Yesterday I read an article about the Socal Women BJJ Open Mats that was written by our very own Erin Herle, who runs Pulling Guard Zine. It was fascinating to read, I know women train Jiu Jitsu and I know that it is difficult for them to find training partners. But what really got my brain in frenzy was that these women were not bound to the same rules that guys hold themselves to often in Jiu Jitsu. Girls from different walks of life, different teams and different aspirations came together to do one thing. Jiu-Jitsu. So what do I mean exactly by not being bound by the same rules? Well, often it seems woman training together are born out of necessity. There are not nearly as many training partners, so you will take whatever you can get right?
However, guys we hold certain rules right? If you’re a competitor you like to roll with guys who are competitors. If you train at a certain school, you often don’t go training at other schools. The availability of training for guys actually makes us limit ourselves rather than expand our horizons. These open mats are a great thing. Why are there not open mats for things besides woman? Open mats for smaller guys? Open mats for heavy guys? Open mats in general? I don’t understand how we as a community limit ourselves, when we have a vast amount of resources and our contemporaries (woman) do the complete opposite and make the most of their resources by implementing these types of projects. I have been training Jiu-Jitsu for two years and I have never been to the American Top Team where I live. I don’t think it’s because I hate American Top Team but it just never simply crossed my mind. This is dismaying to me because why would we not want to train with other people?
The truth is we get comfortable right? We are set in our ways and no one likes to step outside their comfort zone. Sometimes we place ourselves in hierarchies even if we don’t know it. We only associate with people who share similar interest or goals. World champions training with world champions, Alliance training with Alliance, Gracie Barra training with Gracie Barra. Even in the article Erin says, “…my accolades in competition and role as a member of Jiu-Jitsu media meant nothing to these girls because it shouldn’t. We are just there to roll and learn and share.” Is this not the point of Jiu-Jitsu? To make ourselves better practioners and better people?
Someone once told me teams are “just a way of your ego trying to separate you from other people.” Not only teams but accolades, goals, jobs, social groups, these are all just separating us from other people and preventing the evolution of Jiu-Jitsu. I love Jiu-Jitsu but sometimes it feels like it is just like high school. Everyone knows everyone, everyone knows each other’s stories and as a result everyone separates themselves from each other for silly reasons.
Instead of bringing people together out of necessity, why don’t we bring people together because it makes sense. If there is one thing I learned from the Women’s SoCal Open Mats is that we all can take a lesson from them. It does not matter that we do not share similar backgrounds, teams, or even goals. What we do share is something that is more powerful than any of those ideas or things…a love for Jiu-Jitsu.