Own Your Fears: Women, BJJ, and Self Defense

Every day and every minute that goes by, another female around the world will experience some form of sexual assault, harassment, battery, or victimization. I am sure that this information is nothing new and at this point, fairly common knowledge. It is the sad and undeniable truth. It is also my truth.

I was asked to write this blog about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and why women should train. There are countless reasons, articles, and studies as to why this is so beneficial. I was internally conflicted about whether or not to publicly share my experiences and story with you, some random stranger reading this blog...but you are the very reason I am. That staggering number of assaults is real and it is growing. Your sister, your mother, your cousin, daughter or even granddaughter could be dealing with the same emotions and experiences I have felt. That is exactly WHY I am telling this story.

I've had three separate accounts of sexual assault during my years of high school. Not harassment, but assault. The worst of the three involved the threat of death if I was not compliant with his wishes. As you can imagine, it has taken me well over a decade to finally be confident enough to admit the damage. I was silenced. It wasn't until about 5 years ago, I began to realize how the traumatic events have plagued and hindered my daily life and past relationships with just about every human I have met since then....especially men. I questioned what I did wrong? How did I end up there in that situation? Did I look like a victim? A weak woman? Was it my fault?

I sat in therapy every Saturday trying to recollect every detail of the accounts. I flipped through pages of self help books and gathered some insight but nothing was able to "fix" the devastation. SO I did the next best thing---I enrolled myself into a combat sport environment where the room is flooded with intimidating and mentally tough men. Those men were not just going to be hanging out with one another talking about their weekend plans--now they were going to be in close proximity with me, having their hands on me, and in the most uncomfortable, awkward positions you can fathom.

Suddenly, this sounded like the worst idea I had ever had.

It took me every ounce of courage I had to walk through those doors for my first class. If I showed up to class with even 10 extra minutes to spare, my impending anxiety would lead me right back out the door and into my car. I would drive myself ALL the way back home, which was 45 minutes away.

Fast forward a bit and now it's been three years since I started training. I often get asked--" Why did you start training", or "What made you decide to do that ?".  It's not as rare as it used to be, to see women stepping onto the mats, but the concept is still relatively new. I start every conversation by saying how much weight I have lost, and how I really wanted to learn something new. Jiu Jitsu has done those things for me. I am watching what I eat, and am making a conscious effort to strive to be the healthiest I can be.  Many sports and activities can do that for you, though. Very few things in life, can help you push through the layers of discomfort, awkwardness, and sheer fear, like jiu jitsu can.

I started training because of the self defense aspect it provides to me. In those moments, years back, I had no skill or knowledge on HOW to defend myself. I recall the old "groin" shot, but when I was sitting in the passenger seat of a car, on a dark road in the middle of the woods..... that infamous groin shot wasn't going to do me any good. I needed practical and applicable skill. Along with skill though, I needed to gain the ability and trust in my own body and mental capabilities. I wanted to feel secure in being able to implement those tactics in ANY situation; NO matter if I was laying down, standing up on one leg, pinned against a wall---I needed reliable self defense. Jiu Jitsu has helped me achieve all of those things--and it's only been THREE years! I am now able to respond in intense states of duress, instead of freezing up and forgetting everything. I am beginning to understand what true confidence feels like. Let's face it.....For most of us women, society has demanded that we look a certain way; fit a particular mold. For once in my life, I look at my body for the techniques it is now capable of and what it allows me to do. Those volumptious thighs and broader shoulders NOW have a fundamental purpose. I have a deeper appreciation and respect for my own power. It used to be the thing I loathed, for it was what put me into danger so many years ago. Jiu Jitsu is enabling me to feel embodied, to feel whole.

Jay wrote a blog several years back that always pops back into my memory, and I think it is worth mentioning here as well. When I was sitting at my computer desk, at least four years ago now, I read this blog .....and at the end, he asked the question to the readers. I didn't know it in that moment, but it was the question that ignited the flame. It convinced me that walking into the gym was what I needed to do---so I am going to ask it to you (especially the women reading this). If you have dealt with, or gone through, any of the similar circumstances---what would you do to take that away? To take that moment back? To make those feelings go away?

For myself, I have all of the answers now. I needed to face them. All of the fears, insecurities and questions....perhaps you do too.

Come check out the Academy and train. You'll be welcomed by an inspiring group of women who will be there to help you get started!

-Ashley Sculac