Why train Jiujitsu?

Shana Pasapa

The day I added Jiujitsu to my life, it was a cold winter day in the prairies. Bundled up, my brother and I left the house with not much in our bags but a water bottle, my waiver and registration forms. I was wearing my best workout clothes, which was actually nothing special, a t-shirt and red capri sweatpants. All it had to be was something not too loose or that could get caught while grappling. I was thinking of wearing shorts, but I didn’t want to be uncomfortable - I knew I was going to be rolling around with a bunch of guys. There is no way I wanted to show my legs in public. Also, I was 160 lbs., 5 foot nothing and new mother of two children - so I felt out of shape or a bigger, uncomfortable shape. The preparation to get to the gym was probably harder than the actual work done in class. We are always our biggest critic when it comes to our body image and abilities. I could have let every thought stop me from going, I’m happy my brother showed up at my door that day. Our bond depends heavily on the martial arts and our common interests. (Love you brother.)

I remember my first step in the building of the dojo. There’s a home-made poster on the door that said Brazilian Jiujitsu with a photo and contact information. At the time, I didn’t realize I was about to walk into a place I will soon be calling my home and meet my new family. I think that is why they always say walk with your head up no matter what and make a good first impression. You never really know what kind of doors you are opening until you walk in and really check it out. This is a door I am proud to have found and I hope this article encourages you to train jiujitsu. Anyway, to be honest, the first thing you notice is the smell, no offence guys. Maybe it’s just because I am a woman with a mother’s nose. I later learned that washing your gi and body immediately and mats regularly that will keep the staph (infection caused by staphylococcus bacteria) and smells away. Training jiujitsu definitely keeps me more aware of my skin health. Not having much money in my pocket, I knew I could not really afford the monthly training fees and took a risk, I handed over my life to the coaches and made the payment. I acted like I was aware of what I was getting myself into.  All I knew at this moment was I had been taught to defend myself by my uncle, sometimes he made me cry, but it was fun and I love UFC!

The coaches who welcomed me with no judgement and plenty of encouragement. (Thank you) It was the best gym to start my journey in. I took my first step on the damaged brown mat that rolled out across the floor in the basement of this downtown building in Brandon, Manitoba. My younger brother by my side. I was excited and happy I wasn’t doing this alone but I felt intimidated by the aggressive environment and male dominance. Jiujitsu is a male dominated sport with sweaty, grunting men who are grappling in search of their greater self. A slap and bump instead of a hand shake begins the first rolling match on the mat. This represents respect and honour at the beginning of your fight. 

A little history, Jiujitsu is originally a Japanese system of unarmed combat and physical training that was later adopted by a Brazilian family who then created their own system.  Now there are many different styles of jiujitsu. It is the fastest growing sport in North America right now. The philosophy of Jiujitsu is that a smaller, weaker person can overcome a larger, stronger opponent using joint locks, throws, chokes and using the weight of the other opponent. There are no punches or kicks in competitive jiujitsu although, there is a new wave of jiujitsu. That I personally think is exciting, its Combat Jiujitsu that adds strikes to the combat. In my very first class, I was shown how to maintain a mount and execute a proper Americana, an arm lock that is shaped like an L, that attacks mainly the shoulder joint. I can remember exactly what I was taught because I was shocked and impressed at the weaknesses of the body in certain positions. I was shocked that even though I was a woman and weaker opponent for my training partner, I was able to do it! 

I learned that you can’t just power your way through every position, you need to be technical and sometimes take your time. You need to understand the art of body movement and jiujitsu. Of course, I had to test it and see if I could use strength, I just laughed at myself now understanding why others were laughing at me then. If you think your muscles will get you far in jiujitsu, you will be humbled quick! But, if you want to up your game, it’s not a bad idea to work on strength and conditioning. Which is something that will come along if you choose to compete in tournaments. A lot of people are surprised that I am not a muscly woman even though I am a purple belt in jiujitsu. 

Back to the mat, to seal the deal the coach pulled me aside after class to show me how to do a rear naked choke. He introduced his biggest student (who later became a huge part of my jiujitsu journey) for me to try it on. He did this to prove that If I can do it properly, I can even choke out someone much stronger than me. We laughed because it made me really excited to see what I could do. Plus, the fact that in jiujitsu we seem bat shit crazy for placing ourselves in this environment knowing we will be choked, our arms and legs bending in ways we never thought they could and breathing in each other’s sweat and breath. Well worth the craziness as we all explored finding our higher selves.

Well, I have learned that the number one benefit for training jiujitsu is for self defence and empowerment. I am an Indigenous woman. I am a mother. I am physically smaller and sometimes ride the line of poverty. So, the daily struggles include all the -isms that I refuse to list off. I like to focus on the blessings I have in my life because I know it is too easy to lose my own stepping quickly because society has made it clear I have to work harder to succeed as a Nakota woman from the Treaty Four Territory. 

  • Through self defence, you learn to protect your universe.

  • You learn to eliminate the things that do not benefit your game.

  • You learn to overcome and control stressful or dangerous situations that may occur.

  • You will gain a stronger body awareness holistically.

  • You are challenged to learn about yourself by identifying your own strengths and weaknesses because you know if you don't, your opponent will bank on that and win you over!

  • You learn to see your weaknesses as a part of your game and adapt or learn.

  • You will discover how body awareness increases confidence and physical abilities. 

  • You will open up your range of movement and growth.

  • You will increase a better understanding of yourself and your surroundings.

  • You will meet other healthy humans who are viciously trying to create their best version of themselves.

  • You will challenge your own personal limits and create healthy boundaries.

  • You will learn to respect and honour your body, the one gift from the Creator. Your mind, body, spirit and emotions.

Your body is your true home, it is the only place your mind and spirit will live inside of as long as you walk this Earth. Protect your gift and strengthen it. Why not do that through jiujitsu? Or train with Power Our Women - P.O.W. Self Defence.