Art by Hee Joo Roh
As a 5-foot-tall woman, people are astounded when they hear I can take down a man twice my size and weight. It’s not because I have super-strength or amazing athletic abilities. What allows me to do this is simple — I know jiujitsu.
Besides the fact jiujitsu is a physical activity that helps improve my physical health, learning jiujitsu has also boosted my mental health. From my personal experience, I’ve found training has helped me build confidence, awareness and self-control — not only of my own body but also of those around me. I can defend myself against potential attacks, as well as the danger of sexual assault.
I first started learning jiujitsu when I was 8 years old because my mom wanted me to know self-defense.
At first, I wasn’t enthused — I refused to participate in lessons and watched from the sidelines. After attending several classes and seeing my friends and my brother practice, I felt more comfortable trying it for myself.
Through the patient tutelage of my professor and support from family and friends, I continued my journey. Many times, it was a struggle. Yet, I’m glad I had the opportunity and I’m grateful for the personal growth I’ve experienced.
In practicing jiujitsu, I became more confident in expressing myself — both on and off the mat. By learning self-defense, I feel more empowered to respond to threats in a calm and collected manner.
Jiujitsu, pronunciation: joo-jit-soo, means “gentle art” in Japanese, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Jiujitsu is a martial art that is “gentle” in the sense that it uses no weapons and relies on manipulating an opponent’s force against them, according to Britannica. For these reasons, it is a great form of self defense. It can be practiced on the street, but is also a competitive sport — utilizing a combination of self-defense, grappling, wrestling and judo.
Jiujitsu originated in Brazil, according to jiujitsu school, Gracie Barra. Mitsuyu Maeda, a skilled Japanese fighter who wanted to train others in the Japanese martial art, brought it to Brazil in 1914. One of his first students was Carlos Gracie. At only 14 years old, Gracie was a quick learner and began to master the art and teach his brothers.
Hélio Gracie, one of Carlos’s brothers, is a prime example of how jiujitsu techniques can overcome physical force. He was chronically ill, smaller and weaker than most of his opponents, which put him at a disadvantage, according to BJJ Heroes. Using techniques stressing timing and leverage, he became a renowned fighter worldwide, competing in many fights and UFC matches, according to BJJ Heroes.
I’m motivated by Hélio’s courage, determination and perseverance that forged him into a fearless fighter. In matches, I’m often at a physical disadvantage because of my smaller stature but Hélio showed me jiujitsu can be effective, even against the strongest opponents.
Women who are college-aged students are four times more vulnerable to acts of violence such as sexual assault than the general population, according to statistics from RAINN. In the event of an attack, it is essential for women to know how to defend themselves. Women who equip themselves with self-defense techniques can lower the risk of rape more than 80%, compared to those who did not, according to a study from the National Institute of Justice.
Ultimately, society needs improvement in awareness, education and other preventative measures to address the pressing concern of sexual assault on college campuses in the U.S., according to an article from APA. It is not a woman’s responsibility to stop sexual assault from happening.
Learning jiujitsu is just one way women can protect themselves and work toward actively arming themselves against assault, according to the National Criminal Justice Reserve System. Unfortunately, while women are not responsible for the actions of predators, they are often left to find ways to fend off attackers on their own, according to the Guardian.
Because this danger exists, I propose more women should learn jiujitsu. Many of my female peers expressed to me they would love to try jiujitsu but feel unwelcome. From personal experience, most classes I’ve attended have predominantly male participants and instructors. This atmosphere can make one feel uncomfortable and intimidated to join.
To encourage more women to participate, I suggest having women-only classes that are taught by at least one woman instructor. Promoting beginner-friendly classes with a curriculum centered around self-defense would also attract more women to participate and make the learning environment more welcoming according to Omega Jiu Jitsu.
If you are interested in trying jiujitsu after reading this article, Pepperdine offers a Jiujitsu Fitness Class, free of cost to all students. The class meets Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. and is located in the Harilela International Tennis Stadium Fitness Studio.
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