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After a month or so, one of the brashest men in class, Scott, came over to me and started chatting.Like really, just started chatting away with me, offering advice, asking me questions. He said, “We don’t talk to girls for the first month ‘cause usually you don’t stick around. But you’re still here, so you must be OK.” The gym I trained jiu jitsu at was Eddie Bravo’s 10 Planet, back when it first opened up, and we were inside a smelly little kickboxing gym.
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Felicia and I would see the girl walk into the gym, with her painted nails and mascara. Mostly during that time that we trained with the new girl, what went on in my head was, “I don’t care how good you look, little girl, if you scratch me I will hurt you.” Not very generous, I know. Guys didn’t want to date me, but they liked talking to me.
Felicia would take her under her wing, just as she did me, and we would ask her to remove her earrings and tie back her hair. Those are ‘girls.’” The girl in question would stick around for a few days, maybe even a week or two, and then disappear. But try getting scratched up by a girl more interested in flirting with the instructor than she is in learning jiu jitsu. What I discovered, once I was accepted into the fold following those initial thirty days of silent treatment, was that females who stick around and take training seriously stop being females in the eyes of their teammates. They would say all sorts of horrendous things about women in front of me, and then randomly check their language when they remembered I was female. A precious member of the team, one they valued, one to be bragged about even, and most definitely one not to be screwed with.
She would pay us a bit of attention and then take frequent water breaks that required walking by the men on the other end of the mat. Or try asking one of your teammates a question when he’s thinking, “Oh my god there’s a real, live girl five feet from me.” Class productivity is severely hampered, and even I started thinking, “When is she going to leave? And that’s the thing — I think it just ceased to occur to them that I was a girl. Eddie used to like to have Felicia and I grapple with new guys when they would show up to the gym.
Eddie Bravo told me one time he felt very protective of me. He liked it when his female students could put a guy in his place – he thought it exemplified how badass our gym was.
In retrospect, I think it was perhaps more humiliating than necessary, given traditional gender conceptions.
I remember one time tapping some guy out over and over again.He was a nice, quiet guy, just ignorant to jiu jitsu. Eddie had me roll with a guy who was visiting, but he turned out to be an experienced judo player and he was quite a bit larger than me.For the first month I trained in Brazilian jiu jitsu, none of the men in class would speak to me.Thankfully at that time there were two other girls who belonged to the gym.One of the girls, Felicia, approached me on day one and told me which nights she trained and therefore which nights I should attend class.Most of the first month of grappling training, I only communicated with Felicia and the instructor, and from the rest of the class I became intimately familiar with a brand of locker room talk that would cure me of all modesty at any gym I attended for the rest of my life.