In Defense of Women’s Only Jiu Jitsu Classes

Leah Taylor

How to Keep Women Training in Your Gym and

Avoid Creating a Perpetual Man Cave


My name is Leah Taylor.  I’m a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu under Matt Thornton and Travis Davison.  I’m a coach and competitor out of Straight Blast Gym of Montana.

I’m writing this in response to a face book thread based around this shared article:

The article was written by a female purple belt about some of the benefits of a women’s only class, which I thought were pretty much common knowledge.

I was a bit shocked by the comments related to the article.  I started to write a response on the actual post two or three times and it just got too long; hence the blog.  Here are some of the misconceptions about a women’s only bjj class that came from that post; some were even from other women.

  • A women’s only…

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Some Days

There have been days when I did not want to practice, and doing the work was the farthest thing from my mind. Based on a quite a few conversations with trainees, friends, and my coaches I think it’s safe to say this isn’t unique. We all have those days. In conversation with Coach Craig Douglas of Shivworks fame we were discussing the hectic schedule Craig has been keeping for years. One of the things Craig shared was that even if he doesn’t feel like it he still gets himself into the gym, and trains. Whether it’s jiujitsu or S&C work, he makes himself go. Not surprisingly Craig has found that some of his record breaking days at Southern Elite, or best rounds on the mat have been had on those days.

This is probably not a surprise to most of you. You’ve all experienced the reward of digging deep on those days when everything was resisting your efforts, and you had a breakthrough. I’ve reached a point where on those days when life has beaten me into a pulp, and the last thing I want to do is see another person, those are the days I know I need to do work. Those are the days I know if I show up and put in the effort I’m going to break through, and experience some sort of peak. The more I’m dreading a session the better I know it’s ultimately going to be. Maybe it’s life testing us to see if we have what it takes?

Next time you’re having one of those days, and are planning on blowing off practice, do the opposite. Prepare yourself for an excellent practice session. Remind yourself that the best sessions have occurred on “those” days. Drink some coffee, or whatever you choose as a pre-workout boost, crank up some motivational music, and get to it. Lets say worst case happens and you don’t punch through a plateau. You still put in work which is an investment in your badass account. A bad day on the mat, in the ring, under the iron or on the track is still better than any day sitting on the couch eating bonbons, and being a keyboard warrior.

It’s always a good day.

Always Be Doing


One of the topics Coach Cecil Burch of Immediate Action Combatives, and I have discussed in the past is micro training sessions. Coach Cecil has written about this topic quite a few times and I thought we should re-visit this as we move into the summer months. We all experience the time crunch yet it seems to intensify during the summer. The kids are out of school, there are vacations, we start to tackle the never-ending list of chores that need attention now that the weather is nice, and before we know it we’ve gone a few days or maybe even weeks without a training session. That’s no bueno my friend!

Micro training sessions are the way to fix this problem. Any time you find yourself with 5-10 minutes, get some reps in! We are tempted to say it’s not that simple yet it really is, note I said simple, not easy. If you actively search for opportunities to train, work on your S&C, or deepen your understanding of core concepts related to self protection you WILL find those opportunities. Your mind is a powerful and highly adaptive problem solver. Start putting conscious effort into considering ways to find a few moments each day to invest in micro training sessions and you might be surprised at how resourceful you can be.

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.” – Thomas Jefferson

Coach Cecil has talked about shadowboxing while waiting for coffee to brew or the shower water to warm up in the morning. Is that a lot of time? Nope. However, if you put enough of those micro sessions together, consistently over time you have hours and hours of reps. Would we rather have those hours of reps or hours of idle time wasted just standing there? I’ll take the reps. We can do the same when prepping food or any other task that involves waiting. During my competition prep periods I would do technical standups, sprawls and other solo drills during slow time at work. I remember the looks I would get from folks when I would sit on the edge of the trunk of the car and do leg raises while fueling up the squad car. Hey, a few more reps invested in armor plating the core can’t hurt right? Who cares what a passerby might think, will they be with you in the ring, cage, on the mat or, (worst case scenario), in a criminal attack? I’d rather have those reps than not have them. Never let a moment pass, DO WORK.

Standards (Part VIII – Trainer Standards)


In the firearms training industry, butthurt is a common condition. There’s quite a bit of it going around right now. The current crop of butthurt, as usual, revolves around equipment, technique, class organization, and philosophy.

large butthurt

Yesterday, I was able to take Training Day 2 of the Rangemaster Advanced Combative Pistol course. Both Mindset and physical skills are part of the course. This is the third training class I’ve taken in the past two months, in addition to attending the Rangemaster 2017 Tactical Conference. The others were Law of Self Defense and NRA Personal Protection Outside The Home.

