A few years ago, I overheard my then 8 year old daughter, Lea, asking my then 6 year old son, Jenssen, if she was more of a “tomboy” or a “girly girl”. Jenssen responded, “what is a tomboy”? To which Lea replied, “a tomboy is more sporty … they are strong, fast, and wear sporty clothes. Girly girls like pink, ruffles, and princesses.” Jenssen replied, “you are more boy-ey. Am I more boy-ey?” And Lea responded, “Oh yes, you are!”
It was a cute interchange, but I didn’t like her perspective that you must be more “boy-ey” to be strong, fast, and wear sporty clothes. Girls, even “girly girls”, can be strong, fast, sporty, and more. At 8 years old, Lea is still trying to makes sense of the world around her and to reconcile our cultural norms with her experience.
I am very happy that she has taken up jiu jitsu (so has Jenssen but that’s a different post) because I think it helps her experience the world through a different lens. It also provides her with some important life tools that girls too often need. It teaches them …
They are strong & powerful – regardless of what colors they like or if they enjoy princesses. Especially in jiu jitsu, where technique and leverage overcome size and strength, girls frequently beat boys who are bigger and stronger than them. To ‘beat’ in jiu jitsu often means you put your opponent in a position where they cannot move and must tap out. Essentially, you make them give up, which is very empowering.
They can overcome – anything. Jiu jitsu is hard. Every day at practice people are trying to smother, choke, and break you – and they are going near 100% effort to do it. Learning to overcome this and the difficult situations you find yourself in are perhaps the best lessons of jiu jitsu. Life is difficult. It throws curve balls constantly, and it sometimes seems that it, too, is trying to break you. Learning to overcome on the mats gives girls confidence that they can cope and overcome in life.
They can defend themselves – and win. Sadly, 1 in 3 girls will be accosted in their lives, the vast majority (80%) before they are 25 years old. 1 in 5 women are assaulted just during their college years. These are sickening statistics. Jiu jitsu provides the mental, emotional, and physical tools that enable girls to effectively fight back and win.
Life is a journey - not a destination. One of the most incredible aspects of jiu jitsu is the fact that it cannot be mastered. Even the best of the best acknowledge that there is a seemingly unlimited amount of learning in the sport still available to them. Jiu Jitsu is constantly changing, evolving, and improving … just as girls – and we all - we must do in life. A lifetime of learning is its own reward.
Health begets health – Athletes see real results from their efforts - becoming more fit, strong, and nimble. Once girls realize the real power they have over their bodies and the way they feel, they explore new ways to “feed the machine,” through good food choices and sleeping habits.
Why are you glad your daughter does jiu jitsu?