Tag Archives: exercise

Interview with a woman in martial arts – 4: Chloe (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu)

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Name: Chloe
Age:
25
Martial art style:
BJJ – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Years practicing martial arts:
8 years – brown belt

How come you started learning martial arts?
Well, I was going to the gym for workouts, but then I decided I wanted to do something different – a different activity to stay in shape and also something that would really challenge me. I also though it would be a good idea to learn some self defence.

Why did you choose BJJ?
They were offering BJJ classes in the same building where I used to go to the gym to work out. And I heard people saying that BJJ would be a good martial art for women to learn, for self defence. I thought BJJ seemed like a cool thing to do. My body type suits BJJ quite well too.

What do you like the most about BJJ?
It’s fun and it’s the best workout for the whole body. When you start practicing BJJ it’s like you discover and use muscles that you didn’t even know you had! You get in shape and you get stronger. And it also really boosts your confidence. I feel better about myself in general. Practicing BJJ has helped me grow as a person. And I also feel confident I could defend myself in most situations. I like it that it’s much more about skills than just strength. Like, I am the shortest person in my BJJ class but I can actually beat everyone except maybe one or two guys.

They say most fights end up on the ground and BJJ focuses a lot on techniques that are effective on the ground, for example to neutralise an opponent or attacker that is trying to get on top of you.

Are there many women doing BJJ?
I have heard that it’s getting quite popular among women – which is great. Where I practice now, we are only three women in total. But it’s ok. I mean I don’t mind that at all. To be honest I generally actually prefer facing the guys because it’s more of a challenge. If I win against them it also really proves how much I’ve learned in BJJ.  

Why, in your opinion, should women get into BJJ?
I guess for the same reasons I said I like BJJ – it’s a great work out, you get stronger both physically and mentally and it’s a lot of fun!

Do you feel you are ever treated differently as a woman doing BJJ?
You mean while training or in life generally?

Well, I guess both…
Not really, the guys where I practice know me by now (laughter). I might be rather small, but I’m much stronger than I look and I’m pretty good at BJJ! Underestimate me at your own peril (laughter)! My boyfriend doesn’t mind it now, but he felt really embarrassed by it at first, when we started dating. He is quite a big guy (193 cm – 6’4”) and he was pretty sure he would be able to take me based on size and strength alone. But I still kicked his butt (laughter)!

And for the record how tall are you?
I am 165 cm – 5’5”.

I can identify with your boyfriend there – I felt really embarrassed the first time my wife showed off her hapkido skills on me. It’s a male ego thing (laughter).
(Laughter) Yes, eventually he just embraced my skills and strength though and he says he admires it a lot! I go easy on him, but there’s times he does actually get me too!

The five best martial arts for women’s self defense

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On this blog, I have focused on hapkido as a martial art and a way of self defense for women – obviously because this is the martial art that my wife teaches. Of course there are several other great martial arts out there. So I thought it could be interesting to make a list of what might be the five most effective martial arts for women’s self defense. So here we go!

Jeet kune do

Jeet Kune Do was founded by the famous martial artist Bruce Lee, who aimed at taking most effective martial arts techniques from several different of styles and mix them into a new martial art. Jeet Kune Do teaches its students to deal with attacks as quickly and efficiently as possible – and to not shy away from fighting “dirty”. Among other things, Jeet Kune Do students learn how to hit the closest target on an attacker, with the closest/fastest way available. As I understand it that for example means you don’t kick the attacker in the head, if your hands are closer to his head than your feet are. Striking an attacker in the eyes with the fingers would be an example of a Jeet Kune Do defense. Jeet Kune Do is a good art for women to learn because it teaches women how to escape dangerous situations as quickly as possible, before the danger has an opportunity to escalate.

Taekwondo

Just like hapkido, taekwondo is a Korean martial art – however it is much more widely spread and well known than hapkido. After all tae kwon do is even an olympic sport. The term Tae Kwon Do more or less means “the way of kicking and punching.”  However, taekwondo has many effective self-defense techniques. Taekwondo is particularly well suited for women because of the art’s emphasis on kicking. As everyone knows, men generally have more upper body strength than women, which can leave women at a disadvantage when attacked by a man. However, taekwondo equips women with an arsenal of devastating kicks that can help combat the upper body strength of male attackers.