One of the things I get the most out of when I attend training classes is the side discussions I have with my colleagues teaching their classes. We’re all willful individuals with strong opinions based on our own experiences. More often than not now, I listen to the other trainer’s opinion without…

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Be Inquisitive

Becoming as well as remaining a student of the art is probably the most important attribute we can cultivate. I’ve been guilty, (many times), of thinking I’ve arrived at the ultimate understanding of all the things we do. In my experience this unfounded belief at worst precedes catastrophic, humiliating failure and at best simply keeps me from improving.  My ego has been a hell of a drug.  

In most professions continuing education is incentivized. Folks get tuition reimbursement, or are otherwise given incentives to attend classes that keep them abreast of the state of the art in their chosen profession. In our world the incentive is a little different. If we don’t stay on top of trends we might be missing vital, life saving information. Information that might save us or a loved one. If that doesn’t motivate us to stay on top of this endeavor nothing else will.

Think about the emergency medical side of the house, it wasn’t that long ago that some folks believed, and even taught that a tampon was something one should use to treat a wound. I’m not afraid to raise my hand and admit I attended a few courses where this information was taught. As a result I believed this was a valid response. Fortunately I’ve continued my training, and have learned newer, better, ways to do things. The same can be said for driving, shooting, jiujitsu, hiking/camping, and anything else we do under this umbrella of being self sufficient.

In a recent conversation with a friend on the subject of this lifestyle I said it amazes me that folks will go years without taking a course on any of the topics we need to be up to date on. My friend said, “If you think that’s bad… there are instructors teaching this material that haven’t taken a class in years, maybe decades. What other profession would that lack of continuing ed be acceptable except this one?” I think he has a legitimate point. If all of my continuing education came from myself, and my co-horts how delusional would I be? It’s absolutely necessary for me to regularly take classes. Taking, on average, one class every two months for years now has helped me stay current on equipment, and technique development, teaching methods, and a host of other relevant interests.

Our prime directive should be to be inquisitive. Always be curious. Never allow our quest for a deeper understanding to wane. 

I’ve found one of the biggest motivators to keep learning is my peer group. If we surround ourselves with people that are on a constant quest to learn we will be motivated to learn. The saying; “you are the sum of your five closest friends” is more truth than we might care to admit. We all would like to think we are the sole source of all the motivation we will ever need. This might be a big piece of the puzzle yet surrounding ourselves with equally motivated folks is also a big piece of the puzzle. I’ve been fortunate to find myself in the company of folks like the Shivworks Collective, the Straight Blast Gym International, The Site, and RangeMaster, as well as others that have remained inquisitive. Every one of my friends in these organizations, (and there is quite a bit of overlap), are continually taking classes, attending seminars, and working to improve themselves by staying current with the state of the art.

When Jim Kauber, SEAL team Master Chief, talks to me about a pistol class he wants to take to work on his pistol skills, or while attending Rangemasters Instructor Development Course I hear Tom Givens talk of his recent experience taking a class, or Coach Chris Haueter, one of the BJJ Dirty Dozen talk about training with the Mendes brothers? That’s inspiring. It’s also a clue. If three men as accomplished at Jim, Tom, and Chris are, with 40+ years each in the training and application of this art, talk about taking courses to improve themselves, it motivates me to find ways to continue my education, and deepen my understanding. 

So how does one find themselves surrounded by folks like this? Find classes in your area and sign up. Even something as simple as a Red Cross first aid class will bring us up to speed on recent changes in protocol for CPR, as well as introduce us to other like minded folks. Those classes are happening almost daily all over the world. We can also join or start a training group. Shawn Lupka has written quite a bit about how to start, maintain, and grow a training group.  Go to seminars, classes or courses and network. Link up with the folks you meet at these events and review the material. Share insights you’ve learned from the material and tweaks you’ve made that improved or made it more applicable to you. Fortunately we live in a time where folks can network with the click of a button via the internet. Reach out and link with like minded people. We might be surprised at how simple it is to get ourselves into the company of those that are actively looking to deepen our understanding of this art.

Above all my friends, remain inquisitive. Keep your curiosity alive, always searching for a deeper understanding of the art and ultimately ourselves. More on that next time.

Once You Go Nitrous

Once you go nitrous you can’t go back. Once you know what it’s like to run at that speed, to breathe that air, you never want to go back to how things were before. One of the best ways to reach that peak state is competition. After driving a supercar, driving a normal car pales in comparison. You find yourself counting the minutes until you can get back behind the wheel of a vehicle that has some serious horsepower. High performance becomes your new normal.

