So many people get this so very wrong, it needs to be addressed. I’ve seen the following happen again and again: women roll almost exclusively with men, then go out to compete against other women, and they are smashed. Why? What can I (as a man) do to help prevent this, and what can I get out of training with a woman?
Training with women the right way can actually increase your own skill level dramatically as a result, not to mention being a tremendous help to the women you train with on a regular basis. However, there’s more to it than you might think at first glance.
Note: this article addresses how to get the most out of training with women (at both sides). If you need help with etiquette or have different questions (or just want to read a good article on the subject written by a woman), check out this article written by Chrissy Linzy, or this one by Candice Deisher.
The ultimate challenge for you is to strike the correct balance between dialing back the intensity (not going into “kill” mode), while remembering that women are not actually the delicate flowers you might at first perceive them to be. Remember that the women at your gym are there to learn, and it is a part of your job as a training partner to help them learn. While you may have a strength advantage over the woman you’re rolling with, it doesn’t mean she’s off the hook when she makes a mistake! Can you imagine if your instructors let you get away with building bad habits throughout your jiu jitsu career?
On the other side of the coin, if you’re aware enough to realize when proper technique is utilized, it is OK to yield to techniques you could possibly overpower. However, this is no different than when you’re rolling with a male training partner when you are much bigger (or much heavier), or even a skilled teen grappler. If your main goal is simply to smash all of your training partners, you won’t help them very much if that’s all you ever do. You also won’t help yourself much, because you won’t get to see very many transitions, escapes, and setups the way you would if you relaxed some. This is part of the learning process, and you should be rolling like this the majority of the time!
Sometimes striking this balance is much easier said than done. You will need to alter the way you train with women to a degree, and this will mean- above all else- keeping lines of communication open. This goes both ways, though: women will need to give feedback, and you’ll need to listen to it (women, if you’re reading this- don’t be afraid to speak up if someone is letting you get away with sloppy technique when you’re rolling, or if you’re being smashed and not learning a thing).
Opening up with women can be relatively easy for some men who have a much harder time opening up with men. If you lose a “pure technique” battle against a woman, this can be much easier for some egos to handle. These types of losses are the ones you’re going to learn the most from, though! Play the chess game and allow your technical understanding to take a giant leap forward. I have learned as much from my female training partners over the years as I have from the men I’ve trained with.
Sure, if you’re getting ready for a competition, you should be focusing on your “A game” stuff, and shutting everyone’s techniques down as much as possible, as the competition draws nearer. But most of the time you should be flowing with all of your partners, which certainly includes the women you train with. Remember that you need to strike a balance between this approach and keeping your training partners honest, though! Help them become better training partners, and help yourself out by continuing to develop good habits all along the way. Learn how to roll with partners of any shape, size, age, or gender, and you’ll not only be a great training partner for all your teammates, but you’ll help yourself out along the way in your journey to better understand jiu jitsu!