Confidence / 5 Ways Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Surprised a Woman in a Restaurant

Snow MMA - The Dainty Grappler - Confidence  5 Ways Jiu Jitsu Surprised a Woman in a Restaurant.jpg
Snow MMA - The Dainty Grappler on left with Alliance's Samuel Snow.jpg
Snow MMA - The Dainty Grappler - Article - Confidence  5 Ways Jiu Jitsu Surprised a Woman in a Restaurant.JPG

Photo Credit: Snow MMA

Recently, my daughter and I had an unpleasant confrontation with a man at a restaurant. He was clearly agitated before we ever got there. But when he made aggressive movement toward my daughter, here’s what happened and why the combat sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is so important and effective for women to train:

My daughter is 20 years old but very petite - 5' tall and 100 lbs - and I'm not much larger at 5' 4". The man was a foot taller than my daughter and maybe 235-240 lbs., twice my weight.

At this stage of my jiu jitsu, I think of myself as Snow Whitebelt The Dainty Grappler, and you would agree with that self-assessment if you saw me training on class video. I don't look even one percent tough. I'm still more awkward than athletic. If the youngsters at the gym breeze along in their jiu jitsu like smooth mag-lev trains, my jiu jitsu is the 100-year-old steam engine clunking along on rusty wheels to the town of Whyamidoingthis.

And sometimes, there's fear. These are trusted teammates I work with regularly who would never injure me on purpose. But the confrontation that is jiu jitsu? I'm always a little scared of it. I figured that meant I hadn't learned anything in my 7 months' training through bruises, body aches, and a 10-week-long shoulder strain.

But when Restaurant Guy made aggressive movement toward my daughter, I flew up from my chair so fast that I literally jumped out of my sandals. I stood on the cold cement floor, blocking him from my child. My feet were firmly based. Arms strong and ready at my sides. Eyes unblinking with solid eye contact. I was not backing up or backing down. Standing there barefoot, in shorts and a t-shirt, I felt almost "no-gi," a term we use to describe a style of grappling, ready to roll a few rounds with an opponent. I felt “in my element,” if there is such a thing for white belts, the lowest ranked in the martial art. I wasn't scared, but I probably should have been. If he had thrown a punch, I'd have been hurt. 

So where did this Rockstar Me suddenly come from? The answer is found in these 5 ways that jiu jitsu surprised me that day: 

I WAS CALM UNDER PRESSURE. Pre-jiu jitsu, I would have been in a stunned or confused zone and a bit panicked, looking around for someone to help. Instead, because of my training, my instinct was to take immediate preventive/defensive action. And that's a good thing, because of all the people in that restaurant, not a single person came over to stand next to us in case things escalated. Even more reason for a woman to be ready at any time to handle herself.

MY BREATHING WAS SMOOTH AND CONTROLLED. This never happens when I'm sparring in my jiu jitsu class. Higher belts often kindly remind me mid-roll to slow my breathing or to stop holding my breath. But in a real-life confrontation, my jiu jitsu training kept me calm and in control. 

I WAS COMPLETELY IN THE MOMENT. I was able to do two things at once: limited verbal interaction to try to de-escalate the man’s anger, while mentally assessing his approximate weight and height, his balance and stance, his proximity to me and my daughter, my proximity to hard tables and chairs behind me if we fell that way grappling, the fact that he was big but seemed untrained, and my plan to attack his neck, should it become necessary.

I WAS THINKING A COUPLE OF MOVES AHEAD. I realized later that I didn't account for blocking his right arm which he likely would have thrown a fist with, but nonetheless, I was a couple of steps ahead in my mind. My plan was to jump onto him from the front, figure-4 my legs around his waist, throw my left elbow around his thick neck and secure a right underhook, push my head under that arm while clasping my hands and pressing my head into the head-triangle position, and expanding my chest and stretching my figure-4 down his hips for maximum pressure. Maybe that angle on the neck wouldn’t have choked him into submission or unconsciousness since we were standing, but my mind was active, not drawing a blank as it often does during rolling.

