Let’s hear it for the girls!
We are living in a period of great and exciting change and advancements. Technology is rife, human diplomacy and equality is at the forefront of our minds and discrimination of any kind is questioned and challenged. As with our society, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu holds countless success stories of evolution within it. In this piece and in honour of International Women’s Day, we are focusing on the evolution of women’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has long been regarded as not only a sport of great commitment and passion but also a solid form of self-defence. In the early years, although women took part in the sport, their involvement was rarely seen and where it existed it was mostly in this context of self-defence, until the mid-1980s, 15 years after Brazilian Jiu Jitsu became a regulated sport in Brazil, when a women’s division was officially opened. Now fifth degree black belt, Yvonne Duarte was the unofficial driving force behind the women’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu revolution. She was awarded and recognised as the first female black belt in the world in 1990, an incredible 70 to 100 + years (depending whose history you follow) since Brazilian Jiu Jitsu began. She paved the way for countless firsts for women both practicing, teaching and competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, including the likes of Rosângela Conceição, commonly known as ‘Zanza’ who earned the first female world title in 1998. Since then women’s involvement in the sport, has dramatically increased. Today, the global Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym network and professional circuits are teeming with incredible women from varying backgrounds including the likes of our very own Hope Douglass, all supporting and developing themselves and each other through the sport. Honourable groups like Australian Girls in GI have been established to provide women with an opportunity to band together linked by their shared passion for the sport. Women and men, boys and girls are sharing the same battlefield and the same purpose, there is a sense of equilibrium and respect that not only reflects women of our time but also the core of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu values. The concept that any person can be successful in defending themselves against any other as a result of technique. There is no differentiator, just one powerful martial art.
The 19th century saw the women’s rights movement, the 20th century saw the feminist movement and now, today, the 21st century, although we still have a way to go, women in many cultures are enjoying their independence and sports for the love of the sport not solely the need to defend. Creatures of strength, courage and resilience, today we honour and thank women across the globe for supporting the growth of the sport and men for supporting the growth of women as well as our beloved Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
The truth isn’t that behind every great man there is a great woman or the opposite, the truth is merely that supporting and encouraging each other, irrelevant of sex, race or any other differentiator, always yields the greatest results. Together we can do so much… The Fight Never Ends.