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15 October 2010

Article - A Women's BJJ Class (4)

One woman's journey into creating a women's jiu jitsu program
Article #19, by guest writer Chrissy Linzy [FAQ Entry]
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I’m now five months into teaching the women’s BJJ classes at my academy. It’s been an interesting journey, for sure. I’m still learning the methods that work for teaching smaller classes, and how I should handle skill disparity between students. I’m getting the rhythm of the classes down, which was one of my concerns when I started teaching.

One of my least favorite things about drilling techniques in jiu jitsu is that they often require one person to do something wrong, over and over again. For example, when drilling a kimura from guard, we’re often asked to start by putting our hands on the mat so that our partner can begin right at the kimura setup. That’s great for the muscle memory of the person on the bottom, but it’s teaching the person on top that sometimes when you’re in the guard, you feel the mat under your palms. It’s teaching you to have bad posture. This is one of the easier ones to fix, just by requiring the guard player to break the posture and move the hands to the mat before setting up the kimura.

A big part of the drills that I’m using are drills that will help both people improve. My current favorite drill is switching between a triangle and an armbar from guard. The person caught in the submission alternatively postures up or stacks the bottom player as the bottom player alternates between the two submissions. The top person works to actually finish the escape and the bottom person works to actually finish one of the two submissions. The women work to tighten the triangle or the armbar with each switch between the two submissions. I believe that I’ll add the omoplata into the mix after a few more weeks of this drill, and after the women have learned the omoplata on its own.

I believe that these drills are working because I’m seeing the women look for these transitions during sparring. When I spar with them, I set them up from both the offensive and defensive sides of the drills, and they’re starting to react automatically now that they’ve worked these drills for a few weeks. I think as an instructor, that has to be one of the most gratifying things that can ever happen.

I’m always looking for other drills that benefit both training partners, so if you have any that you use in your academy, please post them in the comments!

Now that September is over, I’m happy to report one of the women who was a bit reluctant to train with men has started attending the co-ed classes. She came on a night that she knew I would be attending for the first one, so she could drill with me, but she also sparred a round or two with some of our nicer fellows. She left class soaked in sweat and smiling from ear to ear. She’s been back for a few more since then, and has even come in a few times when I wasn’t there. That was really a big accomplishment for her, when you consider that she was pretty sure that she never wanted to try a co-ed class just two months ago. I’m glad to see her branching out, and I hope some of the other women follow in her footsteps soon.

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. @ slideyfoot - Thank you for directing me to this series of articles! It helped me understand what the instructor is doing and why. My instructor noticed the difference on our next roll. He was amazed at the dramatic difference, and even said that was my best roll ever!

    Also, the Houston, Texas area now has a women's only BJJ class! My instructor at Revolution Dojo in Katy, TX is hosting the class every Friday night, He went as far as to invited a Veronica from Travis Tooke's school (she kicked my butt :) ). It was great to train with another experienced woman. It was also amazing to see women that would have otherwise never tried BJJ, rolling and having fun.

    Thanks to all the encouragement and support you give all the women. It really means a lot coming from a guy.

    Take care,

  2. @Jodi: Wow, that's awesome! Really glad to have been able to help, though the credit does of course go to Chrissy for writing this article series (hopefully she'll be along to drop in a comment later).

    You should definitely check out the place she trains in Richmond if you get the chance, as they regularly have women-focused open mats (e.g., Leslie has mentioned training over there a few times now on her blog).

    Fantastic news on the Texas women's class, too! I'll be interested to hear how it goes.

  3. Jodi, what awesome news! Which part did you find helpful? I'd like to emphasize that with my women again if it made such a dramatic difference that your coach noticed right off.

    Definitely great news about the Texas classes, too - one of my friends was just visiting family down there and I think she trained at Travis Tooke's while she was in town. I'll have to make sure she knows about the Friday night classes for next time she goes home.

  4. Hadn't thought about how drilling could reinforce bad habits. Enjoyed the article.