Women in Sakura Kan Jiu Jitsu

Written by Joy Thompson


I alone can only assume most women commence their martial arts training as an alternative to a self defence class. What better way than to learn to take care of oneself than to learn a few tricks and take advantage of joining a martial arts class over a self defence class as your opponents are more likely to be male, who are generally bigger, stronger and in all honesty more likely to make you work to ensure your techniques will work and training with men is more realistic for if you ever need to use your skills for real.

I first started my training in Sakura Kan Jiu Jitsu while still at high school, and my mother thought her daughter doing self defence was a wise and safe move, so encouraged me to attend classes. I often wonder how different her opinion might have been if she realised it was in fact a martial arts club, where I was indeed learning to take care of myself, and in fact learning to kick the proverbial butt. (Excuse the language) By the time my mother was aware of this, I was hooked, so she knew better than to try and stop her headstrong daughter from doing something she enjoyed so much.

I never intended to become the first female Yudansha (Black Belt) in Sakura Kan Jiu Jitsu, or go on and teach the art I enjoyed so much. My initial goal was to simply reach the grade of yellow belt. My reasons for this was that I felt it would take a good years training to give me the skills to be able to defend myself in any given attack. How wrong I was. My long term goal, if I lasted the distance was to perhaps, if only, was to reach the pinnacle of blue belt. My reasons for this was that I felt anything beyond Blue was impossible for a woman to achieve as when I first started training the highest graded female was a lady named Sharon Harrow, who was an orange belt, and I was sure she had the ability to become a blue belt, but anything beyond blue seemed untouchable. Sharon was a bit of a role model for me, she was attractive, slim, and feminine and could hold her own against men twice her size. I looked up to Sharon with admiration and respect, she was awesome. I believe we all need role models, someone to aspire to, and it embarrasses me to think perhaps some of the young women we currently have training might see me as their “Sharon”, and it also encourages me to continually try my best and present myself as best as I can, not only as a person, but as a martial artist. I have now been training since 1988.

Barriers to Women training in Sakura Kan Jiu Jitsu:

Advantages women have over men in Sakura Kan Jiu Jitsu:

Assumptions sometimes made about Women in Martial Arts


Some “Women Issues” I’ve experienced in Martial Arts

(not necessarily in Sakura Kan)

The chauvinistic male, who unintentionally is disrespectful by not treating me as an equal Jiu Jitsuka.In this example I had issues with a fellow student who would not hit me with a closed fist, instead he slapped me as he felt it was wrong to hit a woman.

Another similar example was once I had an excellent technique on a student who refused to submit, and he later stated the only reason he did not submit was because I was a woman.

In both of these cases I simply waited for another opportunity where I was able to get the better of both of these men and show them, woman or not, I was the better Jiu Jitsuka. In one case the person was a much higher grade than me at that time.

Students disappointed with training with a female. From time to time during my years of training I would be paired up with a student, and it was obvious they would have rather been paired up with a male. In one case the student voiced his opinion, stating to the instructor he would rather train with a male, and fortunately the instructor refused his request. I made sure I trained very hard, and the student who felt I was not his equal was soon feeling very sorry for himself as I got the better of him several times. He was right he was not my equal, I was much better than him, but I didn’t mind lowering my standards to train with him.

Black eyes in public are not very becoming of a woman, and society does not approve of it at all. From time to time I would manage to block a strike to the head with my eye, and the result would always be a multicoloured bruised eye. For a male, this is okay by the general public, but for a female to wander around shops and malls with a black eye you need to be prepared for some strange looks and bizarre comments. For a mother with young children the looks are even worse. People like to make their own assumptions about what might have happened, and sadly in this day and age, where one should be proud to walk around wearing the spoils of their hard work and effort, a woman can often be left to feel ashamed and embarrassed of having facial bruising. Often people are too afraid to ask how the bruising occurred as they’re afraid of what the answer might be, however they’re often quick to jump to their own conclusion.

Visitors assuming I was not the senior student or instructor. Often as the most senior student and/or instructor I have seen visitors or new students enter the dojo and approach the most senior male assuming they are the highest qualified to answer any queries. This happens often when people phone us at home to ask about Jiu Jitsu, and request to speak to the Jiu Jitsu instructor, and then are surprised to discover they already are speaking to an instructor.

The only female attending classes, camps, etc. There has been many times where I was the only female at class, however this has never been an issue for me, or the training camps where I have been the only woman, this is possibly more of an administration issue, as organising camps, and placements in cabins can sometimes be challenging when you have only one female to cater for. I was the sole female attending a camp, and given the choice I opted to share a cabin with my fellow students rather than being isolated in a cabin by myself. It was refreshing to be given the choice. It’s always an advantage when given a chance to shower, as I never had to worry about lining up and waiting my turn.

In conclusion, yes it can be challenging for a female to commit to years of martial arts training, but it’s the challenge that appealed to me. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.

Of all the martial arts training I’ve been part of, Sakura Kan Jiu Jitsu is by far the most equal in respect of the way I’ve been fairly treated with the male Jiu Jitsuka.

There is no such thing as a female Jiu Jitsuka; we’re all simply Jiu Jitsuka.

I hope all students enjoy their training, train hard and treat each other with respect and admiration regardless of their gender.

Joy Thompson
Yon Dan (4th Degree Black Belt)
Sakura Kan Jiu Jitsu

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