I WASN'T THINKING LIKE A WHITE BELT. By this, I mean that I was fully confident that I could defeat this guy. I had no doubts whatsoever. Whether that was true or not, I did not find out because management stepped in, but the confidence was there. It was real. I felt it deep down inside, surging through my limbs to the very tips of my swollen jiu jitsu fingers. 

The gentle art - as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is often called - and my patient teacher, Alliance-affiliated Samuel Snow of Snow MMA near Fort Worth, Texas, have proven to me that while I have been down on myself about my perceived lack of progress these past 7 months, jiu jitsu has quietly begun rooting itself in my mind and body. I’ve already gained enough confidence to hold my ground and stand up for myself and my loved ones physically. As I develop my fundamental base and progress with my training, the confidence should grow along with the effectiveness of the techniques to back it up. For this, I am so grateful. 

Jiu jitsu surprised me in many ways that day, but perhaps the most surprising was this: During those few seconds while I was assessing him, Restaurant Guy flinched. He actually glanced away and stepped back from me, 100 lbs his junior. I believe this was because the treasure that is jiu jitsu made me feel enormously empowered, and my opponent felt it, even though I was just standing still.

Brazilian jiu jitsu is powerful. Even when you don't have to use it.

Do you know someone else who could benefit from the increased confidence that comes from training jiu jitsu? It's unlike any other martial art.

If this article has been helpful to you, or you think it could help someone else, please share a link back to this page or simply include "Credit:" Alliance Fort Worth / Snow MMA Jiu Jitsu. Make Life Better.(SM)

The Dainty Grappler is now a four-stripe white belt who began her Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey in January 2017. She trains in the Dallas/Fort Worth area under elite Alliance black belt Samuel Snow. She earned a bachelor’s in writing at TCU and has a marketing background. In addition to her passion for Brazilian jiu jitsu, she enjoys sports photography, nature walks with her dog, spending time with friends in the arts district, and salsa dancing.

Five Things to Say to Your Daughter Before She Leaves for College

Parents face an emotional-roller coaster ride as the college send-off approaches. Thinking about what can go wrong leaves us scratching our heads at what we can do to better prepare kids to be independent as they take risks in the world.  And while there are practical things all young adults need to know -- cooking, cleaning, how to get along with a roommate -- having a daughter brings a unique set of fears given the social conditions girls face.

Read on for 5 things no girl should leave home without hearing as she navigates the college transition.

1)    “Walking home alone from a party is not a good idea.  Don’t do it.”

Walking home late by yourself from a class, study session or party can seem pretty safe, especially when a campus has public safety officers or campus shuttles.  But walking home alone, though convenient, is never a good idea. Hard to believe, but roughly 2/3 of sexual assault is committed by someone known to the victim, and half happen within a mile of the victim’s home. Instead, use the buddy system.   Have her tell at least one person where she’s going and who she’s going to meet. If she’s dating online, on or off campus, make sure she lets someone close to her know where she’s going, with whom, and what time they can expect her back. Make sure your daughter fully understands what consent means.  According to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, consent is when “someone agrees, gives permission, or says "yes" to sexual activity with other persons. Consent is always freely given and all people in a sexual situation must feel that they are able to say "yes" or "no" or stop the sexual activity at any point.”  

2)    “If you are at a party, never, ever leave your drink unattended.”  You may want to say: “Don’t drink.  Period.  Wait until your ‘30s.”  Chances are that’s not going to happen.  But the reality is: use of date rape drugs is going up. Alcohol is involved in about 90 percent of sexual assault cases on college campuses. Alcohol and drugs combined can incapacitate even further.  It's 100 percent true that if you are intoxicated — with alcohol, drugs, or both — you are unable to consent to sex, but unfortunately that will strike a perpetrator as an opportunity rather than a deterrent.

3) “Travel and study abroad -- even solo -- is one of the best things in life.”  Even though you may really want to say: “Don’t travel by yourself to fill-in-the-blank city or country. Young women traveling alone are prime targets.” Concerns about safety are valid, but projecting fear is not the answer.   Teaching precautions is. Registering with the state department, making sure folks back home have your itinerary and regular check-ins are a few of them.  Here are some more. The self-sufficiency and crack-you-open experience that travel offers is not to be missed.

