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Should Women Compete Against Men?

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5050 Guard Instructional by Lachlan Giles

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Recently an article (in Portuguese) was released by the online version of Tatame Magazine where Gabrielle Garcia referenced she had been invited by the ADCC organization to compete in the male division. Being taken back by this BJJ Heroes proceeded to post, on our Facebook page, a comment where we shared our views against this sort of “experiment”, deeming it damaging to a sport that is trying to head towards professionalism.

Although the comment wasn’t meant to diminish the female gender or Gabi Garcia’s skill level (she is clearly one of the top grapplers in the world, as well as a featured athlete on our website as a BJJ Heroes profiles), somehow it generated a debate where readers called for women to have the right to compete against men. Comments like these were a constant, mainly from our American followers:

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The debate generated over this and the volume of comments calling for women to compete in mixed divisions led us to ask the question to a few of our Jiu-Jitsu friends, professionals of the sport, men and women that regularly compete or coach those who compete at the highest level of BJJ and know the reality of the sport like no other.

We asked them if it was a good idea for Gabrielle Garcia to compete at the ADCC’s and if there was a place for mixed divisions where women and men compete alongside against each other.

Do You think Men and Women Should Compete Against Each Other in Jiu-Jitsu?


Rodrigo Cavaca, (Zenith BJJ), coach extraordinaire, current World champion:

I think it is an unrealistic proposal to mix men and women. Men and women have different characteristics, different strength, different skills. I think this shouldn’t even be discussed, to each their own, I think. It’s better for everyone.

joaorocha
Joao Gabriel Rocha, (Soul Fighters) World Champion, Silver Medal at the ADCC:

I don’t think this is a good idea. A man is much stronger than a woman even though Gabi Garcia Garcia is tough, she is still a woman. Each one has to be in its category, certain things do not have to change because there is no reason for it to change.

michelle nicolini
Michelle Nicolini (Checkmat), World Champion, ADCC Champion, Pan American Champion:

I do not think the divisions should be mixed. I think that a woman is a woman, sometimes just training with some rougher guys we get injured or hurt imagine if you put a trophy to be won. If a woman really wants to, maybe she should fight … As Hillary Williams has, she fought and won a championship in a mixed division I believe.

But it is complicated. There are too many things involved and I believe I wouldn’t want to fight in such terms.

Felipe Costa
Felipe Costa (Brasa), World Champion and also a leading figure of the team Brasa:

I believe the weight classes exist, among other reasons, to protect the athletes, because the lower the weight difference the lesser the chances of “accidents”. Mixing male and female in the same category would expose women to an unnecessary risk of injury. Though many women have a really cool game, very nice to watch and this creates a curiosity to know how they would fare against men, I believe entertainment value should not dethrone the health risks involved in this.

Yuri Simoes
Yuri Simões, World Champion, Pan American Champion, American Champion Cup:

In all sports they are separated, why would they want to join in jiu-jitsu? Men produce testosterone and the muscle fiber of a man surely is very different from that of a woman, I’m not saying size and strength are everything in jiu-jitsu but for example in the black belt division, where all athletes have similar technique level, the strength and other factors count a lot.

I’m sure a woman black belt in Jiu-Jitsu kills a layman on the mat, or even a lower belt because I believe in the technical power of my martial art, but putting a woman with a man of the same technical level is a cowardly act.

Claudio Silva
Claudio Silva, Professional MMA fighter, European BJJ champion:

I don’t think it would be cool for Jiu Jitsu because at the end of the day the man is stronger than the woman, period. I find this idea absurd. It would be the same thing as to place adults to fight in the children division.

Ida Hansson
Ida Hansson (Checkmat), Rio Open Champion, ADCC Medallist, Brazilian National Champion

I absolutely do not think there should be mixed divisions with both men and women fighting each other. At least not in any serious sports organization.

BJJ or no-gi grappling is a physical sport where strength and conditioning matters a lot, that is the reason why we have weight divisions. Men and women do not have the same physical conditions, hormones, body composition, etc. those differ a lot between the sexes. Women have a higher percentage of fat in our bodies and we just aren’t as strong as men.

In my eyes, a fight between a man and a woman can never be on equal conditions. It would kind of be the same as doping one of the fighters and keep the other one clean. The technique of course matters, but in a world-class tournament one must assume that the technical level is about the same in both fighters, and the strength and cardio will matter.

For the same reason, there are anti-doping policies, weight and experience classes in almost every sport. Not only to give people equal conditions but also to prevent injuries.

For me that is what sport is about, everybody is starting with the same conditions and then it is about giving everything you got and using the potential you have got and make the best of it against other people that do the same. If you start mixing with this it will turn more into a circus and a freak-show, which is fine if that is what you want, but is no longer a sport.

Face it, no guy wants to be the one injuring the girl, but on the other hand, no one wants to be the one losing to her either, so it doesn’t matter how you think of it, it will be a lose-lose situation.
I can only speak for me, but this is how I reason.

Tiago Alves
Tiago Alves (Barbosa JJ), Pan American BJJ Champion, Brazilian Champion, and UFC fighter.

I don’t believe mixing the two genders would suit any purpose. It doesn’t matter who you match, it just doesn’t make any sense. Women fought to find their space in sports, to place them in a mixed category would be to end that space the bravely fought for. In my opinion, everyone needs to be where they belong.

Chico Mendes
Chico Mendes (Checkmat), World Cup Champion, European Nogi Champion, Brazilian National Champion

I’m against mixed divisions, not only woman fighting men but also brown belts fighting black belts.

Women fought for their rights and their space in the sport I don’t see why mixed the two. I don’t doubt that some women like Gabi Garcia, Michelle Nicolini and maybe some others have the ability to do well against some men, but I rather see the media giving more credit to their own division.

