Should Women Compete Against Men in BJJ?

Should Women Compete Against Men in BJJ?

1. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for Women

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is considered an ideal sport to learn self-defense. Although BJJ was considered a male-oriented sport, many women are now practicing BJJ for self-defense or as careers. Women who practice jiu-jitsu know the improvement in their physical, mental, and emotional health. BJJ has several benefits for women, including confidence, empowerment, and discipline.

2. Should Women Compete Against Men in BJJ

BJJ practitioners, whether male or female, develop excellent grappling and self-defense skills. Since the sport is not gender-specific, it is sometimes debated why men and women don’t compete with each other during competitions. However, the more important question is: should women compete against men in BJJ? The answer is no!

Competing with men in BJJ involves the risk of getting injured or hurt due to physiological and psychological factors, strength differences, and greater muscle mass of males. Gender division is assumed to be necessary for BJJ. But if someone wants to challenge herself against men, it is her choice. Competing with men is like having an absolute division where a 135 lb man competes with a 200 lb man. Apart from strength and size, if  a woman has the best skill level in BJJ, she may be able to compete with men; however, there is little chance for a woman to successfully submit a man on the mats.

2.1. Can Women Excel in BJJ 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that trains both men and women  to defend themselves. Women can excel in BJJ by adapting to the sport’s culture and continually improving their skills. However, the question remains: can women excel in BJJ when competing against men? The answer is generally no. It is already established earlier in the article that men have unfair advantages over women in terms of physical strength and stature. While women actively participate in BJJ and successfully achieve their personal goals, their progress is often made in a context where they face opponents with similar physical capabilities. Women can advance as BJJ professionals or practitioners; however, it is crucial for their well-being that they do so in a supportive and collaborative environment. Therefore, it is essential that they are not required to compete against the opposite gender to prove their grappling skills.

2.2. Gender Equality in BJJ  

BJJ was considered a male-dominated sport in its early years, but as the martial arts are enhancing, the jiu-jitsu community has started to create equal opportunities for women in the sport. Now, the participation of women in BJJ is increasing, and better opportunities for women to excel are emerging. Even though there is gender segregation in BJJ competitions, women are not restricted to getting training from female instructors only. This choice helps expand their horizons. Since training takes place in controlled environments, there is little risk of injury unlike competitive settings.

2.3. Is There Any Gender Neutral Competition in Jiu-Jitsu?

No, to ensure fairness, BJJ regulating bodies or federations do not organize gender neutral tournaments. Therefore, there are no gender neutral divisions in the prominent national and international competitions. Some gyms or academies may organize a gender neutral competition within the premises of the academy. Though rare, some small local tournaments may allow females to compete against lighter-weight male practitioners. However, this practice only occurs when there are not enough registered female competitors to create a separate division.

2.4. Being a Woman in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Being a woman in BJJ builds confidence and empowerment in women. Women have gained popularity in jiu-jitsu by competing in various international BJJ competitions, such as Michelle Nicolni, the 8 times World champion. Since women are getting acclaim by competing against women, they need not compete with men to prove their flair for grappling or martial arts.

2.5. Cultural Norms

BJJ is a popular martial art and is now being practiced all over the world. In some cultures, gender neutral competitions would not be easily accepted. In fact, women may get discouraged due to gender neutrality on the mats. Since BJJ is a contact sport, many females who belong to different cultural or ethnic backgrounds may feel awkward and uncomfortable. Therefore, gender neutral competitions may affect a woman’s capabilities on the mats just because she was uncomfortable with her opponent.

3. Pros and Cons Of BJJ Women Grappling with Men


  • Women will feel more motivated and practice harder to outperform their male opponents. 
  • There will be increased socializing among BJJ fighters.
  • Women competing with men can send a strong message of inclusivity in combat sports.
  • Female BJJ practitioners who compete with men may attract more attention. Hence, mixed gender competitions can help promote women in sports, provided matches are friendly and do not pose unnecessary injury risk to women.
  • Competing with a man may help women better prepare for real-life self-defense situations. Naturally, oppressive men may pose a threat to women, and if they learn how to submit a man on the mats in a competition, they can do the same off the mats.


