If you don\’t play to win, why play at all?

Women in BJJ, BJJ in Me
October 1, 2007, 1:12 am
Filed under: BJJ Brazilian Jiu-jitsu | Tags: , , ,

I have grown to love training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. But that is a far cry from my younger days.

To say that I was never an athlete is an understatement. Years ago, I hated anything that would make me sweat. I never ran around outdoors, chasing playmates. I never knew how to play chinese garter or tumbang preso. I couldn’t skip rope, or hula-hoop. I never danced, never biked, never swam. I firmly believed that I can and will never be active because I have asthma. Which was somehow a comfort for me, because I never liked being active, anyway. I would get a false medical certificate to excuse myself from PE or any sport-related activities. I totally lived a sedentary life.

Fast-forward, 2005. Because I wanted to be fit, I decided to hit the gym. After a few months, it bored the hell out of me. I never enjoyed sweating it out in the gym. My only motivation was my steep joining fee! Then I discovered kickboxing, and liked it. I like it that it makes me sweat and tired, and I was never looking at the clock to check if I had done enough. I just enjoyed it till exhaustion. Again, after a few months, boredom started seeping in. Then I tried grappling, with the same boys whom I was doing kickboxing with. I was doing it for a while, until I became restless. Not out of boredom, but because I wanted to learn it right. I wanted to learn more and be with the best coach, so I enrolled in Kamphuis-Fabricio. Since then, I never looked back to my sedentary life.


Being a woman, I struggle to survive in a man’s world. Clearly, women in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu belong to a minority. Not all women can take being crushed, taken down or choked out. But that’s not yet everything. You get twisted, scarred, injured. You can never grow long nails. You develop callouses on your fingers, toes, feet. You get gi burns on your face, and mat burns on every part of your exposed skin. You let go of your personal space and inhibitions, because in jiu-jitsu, you have to give your opponent as little space as possible for him not to move around. Bruises are a common thing, at the most uncommon parts to get it — fingers, biceps, forearms, shins, etc. I have to stop training for at least a week if I’m hitting the beach or attending an important occasion, just to avoid showing bruised arms — so as not to raise the interest of strangers as to whether I got my bruises from a hot night or a heated argument with someone.

I can go on talking about what you cannot do, as a woman, while you are a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioner. But this is not about that. This is about what you CAN BE, as a woman doing Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.


Eversince I started getting serious with my BJJ training, I have learned to take care of myself. I stopped smoking. I avoid drinking alcohol. I sleep early. I take healthy food, vitamins and supplements. My self-image has also matured. Now I do ab workouts not to have aesthetically pleasing abs, but because I want strong core muscles to move better on the ground. I do push-ups and chin-ups not to get slender arms but to have arms strong enough for chokes. I do lunges not to tone my legs but to be effective in takedowns and guard game. My motivation goes beyond looking physically good. Getting my muscles toned and shaped are just good by-products of my training.

In most cases, size matters. But in BJJ, you can get your way around even if you are small. In once-in-a-blue-moon times, I have tapped out some guys bigger than me. Finally getting that rare moment of armbar-ing a guy who is 20 kilos heavier than me is one glorious moment that beats winning a P100K raffle. Although I still get dominated and tapped out by the boys most of the time, I know I am improving when I am giving them a hard time — when they cannot easily get a submission or position on me. Considering I am the smallest, lightest and weakest in the gym, that’s one thing I am really proud of. My coach told me that women who do BJJ need 50% more strength, courage and determination compared to guys in order to last in the sport.

With our team, I don’t only have teammates — I have a family. Our coach is like a father to me and everyone else. Conversations don’t end with BJJ. We talk about anything under the sun, be it about business, economy, or places to dine. During training, we take care of each other. We may accidentally head butt or elbow our partner, but we make sure that we don’t hurt them intentionally especially when applying submissions. Ego is definitely not in the air.


I’ve had my share of disappointments and frustrations in doing the sport. Injury tops the list. Because when I get immobilized by a hyperextended arm or swollen ankle, I know I will have to stop training for a certain period of time. And no, I never want to. Another disappointment is being outmuscled by new guys. Just because they are bigger and stronger, they try to power their way out. Yeah, boys and their ego. But soon they learn that sheer strength and power won’t make them last. Otherwise, they’re better off lifting heavy weights and growing their muscles big.

BJJ has become a way of life for me. Or maybe it has become my life, I wouldn’t know. What’s important is, I am enjoying life as it is. Life wouldn’t be the same for me without jiu-jitsu. And for me, surviving Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for over a year is already a life-changing achievement.