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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

30 July 2010

Article - A Women's BJJ Class (1)

One woman's journey into creating a women's jiu jitsu program
Article #15, by guest writer Chrissy Linzy [FAQ Entry]
(1) (2) (3) (4) >

The Setup

About 3 months ago, using what must have been some sort of black belt trickery, Klint Radwani (my instructor) convinced me to teach a women’s class at our academy. I hesitantly agreed once I was absolutely sure that there was no way our purple belt woman could do it. Of course, when I agreed, I was sort of banking on this class starting sometime in the future. The distant future. Instead, it would start on the first Tuesday of May. I had two weeks. Crap.

So, I did what any panic-stricken gal would do – I dashed off an email to friends of mine who teach women’s classes and begged for help. Adrienne Adams (Yamasaki), Jen Flannery (Fifty/50), and Alaina Hardie (MECCA MMA) all started teaching women’s classes back when they were blue belts, and were kind enough to talk me off of the proverbial ledge and back onto the mats where I belong.

With some excellent advice from them, I got my head back into the game and got to work on my game plan. Common themes from all of the women – develop consistent patterns, show movements that the women can build on from class to class, and reinforce what they already know. With these things in mind, I developed lesson plans for May and June, starting with the positions that I always wished I had spent more time working when I first started jiu jitsu.

The Requirements

Klint wanted to ensure that any women who were only attending this class would be getting self-defense techniques, so each class would need to include at least one of those. I have eight self-defense techniques that relate directly to jiu jitsu that cycle through the classes, and I tie them to the lesson for each week. Other than that, I could teach whatever I thought would be most beneficial. Knowing that I would have a mix of experience levels (including women that outrank me on occasion), I started working on a curriculum that would be scalable enough for beginners to jump in, but would also offer a challenging session for the more experienced women as well.

After I had the first nine sessions outlined, I asked for feedback from everyone I’ve already mentioned, plus Valerie Worthington (Carlson Gracie/New Breed). Val has a background in both BJJ and education, and among other things, she recommended being prepared to handle the “But What Ifs” (aka Mission Creep) in each class. I tried to do this by teaching both sides of each technique. For example, if I teach a submission, I will also teach the defense. I’ve used this format since the first night. This way, the students all know that they don’t need to ask how to defend that cross choke because I’m going to show them in the next section. Then, they’re going to start sparring from that position so that they can work on the submission and the defense. I like to make sure the women are getting some sparring time in during each class, and to see that there is a practical application for these techniques.

In the next installment, you’ll hear about the first week of classes, and what I hope the future will bring for the Yamasaki Jiu Jitsu women’s classes.

Chrissy Linzy has been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 5 years, and is one of the owners of US Grappling, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and submission grappling tournament circuit that travels across most of the United States for events. She (rarely) blogs at

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  1. Hey, I think I see me in that first picture. :P Looks like my guard is getting passed...

    Chrissy, how many girls did ya'll have coming before Klint wanted to start the class? Is there some critical mass number, or what reason(s) did he give for wanting to have this class?

  2. Leslie, I think that first picture is the day I met you! Remember when you met (gasp!) blue belt women?

    We had around 4-5 women training regularly before we started the women's class, but we were all training at different times. We also had guys with girlfriends interested in trying it out, but they were a little hesitant on jumping into the mixed classes right away. I think I actually approached Klint about asking Marie (our purple belt) to teach a women's class in the beginning, just so I could have a guaranteed time to get to train with women. When that didn't work out, the tables got turned on me! I don't know that there's some critical number of women that we're looking for. We just want to have more women trying jiu jitsu out. If having a woman teach a class just for women is what it takes to get them to come and try it, I'm happy to fill that role.

  3. Great article. I hope it spawns some imitation!

  4. Thanks for posting this article! I enjoyed the read!