to be seen as wanting to lower standards, although personally I would suggest a blue belt is someone that can take a much larger white belt and roll safely, and positionally dominate, and submit them with a small variety of subs is a better approach, it all ends up the same really anyway.

    The key is to seem reasonable, and then just keep moving the middle ground. A bit like how the conservatives have ruined the country, but with a gym, and making it better instead of worse.
    Mangosteen likes this.
  12. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    Just an idea, how about contacting other gyms in the area, and having a rotating women's only open mat / comp training class / in house competitions, you could put a nominal fee on it, and then donate that to a charity, and get your photo in the local news, so free advertising for the gym too.

    It would be a good way to get lots of high level females together, and make connections for seminars later on.
    Mangosteen likes this.
  13. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Something like 3 womens only classes a week that's discounted.

    As to "how women are graded" my understanding is that it's much how anyone is graded. In our club they are graded to their individual understanding of the art. If you're competing 10 times a year you're getting grased as a competitor and it's not the same. A 45 year old male purple belt and a 20 year old female purple belt have the same technical knowledge but the skill gap might be enormous. They both have the same fundamental understanding of bjj so they are both purple belts. The individuals situation determines they're belt level.
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  14. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    hahaha my club is just crap then.
  15. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    If she medaling in competition against women her own weight or heavier/stronger, then she's at that level, if one instructor wants her to be extra good, as she's so light, that's not a bad thing, as long as she aware of that, it's the long game that matters!
  16. Dead_pool

    Dead_pool the merc with the mouth MAP 2017 Moi Award

    What are Jiu Jitsu "Boyd Belts"? - BJJ Mat Rat

    The GA viewpoint, belts are only comparable within your own age and weight, when you start ignoring that, it gets more complex.

    Also In terms of weight, a 40kg person isn't just 10 kg lighter then a 50 kg person, if their skeleton and organs weight the same (say 30kg) then the 50 kg person could have twice the muscle of the 40kg person.
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  17. Mangosteen

    Mangosteen Hold strong not

    Last edited: Aug 29, 2020
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  18. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Not at all but at the end of the day I think it's important to have a good black belt there to sort out gradings. Also the largest all female class is in fife and many women make it there regularly for that one class to train with others who are in the same situation of having trouble meeting training partners.
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