4)  “You may feel like you don’t belong in your class or internship. Listen to -- but don’t give into -- that feeling.” Encourage her to learn about The Imposter Syndrome, a condition that reflects how, once internalized, sexism and racism diminish self-confidence and performance. Research suggests that women are more often affected by Imposter Syndrome.  Women tend to question their abilities and feel inferior because being female or of color means you and your work stand a greater chance of being taken less seriously. The best way to confront it: show up and keep on taking action as she moves through feeling like a fraud.

5) “You are not alone.”  At times a girl may feel like “it’s only me” who feels the pressure of being female, or a girl of color in a culture and society that can make them feel less than worthy.  Chances are very good there is a group on campus where young women, together, are exploring the impact of and antidotes to the powerlessness that can develop.  Join the conversation.  Sooner than later.

My bio: I’m an advocate and mother in Seattle, WA focusing on girl’s issues, particularly those at the intersections of girl culture, identity, choice and power.  In addition, I work on girl’s economic opportunity, violence prevention and court reform at The Justice for Girls Coalition of Washington State.

My blog focuses on how to create a culture -- at home and in the community -- where girls are comfortable using power, and where the larger culture supports them to do so.

Follow my Power Trips blog at, find me on Facebook at @fivegirlpowers.




Creating Economic Opportunity for Girls by Taking a Gender Lens to Programs & Policies

SEATTLE  — A big round clock is ticking on the screen as Girl Effect, the Nike Foundation’s video sensation, begins to play in the conference hall.

An 11-year old girl, in the shape of a stick-figure, is growing up, and two very different outcomes for her emerge: One where she has the ability to contribute to her family and community, the other where she does not. Simply and compellingly stated, the video shows that by investing in a girl’s education, safety, health and leadership development, we can transform society and address the world’s most pressing development problems.

Watching with me are a group of politically and economically powerful women, who have joined with girls from Washington state at this State of the Girls discuss how to more purposefully design policies and programs that create economic opportunity for all girls.

Unlike Girl Effect’s broad, inspirational message, there is no basic equation for solving what confounds us here, and likely other places: While girls are excelling in education and consistently improving their math and science performance, these gains are not translating to the labor market. In fact, 72 percent of women who work outside the home here are working in industries that pay below the state average. For girls of color, plausible reasons for this include their lower enrollment and completion rates in two- and four-year post-secondary education. Even when they do gain post-secondary training, many of the jobs they pursue don’t keep up with our region’s high cost of living.

There are several gender-specific approaches with the potential to improve girls’ economic opportunity. One is to work with influential, local science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals to identify the infrastructure needed to ensure more girls gain access to high-paying STEM jobs, one of Washington’s hottest employment sectors. Understanding how women secure careers in unionized fields, where wages are higher, is another strategy to explore, as are local efforts to raise wages in food and retail services, where women make up the majority of workers. Our region also is one of the top spots in the nation for female entrepreneurs, and we need to understand why this is so and how to encourage more girls along this path.

Fresh ideas for gender-specific approaches show promise. New Mexico’s state Legislature passed House Memorial 53 (HM 53) to study and develop recommendations to prevent teen dating violence. They ultimately developed system-wide strategies for educating parents, raising public awareness, and building on existing resources to create an evidence-based prevention strategy.

At the federal level, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn) introduced legislation to create gender-specific programs within the juvenile justice system to address the unique challenges facing young girls who are struggling in a system designed for incarcerated men.  These girls are arguably among our most vulnerable populations. Though not directly related, these policies could ultimately create better economic opportunities for girls.

Advocating for effective gender-specific programs in the Out-of-School Time (OST) context is the on-the-ground place to start. Gender-specific programs are important because they can help to address the root causes of why girls struggle academically, socially and emotionally.

These include internalized gender and race stereotypes and the low expectations that can cause so many economic opportunities to disappear along with a girl’s adolescence. OST programs that do this are valuable because they often focus on career-readiness skills as well as are attuned to social and cultural contexts. This is particularly important for those girls who lack income and racial advantages in society.

As long as the clock is ticking on girls’ lives, there will be a need for gender-specific policies and programs to ensure that all girls have access to the economic opportunity they need to become transformative agents of change for their families and their communities.