Brazilian Jiu jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – or BJJ – has become very famous, since many competitors in the UFC use Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in their matches. The grappling techniques of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be very beneficial for women to learn for self defense. Sexual assaults and other attacks against women often end up on the ground. Because Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has a strong emphasis on ground fighting, it can help women learn how to defend themselves when on the ground and even when pinned underneath male attackers. You learn a variety of submissions. Chokes, cranks and joint locks are are examples of submissions taught to students. Chokes cut off an opponent’s air/oxygen supply, joint locks put add breaking pressure on a joint and cranks twist an opponent’s bodies into unnatural positions, which causes a great deal of pain.

Another reason why BJJ is great for self-defense is because the techniques use leverage instead of pure strength, so size doesn’t matter. Apart from the ground techniques, you also learn how to take an opponent to the ground using throws and sweeps. Through physics, you can turn a bad position into an advantage. Trapping the legs and arms of an opponent can put them off balance and move you from being pinned on the floor to being in charge. BJJ teaches fighters to use leverage and proper weight distribution to defeat larger and/or stronger opponents.

Krav Maga

Krav Maga is an Israeli art that has gained some popularity. It is the official self-defense system of the Israeli Defense Force and it teaches its practitioners how to deal with armed and unarmed attacks. Women can benefit from Krav Maga because it helps the students to keep calm and focused when under the extreme stress of an attack and how to use various parts of their bodies, like elbows and knees, as weapons when necessary.

Krav Maga was originally developed specifically for the Israeli military and draws on techniques from other martial arts, including jiu jitsu. It is very good for women’s self-defense because you are taught to go for the vulnerable parts of an attacker – like eye gouging, foot stomping, and kicks to the groin. Unlike some martial arts that spend time teaching students how to get points in competitions, the only goal of Krav Maga is to defend yourself.

Hapkido

As readers of this blog know, I can personally testify to the effectiveness of hapkido for women’s self defense, as my wife has showed me. One of the reasons is that hapkido students are taught how to redirect an attacker’s force and use it against him. This means it does not require the woman to be very strong in order for her to defend herself against a big and strong male attacker. Hapkido also teaches a wide variety of techniques for joint locks, throws, sweeps and submission holds, as well as Krav Maga style “dirty” fighting with strikes and kicks to the most vulnerable parts of an attackers body.

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Work out exercises without a gym

Joining a gym is a great way to stay (or get) in shape and I used to do that regularly, several times a week. But working out at home can actually be very effective too! In fact, the last couple of years, I’ve been working out almost exclusively at home, because I find it more practical and also saves me both time and money. In terms of building muscles and staying in shape – for me at least – it has worked just as well as going to the gym.

Here are a some exercises that I often do and that you can do at home any time you feel like it.

Squats

Squats are good exercise for leg muscles and the butt. To better keep your balance, it can be a good idea to stretch out your arms in front of you (instead of upwards, as the guy below does).

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A variation on squats are the “frog jumps” (as pictured below). Personally, I think those are more fun to do.

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Crunches

Some say crunches has the greatest muscle activation of all the exercises – including those performed with different kinds of abs machines and other gym equipment. So the simple and traditional crunches work very well. However if you really want to engage all abdominal muscles you need to do the exercise in various differents angles and motions. 

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Push ups

Another very traditional form of exercise that is easy to do, is the pushup, which of course are beneficial for building upper body strength. They mostly work the triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders, but can also help strengthen the lower back and core.

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Burpees

The burpee is an exercise that really makes your whole body work and thus is great for building strength, burning fat and getting your metabolism going.

To do a burpee, you first stand up straight, then get into a squat position with your hands on the floor in front of you. Kick your feet back into a push up position and immediately drop your chest to the ground. Bow your chest up, then return your feet back to the squat position as fast as possible. Immediately jump up into the air as high as you can.

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Back extension

I find this is a good exercise for the back. Start by lying face down to the floor and then lift your chest and legs upward a few centimeters, hold a moment, and then slowly lower yourself back down.

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Dumbbells lateral raise shoulder exercise

I would say this is my favourite shoulder exercise. Just grab the dumbbells as on the picture below to the left and then slowly lift them up until they are parallel to your shoulders, as the picture below on the right.

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Dumbbells biceps curl

Another very traditional and simple exercise that really works!

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