Women in BJJ in Britain: Jiu Jitsu Style

The second issue of Jiu Jitsu Style becomes available on 21 April! I am a proud contributer to JJS and was crazy pleased to have written the cover interview with Marc Walder and a piece on BJJ for self defence for issue 1. Issue 2 looks set to build on the high standards set by the inaugural issue and the second outing for this young mag sees none other than Kyra Gracie on the cover! JJS is so forward thinking! Not only are their production values tremendous and their content superb and varied, they seem committed to celebrating the diversity of our community. The second issue picks up where the first left off in terms of recognising the women of the art and is all about the ladies! I’m happy to say that my piece on women in BJJ will also be published in this issue of JJS.

While hearing from elite players such as Ms Gracie is marvellous, for my part I wanted to investigate the grassroots of women in BJJ, sort of an ‘every woman’s BJJ’. So, I surveyed 11 women connected to the London BJJ Women’s Open Mat in order to learn more about the motivations and aspirations of the ‘average Jane’ Brazilian Jiu Jitsu woman. This article also presented another opportunity to work with Mark Corpe of Fighters in Focus who snapped our February Open Mat to illustrate the article. Below are a few of his shots that were short-listed for the piece but weren’t chosen for the final piece (darn page limits!). Pure epic gold.

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Fighters in Focus: Women in BJJ in Pictures

My coach, Dave Birkett, and I founded the London BJJ Women’s Open mat in the summer of 2009. Our purpose was to establish a grassroots meet up for BJJ women in London and the Southeast and since our early sessions at Dartford BJJ the Open Mat has grown and strengthened. True to our initial vision, the Open Mat rotates around different women’s clubs and we were excited to have Mark Corpe of Fighters in Focus photography shoot our Q2 event at BJJ School in Battersea. I had the please of working with Mark for my Marc Walder interview and self defence piece which were part of issue 1 of Jiu Jitsu Style. I’m excited that my piece on women in BJJ will be included in issue 2. Mark took hundreds of beautiful candid shots from our Open Mat and below are some of those that didn’t make it to the mag. Enjoy!

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Q2 London BJJ Women’s Open Mat: 29 May 2011 at The MMA Clinic Romford

Q2 2011 London BJJ Women's Open Mat

Tanya Coombes seeks to pass the guard of Latonia Phillpot at the Q1 2011 Open Mat

Date: 29 May 2011
Time: 13:00-16:00
Location: The MMA Clinic
Address: 7-13 High Street, Romford RM1 1JU
Cost: Free

7th Open Mat

Our Q2 2011 London BJJ Women’s Open Mat will be held on 29 May 2011 and will be hosted by Tanya Coombes and our friends at the Romford branch of The MMA Clinic. This is our 7th event since we started our quarterly open mats in 2009 and we are pleased to invite women, aged 18 and over, to join our informal session of drilling and sparring. No grappling experience is required and the Open Mat is a great opportunity for seasoned players to train with other women and for women new to BJJ to try out the art in a friendly environment. The Open Mat is free of charge.

Travel from Romford Rail Station

Turn left out of the station and walk up South Street. Turn left onto the High Street (you see the Gold Lion pub). The MMA Clinic will be on your left, above Maplin.

Email Tanya on tanyakika@hotmail.co.uk for further info.

To find out more, join our event on Facebook

London BJJ Women’s Open Mat Q1 2011

London BJJ Women's Open Mat Feb 2011

Great turnout!

From our humble beginnings at our first BJJ Women’s Open Mat in July ’09, our women’s rolling initiative has gone from strength to strength. From Nov ’10 Dartford BJJ was happy to pass the baton to Mill Hill BJJ and the goal of rotating the Open Mat around different women’s clubs was realised. BJJ School was next to step up to the plate and our hostess, Leoni Munslow, worked with Black Eagle who generously sponsored the event and covered our hall rental. Leoni has been a longtime supporter of the London BJJ Women’s Open Mat and she put on a fantastic event, as one participant remarked, ‘you guys are so amazingly unbossy’. Our goal is a fun atmosphere that is all about ‘us’, all about providing additional support for women on their BJJ journies, not to mention, you get that many alpha type personalities in one room – personalities that are united in a sisterly vision of BJJ – and folk make a real effort to keep it friendly!

