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No Boys Allowed- Part 2

About two years ago, I wrote this post about womens classes: It can be summed up by saying that while I agree there are certainly benefits to training with women alone, in general I do not like these classes.

Recently there has been a discussion on the Internet about a mens only dojo in Japan. Here is the link to their school:

First of all I will say that I believe if we can have women's dojos we can have mens dojos. I know the idea of someone saying "No women allowed here" makes us all uncomfortable, but the truth is men can feel just as awkward rolling around on mats with women as we do with men. They feel judged too. They feel pressure to look cool in front of the ladies. I imagine if you remove all that you get a training environment where guys can just be guys, and that is pretty nice. (It is also probably pretty stinky in there.) 

So if someone wants to open a dudes only dojo I have no problem with it. (Although, from a business perspective I do not know why you would close yourself off to so many potential students.) Likewise, with a womens school. Go ahead, I am not offended. I think the more interesting question is whether or not these kinds of segregated classes are good or bad for training overall.

In my old post I said "the main problem with the women's only classes is that they are unrealistic. Unless you join a women's dojo, you are going to often be training with men. The other problem is that having a women's only class implies that we need special treatment. It reinforces the belief that many women already have, that all this hitting (or grappling) is not for us. That it is only safe in a female only environment. That if we fight with men they will kill us. "

In my karate dojo we do occasionally have a female sparring class. And while it is a great social event and a fun workout, the woman who attend do not get more comfortable with sparring and start coming to the co-ed classes more. Instead, they just get more comfortable with sparring other women. 

I personally, would never attend a women's only dojo. In my opinion, a very important part of training is missing. But that is me. What if a woman is so uncomfortable grappling or sparring with men, that she would never join a mixed class? In jiu-jitsu especially, the idea of having a big sweaty dude sitting on top of you, trying to choke you, can be overwhelming. So what do we tell this woman? Do we say, sorry babe, jiu-jitsu is not for you. After all, martial arts, and sparring/rolling in particular, is not really supposed to be comfortable. It's supposed to be challenging, a lesson in overcoming difficult situations. As scary as it was, I learned more from attempting to protect myself from men who were twice my size than I did from sparring with women. 

But this imaginary women doesn't care about all that. She is not joining a class with men. Period. So do we offer her a female only class where she can learn these techniques in an environment where she feels safe? Because at least then she is doing BJJ, right?

In other words, should we mold the art to fit all types of students? Or does the student need to adapt in order to fit the art? Furthermore, are mens only/womens only schools actually doing a disservice to the art by not offering the full experience?

If you join a karate dojo and want to do sparring, people are going to punch and kick you. Sometimes it is going to hurt. I think almost every karate instructor would say that if you cannot handle being hit, even in a controlled manner, than you should not take sparring class. They may work with you slowly, and help ease you into the experience, but they are not going to say "Don't worry, I will just tell all the other students they are not allowed to touch you."

What about jiu-jitsu then? Is BJJ training just about learning chokes and arm bars? Or is it also about dealing with discomfort, about learning to defend yourself against someone who is bigger and stronger. If it is just the former, then there is no problem with a woman never rolling with a man. But if you want the latter, I think you need a co-ed environment.

I often have a very strong opinion about the things I post about. But in this case I am honestly not sure. I want as many women as possible getting the wonderful benefits of training, whether it is BJJ or Judo or Karate or whatever. And a lot of these benefits can be gained by training only with women. But if you are only training with women, are you actually training in jiu-jitsu, the way it was meant to be done?

I guess I need to think about it more.
What about you? What do you think about segregated classes? Better than nothing? Not worth it? 


  1. I like the way my gym is, co-ed, and once a month I go and train only with the girls. The guys definitely toughen you up, and then rolling with girls, my ego gets a little boost because my technique is better then I thought it was. Sometimes with men it is hard to see yourself improving, as I am sure it would be if you rolled with all women. I do not agree or disagree with a strictly male or a strictly female gym. I do think they will loose out in the end (speaking mainly about an all female gym).I think if a female is interested in the sport, her starting point should be finding a gym with good men. I have heard horror stories from other girls about the men they have to roll against. Not all places are like this. I really can't say enough about my guys. It is not uncommon for me (@ 126#) to roll with men that are 170, 180, even 200+, but I have never been truly smashed, or "brutally" submitted. In sparring I have NEVER been forcefully hit, unless it was an accident. My guys Always raise me up and dare me to be better then what I am and I would not trade any of them for the world!

  2. I would have no problem going to a co-ed school that had a once per week men's class as well as a once per month women's class. But the reality is, if I don't show up, there's a very good chance the dudes will already be going to a men's only class. I don't have that option or luxury. A women's only is NEVER a default, but an abnormality. A men's only IS the default - coed training is the abnormality.

    For me, hedging out an already extreme minority is not awesome. However, I can see them being available in countries or societies where coed training is not permitted, such as in muslim countries, orthodox Jewish communities, etc. But in general, I think it's really not cool having an entire school that tells minorities to stay away.


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