Igor Silva
Igor Silva (GFTeam), Rio Open Champion, European Champion, Brazilian National Champion

I don’t think this is a good idea. Gabi might be an exception, she has incredible strength and is well built, from what I hear she is very devoted to her training too. But generally speaking, I don’t see the benefits in this.

Andre Terencio
André “Negão” Terêncio (Brazil 021), the founding member of the Brazil 021 Academy

Although I know of a few female athletes who can tap some experienced male athletes at their gyms, and although I full-heartedly believe in the benefits of Jiu-jitsu to everyone, especially women, I think men and women have different strengths, I’m against two people of similar technique fighting, as strength and athleticism become too much of a factor. In the end, only men would have the advantage. That would be the same as ending weight categories, I understand it in kids categories, but with time men develop differently. In sum mixing the genders would be a step back in the sport.

Shanti Abelha
Shanti Abelha, ADCC veteran, European champion, World Championships BJJ champion

Whoever thinks women should compete against men at the high-level competitions clearly do not train or compete at that level.

I have fought men in smaller competitions, at some of the lower belts when there weren’t enough women, or any, in my division. I lost some and won some in those situations, and that was fine, I did it for fun and to get more competition experience.

But I would never ever train hard and seriously up to one of the big competitions to fight men! I train and fight to win. Yes, BJJ is the gentle art, but anyone with just a little logic sense can see that if you take two people with a similar level in BJJ (or any other martial art), and who weigh the same, then all of a sudden strength becomes a big factor. And women are built differently, we have a higher fat percentage at the same weight (even dieting) and we are not as strong.

So basically, strength would be the determining factor, and we women might “do ok” against high-level guys, but we would not stand at the top of the podium at World’s or another big tournament. And with no chance of winning, who wants to train that hard?

Craig Jones Instructional

16 Comments

  • Richard says:

    I will go against her highway 169 have no problem competing against her in the ADcc

    • Don Morris says:

      Women should never compete against men in BJJ. Some might do pretty well, but there is simply too much power in a man compared to women. It's not really fair for them, despite the few that may do well. It should not seem as an insult that women are generally much weaker than men. The power of a feminine woman is unique and very strong. I want to see women happy with themselves. They have their own responsibilities in life, and the last thing they need is the new responsibility of competing physically with men.

  • Ortega says:

    I guess if a woman is really good and strong, and she beats other women easy, and she really wants to compete in the mens division, why not.
    I feel thats kind of similar to lighter guys choosing to fight at heavyweight, and being allowed to do so. like Lucas Leite.

    however this whole discussion about mixed divisions is nonsense.

    Gabi Garcia obviously took something to get as big as she has gotten, and she didnt just take a little bit.
    Its so obvious and still a lot of people are choosing to treat it like the big Elephant in the room.
    Since there were no obvious rules about it in the jiu jitsu community and a lot of fighters take banned supplements we can not call it cheating.

    However with her it has gotten kind of out of control.
    She is disproportionally bigger and stronger than all women competing. I believe it is a good thing the sheik asked her to compete in the mens division, this sends a good signal.

    The only way women are going to beat Garcia at this time is to take as many banned substances as possible and try to get stronger and stronger.
    Should this be what we want for the women competing?

    Or would we want females staying female and compete with other females.

  • Stephanie says:

    No. And not because BJJ doesn't work for women, or because I don't believe a women couldn't beat a man, but when you have to equally skilled competitors outside factors like strength do come into play.

    I am no Gabbi Garcia, but I am a fairly big for a woman. I'm 5'9 /140 pounds and I have several male teammates who are about my size and the strength differential is laughable.

  • marsupial jones says:

    I really appreciate this thread. I think about this stuff all the time, am obsessed with the issue of gender in bjj (kind of!) and these comments really help me understand my own reactions and the role of gender, strength etc in the sport at all levels. Very interesting perspectives, reasonable, and I think I agree.

  • George says:

    If she wants to let her do so … If a woman thinks there's no challenge in her division why note give it a try among men ?

  • Jenny says:

    I don't see any problem with it. If she wants to compete with men then let her do it. Personally I think it would be better just to focus on competing against women, but I respect her interest in doing otherwise.

  • Larry says:

    Thanks a lot for sharing this article. Personally, I think things are great as they are, men fight men, and women compete against women. I don’t see any problem with it though so I’d still respect their decision if they allowed it.

  • WP says:

    Why were the names blacked out on the FB comments in such a way that the names can be seen? What was the point?

  • Jiu Jitsu says:

    Men naturally have more testosterone and bone density, which results in a major difference when it comes to performance.

  • Callum says:

    It is more unfair that she has been allowed to compete against women all of these years.

  • Peter says:

    How about a man competing in women's tournaments?

    If a woman can compete against men, then a man could compete against women. That's equality

  • ailish says:

    thank you for the info

  • Gabie Jacob says:

    very nice post, and great motivations too!

  • Gaga says:

    I agree with everything.
    When both competitors are skilled, strength becomes a big factor.

    However…. I would love to see Gabi Garcia fight against a smaller man. That way the weight difference makes up for the power of the male. That said this could be like a superfight where both competitors agree. The original championships should stay seperated.

  • freestyle says:

    gender doesnt matter, only size (weight) matters. I'm doing free style ( as in anything goes so long you can break your opponent), so there's something that's been bothering when I watch BJJ's videos in youtube. I've seen many times that an opponent who's supposed to be "locked" stood up and naturally the "locker" was clinging to the "locked" one in mid air. Question is, why not just slam him to the ground? on his head more preferably? I would, and that would finish the match in an instant. Is this against BJJ's rule? Thanks

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