  • In BJJ, women are likely to get hurt or injured by grappling with men.
  • It will be difficult for women to defeat men as they have more physical strength and size.
  • BJJ is a sport that has no personal space, so it will be uncomfortable for women to compete with men in different situations.
  • Since men have greater strength, they may not feel motivated to train.

4. Difference Between Men and Women’s Jiu-Jitsu

Jiu-Jitsu is renowned for its grappling techniques. Although the fundamental positions and techniques of jiu-jitsu are the same for everyone, there is a big difference in how female and male practitioners approach and experience the sport. Understanding these differences is necessary to overcome the challenges unique to both female and male practitioners.

  • Physical Difference: The main difference between men and women jiu-jitsu is their physiological contrasts. Generally, men possess more physical strength and greater muscle mass than women. So, men usually employ aggressive techniques and strategies. Though females also employ the same techniques, the intensity of their moves, chokes, grips, etc is quite different from men. 
  • Participation Rate: Jiu-Jitsu competitions have always been male-dominated. Although more females around the world are training BJJ, only a small percentage of female practitioners compete in tournaments. Since participation in competitions is less, females usually get fewer professional opportunities.

5. How Necessary Are Women’s Only BJJ Classes 

Women’s only jiu-jitsu classes are crucial to allow women to learn in a comfortable environment. It also allows you to practice with the same weight and strength partner. Women-only BJJ classes have several benefits over co-ed.

  • Starting a BJJ class with women is less intimidating and more comfortable than a mixed-gender class.
  • Women-only classes allow you to train with an evenly sized and weighed opponent.
  • Women often have different movements and technique patterns. So it is easy to learn moves and techniques with women knowing both have similar strategies and stamina.
  • Only a woman knows what physical challenges other women face during training, which allows them to learn BJJ with complete understanding and concentration.

6. Different BJJ Fighter’s Opinions on Mixed Gender BJJ

Many BJJ fighters and practitioners shared their opinions on whether women should compete with men in BJJ. Most think it is not a good idea to have mixed-gender competitions. Some of the views are:

  • Rodrigo Cavaca: Rodrigo Cavaca is a current World champion and an extraordinary coach. He believes there should not be mixed men and women competitions in BJJ as they have different strengths, characteristics, and skills.
  • Joao Gabriel Rocha: Gabriel is a World Champion. His opinion about mixed-gender BJJ is not in its favor. He believes a man is much stronger than a woman even if she’s a practitioner, she still can’t beat a man. He says each has its category, and there is no reason to change it.
  • Michelle Nicolini: Nicolini is a IBJJF World and Pan Champion. She believes that gender divisions should not be allowed to change. Competing with men can be dangerous for women as they can get hurt or injured.
  • Ida Hansson: Hansson is an ADCC medalist and Brazilian national Champion. According to her, mixed-gender fights can never be on equal conditions. In BJJ, strength and conditioning matter a lot, which is why it includes weight divisions. As men and women don’t have the same physical attributes, they should not compete together.

7. FAQs

7.1. Should females roll with males in BJJ class?

Though men and women roll very differently, women should roll with men to create better games and understand how much strength they should develop to compete well. However, some men are uncomfortable rolling with women because they think they might hurt them.

7.2. To what extent can women compete with men in MMA?

Men and women are not allowed to compete against each other in professional martial arts.

7.3. Can a woman beat a man in BJJ?

In BJJ, it is difficult for a woman to beat a  man because strength and conditioning are crucial factors in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and men have more strength than women.

8. Conclusion

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art where strength and conditioning matter a lot. Since men have more muscular strength, it is not a good idea for women to compete with men. Women have a higher risk of getting seriously injured while grappling with men. However, if a woman wants to challenge her skills, she may compete with a man. 

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