What we did at Open Mat

Leoni Munslow at Feb 2011 Open Mat

Leoni, centre, hosts the Open Mat

As usual, the Open Mat attracted women from a wide range of experience levels. Twenty-four women attended this quarter’s event and we would have edged 30 if a carload hadn’t hit vehicle trouble on the way down; we missed you Dominique and crew! It is so heartening to see all the new white belts that came out to the event, along with a strong group of blues and some purples; it is clear that our community is growing. I tell you, when we started the warm up and running around the hall almost bumping into one another, I was honestly moved to be in a room packed with BJJ women; it is a tremendous sight. Happily, professional photographer Mark Corpe of Fighters in Focus was on hand to capture the event on film, and his work will illustrate an upcoming article on women in BJJ for Jiu Jitsu Style. Historically we have sought to cater to all skill levels and run the open mats half drills and half sparring, this event was no different and after our warm up Leoni asked the assembled ladies if there were any particular issues they were having trouble with in their training. The age old question ‘how do I stop being squashed in side control’ was posed as well as questions on chokes and passing guard. Participants offered solutions to these issues and we drilled these approaches before a water break and sparring. We closed out the day with a trip to Nandos to recharge after a superb afternoon’s training.

Personal reflections on the day

BJJ Women Sparring at the London Women's Open Mat Feb 2011

Paula and I spar just before closing time

I had an amazing time training with as many of the girls as I could, from white belt to purple belt. I think, as ever, the women who attended were quietly impressed with the room’s level of awesome. Fact is, many of the women in there will, at one point or another, face each in competition and yet we are all able to leave our egos at the door and enjoy a relaxed, friendly, non-competitive day’s training. Now, don’t get me wrong, these girls *will* come for you and I had the pleasure of rolling with some very aggressive, strong, young, fit blue belts; just because we’re pals doesn’t mean we don’t take each other seriously, it just isn’t personal. As I mentioned, it was really exciting to see the number of white belts that joined us; the next generation of BJJ women is looking very healthy and I really enjoyed the chance to train with these girls. One thing struck me about women newer to the art is that quite a few asked me if I knew of some special move that would prevent badness/allow goodness such as retaining mount, avoiding a prejudicial crushing in side control, that sort of thing. ‘Fraid not. Well, with the exception of consistent practice there is no magic formula and no quick fix. That’s the beauty of BJJ. This will be my 7th year in grappling and I’ve only just scratched the surface and I have so much to learn and to improve. It is a long journey and, perhaps, an especially tough one for the lighter person. But you will get there! Trust the technique your teachers share with you and work with your coach to address problem areas and just work it in drills and sparring and eventually your percentage of success will increase. Ultimately, though, BJJ is friggin’ difficult! The challenges are great but so are the rewards when something, no matter how tiny, comes together. Isn’t that why we do this?

Future events

Excitingly, other women have agreed with their coaches to offer us space for events, and we have in-principle agreements for the rest of the year’s open mats. Our Q2 event will be hosted by Tanya Coombes and held at The MMA Clinic in Romford, Essex. We will be announcing the date and times in the next fortnight. Can’t wait! In the meantime, grappling women are invited to join our Facebook Group and to Like our Facebook Page to keep up to date with our events.

Q1 London BJJ Women’s Open Mat: 6 February 2011

Q4 2010, London Women's Open Mat

Q4 2010, London Women's Open Mat

Date: Sunday 6 February 2011
Time: 13:00-16:00
Location: BJJ School, Battersea Academy
Address: Battersea Youth Sports Centre, Hope Street, London SW11 2DA
Cost: Free

The Q1 2011 BJJ Women’s Open Mat will be held on Sunday, 6 February and will be hosted by Leoni Munslow and our friends at BJJ School, Battersea Academy and is proudly sponsored by Black Eagle. Women, 18 years and over, are encouraged to join our informal session of drilling and sparring. No grappling experience is required and the Open Mat is a great opportunity for seasoned players to train with other women and for women new to BJJ to try out the art in a friendly environment. The Open Mat is free of charge.

To find out more, join the event on Facebook