There are many solid reasons to compete in the shooting sports, MMA, Boxing, Kickboxing, Grappling/Wrestling, or Racing sports. However, for a lot of folks it’s just not feasible. Whatever the reasons might be, competition is off the table for some of us. I would still encourage those folks to participate in competition team training. Helping a team mate get ready for an event is an incredibly bonding experience. This time spent in a competition prep environment also encourages our game to evolve. We’re exposed to the cutting edge of performance, learn how to push ourselves further than we normally would, and reset the idle on our engine. After a fight camp or competition prep we walk around idling at a higher rate than we did before. I have a friend that recently did her first figure competition. She mentioned that she thought she knew how to train hard yet found that during the prep phase for this competition she trained harder than she had ever trained. She’s found it difficult to transition back to a more “normal” training schedule now. She’s had a peek behind the curtain, and has found it quite addictive. She doesn’t eat the same way she did before her prep, and certainly has a different outlook on what she knows is possible once she puts her mind to the task. This is a common occurrence for folks that compete regardless of the sport; their limitations have been pushed back. The mental state it takes to force self evolution starts to bleed over into everything else they do.

But this post isn’t about those that compete. This is about those that want a taste of that side, to see the other side without living there. Is this possible? How can one experience this altered state without competition?

Train with the comp team.

It’s as simple and as hard as that.

Look around your local gym and become an active member of the tribe. Find the person or people getting ready for a meet and jump in with them. Offer to be part of their training crew, and put yourself in the mix. Never miss a training session, go rep for rep, round for round with them, and reap the rewards. Find a running club that has members regularly competing. Link up with them, show up for every group training session, and put yourself through the same regimen they are using to prepare for their next race. You’ll note a change in your mental and physical state within a few weeks. Help the folks in your Brazilian JiuJitsu, Judo, or MMA comp team get ready by becoming part of the competition team training cadre. Show up for every session, do the strength & conditioning workouts, the technique sessions as well as the sparring sessions. Put in the time even if you’ll never walk out to the cage, ring or mat. You will dig deeper than you ever have before and you will evolve. Evolution or growth is never easy and is most often a product of will power. You will reap the rewards of this growth in other aspects of your life.

You don’t have to train with competition focused folks for your entire training journey. For a lot of folks, one 8 – 12 week prep period might be enough to permanently alter your mental and physical state for the better. So is it even necessary? Not really, but it sure can’t hurt. I’ve lost track of the number of fight camps, meet preps, and running clubs I’ve participated in to prepare myself or a teammate for competition. Having done that I know this much to be true, the confidence one feels after going through this process can’t be measured. Knowing you’ve been through some of the most challenging weeks of your life, and are still standing is a massive deposit in the hard to kill bank account. Toughness, resiliency, adaptability, grit, whatever word you use to describe that indomitable, unstoppable drive to survive, and win? You’ll have it by the boatload, and I’m not going to sugar coat it; it feels fucking good.

Basics? Nope, Fundamentals

There is a reason I don’t use the word basics to refer to techniques we learn. If I use the word basic folks will think there is some form of advanced technique. There are fundamentals. There is a beginners understanding, and there are more advanced understanding of the fundamentals however, there are only the fundamentals.

The fundamentals of sight picture, sight alignment, and trigger control are the same for a first time shooter as they are for a shooter with fifteen years of practice and application. The difference is the shooter with fifteen years of work will have a deeper understanding of what is acceptable sight alignment and trigger management given the difficulty of the shot. The fundamentals are still the fundamentals.

The fundamentals of a double leg takedown are the same for the eight year old kid just learning to wrestle as they are for the twenty year old Olympic hopeful. The difference between these two is one has a deeper understanding of how to time and set up the shoot, when to cut the corner, as well as when to bail or chain to something else if the double starts to go wrong. The fundamentals are the same, the understanding is different.

The fundamentals of a jab are the same for a kid just beginning in the local Police Athletic League as for the older athlete with a dozen pro fights under their belt. The difference is the older athlete understands how to use the jab to dictate the pace of the match, manage distance, or setup combinations. The fundamentals are the same, the knowledge as to application is not.

So let’s program ourselves to think in terms of fundamentals and understanding rather than basics and advanced. We will avoid some of the pitfalls that can happen when we start chasing the magic talisman of “advanced” rather than just getting on the mat or in the ring and digging deeper. Watch this footage of the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard and check out the progression of his knowledge and application of the fundamentals of Boxing plus it is simply a pleasure to watch a master at work.