SW Portland Martial Arts Blog

Why is there a women’s only BJJ class?

December 7th, 2018

People practice martial arts for lots of different reasons, but at a fundamental level, the function of martial arts is to… well, be functional. If you call something martial arts, the implication is that it should help the practitioner defend themselves in an actual self defense situation. Given that martial arts should work, how is it possible for an all women’s class to be functional, as the majority of violent attackers against women are men?

Put another way, why offer gender exclusive classes? Shouldn’t people be training with everyone, so they gain a broad exposure to possible body shapes and sizes? Shouldn’t women be training with men since if they get attacker their attacker is almost certainly going to be male? My answer is yes, people should be training with as broad a range of partners as possible – if they want to test their skills. That phrase at the end, “if they want to test their skills”, brings us to the crux of having a women’s only class.

First, even if women do train in classes with men, it can be nice to get a chance to work only with other women so that you have a whole hour with people who are reasonably close you your size and strength. Generally, men are bigger and stronger. It’s certainly not the case that a women aren’t sometimes bigger and stronger than their male partner, but the usual scenario is a smaller female versus a bigger man. Given this usual scenario, it is sometimes hard to determine when the man ends up winning if it is the result of a physical advantage or a skill advantage. So, reason number one for a women’s only class – to have a day where skill is more prominently featured because the students are closer in size and strength.

Second, martial arts is largely a male dominated culture. Cultures tend to replicate themselves and exclude those who are not already represented in the culture. Sometimes this is deliberate, other times it is unintentional, merely a product of a women walking into a gym, seeing nobody else on the mats who is female, and turning around and heading out the door. There are definitely women who are willing to be the only female on the mat. However, it seems of value to offer a class where women see everybody looks like them and therefore are willing to take the chance and do some martial arts. So, reason number two for a women’s only class – to get women started down the martial path by providing a class where everyone is closer to their size and strength level.

Third, people ask for it. I love martial arts and CrossFit. I like seeing the gym full of people. I think people will use the class. I think the class will make the gym money and I am a cog in the capitalist machine as much as the next business owner. So, reason number three for a women’s only class – there is demand for it.

As a final thought, martial arts, while at root – must be about functionality, there is no reason why an individual’s training needs to be about functionality. There is joy, camaraderie, and sweat to be had on the mats. The art itself must keep an eye on honesty and functionality. To pressure test your skill against a bigger, stronger opponent is important to see if it will really work, there is no reason that everyone needs to do that the first day they walk in the door (or ever, really). So my hope is that the women’s class serves all three of the reasons above: it gives the women of the gym a chance to wrestle with people their own size, it gets some new women in the door who might otherwise walk away if they saw a room full of men, and it grows the gym.

Got thoughts on the subject of a women’s only BJJ class? I’d love to hear them.

Holiday Punch Card

November 29th, 2018

Want to give the gift of fitness this holiday season? We’ve got $150 10 class punch cards that give you access to our entire schedule. The cards never expire.

Simply enter your email below, pay on PayPal and we will ship the punchcard out to you.

Holiday Punch Card
Enter your email below:

New Classes coming soon!

November 12th, 2018

We’ve got two new classes coming soon –

Yoga is coming, starting Sunday, November 25th. It will run every Sunday from 10-11AM. There is NO charge for currently enrolled CrossFit Hillsdale students. It’s gonna be rad! It will take place in the beautifully matted new space @ 6315 SW Capitol Highway. All levels of experience are welcome Click here for more details.

For non CrossFitters, here are the costs for the yoga class:
First time: 2 for 15$ (Non-gym member)
Drop-In: 15$
5 class punch pass: $60 (12 per class)
10 class punch pass: $110(11 per class)

Also, women’s BJJ is coming, starting Saturday, November 24th! It will run every Saturday from 12:30-1:30PM. Hopefully the name makes it obvious that this is a class for just women… and yes, the coach is a woman – Jasmin. The idea is to give people a chance to roll with folks who are actually the same size as them! The class is free for all enrolled Southwest Portland Martial Arts students.

For non MA students, here are the costs for the women’s BJJ class:
First class: free
Drop in: $20
Punch card: $150 for 10 classes

New Schedule Starting November 1st

October 22nd, 2018

As many of you have heard, we are opening a second martial arts space about 2 blocks away from our current space.

What does this mean for the schedule?

For CrossFit, nothing has changed. The times, the location, it all stays the same.

For the martial arts, much has changed! The day classes are the exception and they remain at the same time and at the same location – with the lovely addition of another morning BJJ class on Thursday. The kids classes stay at the same times but almost all of them move to the new space. The exception are the weekend classes. The Saturday and Sunday kids classes are staying at the old location. Notice that there are several new classes on the schedule, including a Tuesday and Thursday 4:30 class for 6-8 year olds!

The adult evening classes are almost completely different! Check it out and LET US KNOW if you have questions.

Remember, this schedule starts on Thursday, November 1st. If you are a martial arts student and have the night free, you should be there to help us open the new space.

Adversity and Adversaries

October 8th, 2018

If you are trying to get better a martial art that involves working against actively resisting partners, I suggest you become a good adversary. Being a good adversary is fundamentally different from being an enemy to your partners. Enemies drown one another without compunction. Good adversaries create a rising tide that raises all participants. Great adversaries can alter the level of adversity they provide to any partner, and assure that both they and their partner are learning to swim. In this article, I will talk about 7 ways to become a better adversary and avoid becoming an enemy.

