Coach’s Corner: Females in Grappling Sports

Every Monday Coach Barry sends out a mail on training. There are hints, tips, and often videos and training ideas.

You can subscribe to these mails by clicking here. Here’s today’s:



Good morning,

Let’s talk girls.

I started this email today 5 times and have deleted the first 4, so let’s hope this is the one that sounds right as I’m running out of time!

I am lucky to have trained and met some fantastically hard working female fighters in my time coaching. They make up about 5% of my adult’s classes. That isn’t very much and I’d like it to change. But honestly, we don’t know how and we’re close to stopping trying.

Percentage wise, females make up a lot of my senior students (purple belt and upward) and we have one of only 2 female Irish Black belts in Amanda English here. In the children’s and youth classes the numbers are much, much higher. about 30% in the younger kids and 20% on the Youths.

I think a massive part of the issue is the cultural expectations, both from men and from women. We’re male dominated so no matter how good we try to make the environment for women, there’s always going to be that “maleness” in terms of just numbers. The guys are really good with women and are well used to have their asses kicked by the girls here so I think there’s a welcoming atmosphere for girls and a healthy dose of respect. But still, demographically speaking, 5% is 5% no matter how friendly the 95% are.

The second issue, and I’ve rewritten this part a good few times to get it right, is that culturally and historically, women’s expectation of adult exercise and sport is different from men’s.

Emily watching Graham and Alan not taking training very seriously. Photo Credit- Ce Gordon

I make this joke to my secondary school groups. For men, exercise is grunt, excel, succeed, ggggrrrrr. Lots of opportunities to do lots of things.

For women, it’s Simon Says set to music. One woman stands at the top of the class and directs the others. Add in steps, trampolines or whatever. If you do a “man’s” sport, then you’re probably a weirdo. I don’t use the word weirdo when I’m telling this to adult groups. But I’m sure you get the point.

My wife and I were Taekwondo black belts together in our 20s. When I said I was training for a fight people would say “Cool”. When she said the same thing they’d say “Why?”.

Now the culture is changing, slowly. I hope it continues to do so and that the 30% girls we have in our kids classes are able to continue without social pressure to quit, but that doesn’t solve the problem of the here and now.

How do we, as a club, get more females to come training?

I don’t have the answer. Maybe there isn’t one. Maybe we have a sport that just isn’t appealing for most girls. Maybe we should just focus on the girls who are already here and not worry. But then I remember that a lot of female fighters I know came to class expecting something completely different and ended up loving it.

So I don’t know, but I am interested in your opinions. gets me.

So all Kyuzo is going to do for now is commit to making the place as welcoming for females as possible. Your suggestions are welcome on that front. We are investigating running a female only introductory class for a limited time. This would be run by the girls here with a view to integrating new female members into our regular training sessions. Please let me know if you’d be interested.

Okay, that was a bit heavier than my usual Monday morning material and I know it’s a contentious subject for some. Apologies if you were just looking for tips on how to choke people.

See you on the mat!


Kyuzo is Dublin’s Premier Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA club for Beginners in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Grappling, Mixed Martial Arts, Children’s Classes, and Martial Arts Training. Contact us now for more information. and remember to keep glued to our facebook page for more articles, offers, and Beginner courses.

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