First, acknowledge that you are training martial arts and not engaging in a death match. This seems laughable but it is easy to let your adrenaline and your emotions drag you under and switch from being an adversary to becoming an enemy. Some people can get away with this and survive without major injuries. Those people tend to be bigger, younger, and male but that isn’t always true. Many giant, young men end up smashing themselves against the brutal shoals of aggression and hobble away with horrible injuries, never again to return. Plenty of people who are smaller, older, and not male dive into the hurricane of aggression and emerge as quality martial artists. However, it is statistically more likely that if your treat your training like a deathmatch, you’re more likely to get hurt. Don’t become an enemy or transform your partner into an enemy by engaging in a death match. Remember you are training martial arts. Be an adversary.

Second, acknowledge that physical traits matter but don’t rely on them to win matches at your gym. Strength, speed, coordination, height, age, weight, reach, and power can all create advantages in martial arts. Martial arts builds skills. Skills can be enhanced with physical traits. In a boxing match, given two fighters of equal skill but one with a 6 inch longer reach than the other, I’ll put my money on the one with the longer reach every time. Do you know your physical attributes? Do you know how you stack up physically compared to your partner? Make a mental checklist of your attributes and your partner’s attributes. If you outclass your partner, tone down your intensity a bit. If you are 250 pounds, put a fellow 250 pound grappler in side control, and then press your full weight into your partner they are likely to perceive you as an adversary. If you do the same to a 150 pound partner, they are likely to perceive you as an enemy if they aren’t already tapping out or bemoaning broken ribs. Don’t become an enemy or transform your partner into an enemy by being ignorant of physical attributes. Remember physical traits matter. Be an adversary.

Third, acknowledge that rank is not a 100% accurate predictor of who will win. If you outrank someone and believe that you “should” beat them even though you are losing, you are on the path from adversary to enemy. Sometimes you’ll get beat by someone you outrank. Sometimes you’ll beat someone who outranks you. Don’t let attachment to rank get you sucked down into the undertow. Rank matters in your personal journey and yes, should reflect skill levels at the gym but a belt won’t protect you from injury. Don’t turn yourself into an enemy because of a colored piece of cloth around your waist. Be an adversary.

Fourth, beware and cherish the beginner. People who are new have no idea what is going on. They can be unpredictably calm one moment and then drop a tsunami of aggression on you without warning. They can be incredibly dangerous to themselves and their partners. If you are partnered with a newbie, do not use it as an opportunity to take revenge on all the people who have beat you in the past. To do so is to make yourself an enemy to the hapless novice. On the flipside, watch out for crazy moves. Remember that a beginner has no idea what they are doing and might do some unpredictable stuff. Don’t underestimate them, get surprised, get angry, and then become an enemy. Protect yourself, protect the beginner and don’t try and take advantage of the situation and become an enemy. Be an adversary.

Fifth, provide adversity and try to win. The word adversary may seem an odd choice to use when talking about how to act toward a partner but provided you are both training in hopes of learning how to better face challenges in your lives, being a good adversary is exactly what you should be trying to do. This doesn’t mean you should try and win the warmups and crush people beneath your oceanic power when you drill techniques. It means you should, during sparring, provide your partners with an appropriate amount of challenge. Don’t baby your partner or underwhelm them by not trying to win. Don’t become an enemy by disrespectfully babying your partner. Try to win. Be an adversary.

Sixth, when you are partnered with someone of nearly equal physicality and skill, dive in! Assuming you are both healthy and relatively injury free, enjoy those partnerships where it is simple to be a good adversary and just play. Don’t begrudge if they eventually become better than you and don’t gloat if you surpass them. Don’t become an enemy by taking your close matches personally. These close matches are where you will most see your best challenges. Be an adversary.

Seventh, there are some partners you should avoid, until the tides of your relationship change. Don’t assume that everyone is in touch with their physicality or level of aggression. It’s easy to assume that students who are super aggressive and/or strong are aware of the fact. They may or may not be. They may be completely unaware of their own level of intensity. They may think 100% aggro is the correct way to be. It’s not your responsibility to fix them. There are some partners who will view you as an enemy no matter how you treat them. There are some partners who have no idea how to play with smaller or lower ranking students. Avoid these partners on the mat. These kinds of partners will often drive you into becoming an enemy and this feeling can boil over to all your other partnerships and drive your whole training experience down the drain. Be a good adversary by avoiding impossible partners. Try warming up or drilling with these kinds of partners to help build trust and maybe someday in the future you can be good adversaries for one another. Don’t become an enemy by training with impossible partners. Be patient and take time to build an understanding with them. Be an adversary.

Hopefully these seven points are a good introduction into what it means to be a good adversary and not an enemy in the context of sparring. Enemies want to destroy you. Adversaries want to win while at the same time keeping it fun, safe, and respectful. Hopefully this makes it clear why it is to everyone’s advantage that you cultivate the attitude of an adversary rather than that of an enemy. Don’t take the short view of training and become an enemy of your own progress. Be an adversary.

In the case of sparring that is supposed to simulate self defense or street fighting, I think the same arguments still hold. Assuming all students want to keep training over the long haul, they still have to acknowledge physically and skill level. They still have to feather the intensity so that people don’t get broken and yet they still have to try and win so that everyone is facing actual adversity and not getting false sense of competence. Don’t let the goal of your training – self defense and survival – turn you into an enemy. Be an adversary.