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Some club do women only training sessions for either beginners or open to all levels. Generally those are taught by a senior female instructor.

Personally, I dislike the idea. I find it much more inclusive to have a mixed session where everyone trains together. I think that the all women session reinforce the idea that women are weak and cannot cope with training with men. That is clearly one hundred percent pure manure.

However, I am happy to put this opinion to the test and hear about the benefits of such all women sessions. Because any opinion that cannot survive in the market place of idea, is a bad opinion and should be discarded.

My long term goal, and the problem I am trying to solve, is that I want my club to be more inclusive1. Currently the adult classes have about one-third women to men ratio. We have more girls (two thirds) than boys in the junior classes. I did ask the women in the adult class what they thought about recruiting more women and the idea of women only classes came up. However, there was no consensus to to why those would work or whether they were a good or bad idea.

Pretty please, with sugar on top, use Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. Unless an answer is backed by concrete evidence, it should be downvoted into oblivion.

1: This would make an over broad question thus why I did not ask it.

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Please do not answer in comments, instead write an answer and I'll give you some fake internet points. Also, do not discus things within comments as we have chat for this. </prevention>. Please see When should/shouldn't I comment? – Sardathrion Mar 24 at 8:26
up vote 19 down vote accepted

Nobody cares if a man likes the idea of women-only classes. They're not for you. They're for women.

With some historical perspective, poo-pooing the idea of women-only classes becomes even more ridiculous. In my lifetime, women were banned from many karate and judo dojo. To turn around so quickly and say that women must train with men, not on their own, should set off alarms in your head.

Some women want to train with only women. Considering the wealth of evidence that single-gender school environments benefit girls for a host of social reasons, it seems reasonable to expect that this would hold for martial arts learning environments as well. Women-only karate clubs follow this concept and add women-specific self-defense concepts .

BJJ brown belt Sally Arsenault has specific reasons to run women-only classes: they allow her women student athletes to progress faster, in a safer environment, without harassment.

I can’t say that if I could go back in time, I would choose to start BJJ in a women-only beginner class over a co-ed class, but I think I would strongly lean towards it. I had some shitty experiences as a brand-new white belt training with brand-new male white belts.


...Brand-new male white belts (BNMWBs) are dangerous to themselves and others. Some BNMWBs are clueless. They don’t understand that it’s better to try and match your athleticism, strength, and technical skill to your opponent’s during rolling in order to help each other get better. They just want to get that submission.

How many times has one of these fucking idiots injured me? I can’t count.

This aspect of size is so incredibly strong in sparring-based arts that many lighter men will only train with similarly-sized men. This is seen in boxing, where finding sparring partners of appropriate size is critical, as well as in grappling arts (for instance, Felipe Costa's lightweight-only group). Having a time set aside to train with people closer to your size, temperament, and background can be tremendous.


On several occasions my bottom was groped during rolling or drilling. I have been greeted with the term “slut,” [and] been bullied in front of others for show

You can pretend that this would never happen at your club, but an instructor can't be everywhere, and plenty of men are fine with men but inappropriate with women.


You and I might know martial arts as an inclusive, welcoming place for women. But the general public doesn't. Lots of people who don't train have a view of martial arts schools--yours, mine, anyone's--as a machismo-drenched chest-beating show of militarism and brutishness. Women-only classes and seminars can alleviate these barriers, thereby bringing more women into the practice:

Having a women’s only class, seminar, or open mat is a great way to introduce women into the world of martial arts, especially if they have had no prior experience in sports or martial arts. Starting something as awkward and hands-on as jiu jitsu, can be intimidating. It can be even more intimidating when you see guys bigger than you armbarring and choking each other out. However, seeing a class full of women training can be more inviting and put a beginner more at ease. This gateway also promotes growth.

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Besides, I am more than happy to change my mind and your post goes a long way in providing evidence shaking my opinion. If an opinion cannot survive in the market place of idea, it is a bad opinion and should be discarded. Thank you, it was just what I was looking for. – Sardathrion Mar 24 at 9:41
@bluehallu If those men legitimately felt safer and more comfortable, then I would be swayed. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Just blindly flipping the genders ignores facts like physiology and culture—women tend to be smaller and have less sports experience. If 90% of martial arts schools were women-only then my opinion would swing back the other way. But they're not. – Dave Liepmann Mar 24 at 15:06
@bluehallu That's a weaksauce analogy. The foundation of your argument is that women shouldn't feel threatened by men, or that such a feeling is invalid. When you get groped or called a "slut" in class then go ahead and ask your instructor for a you-only class. – Dave Liepmann Mar 24 at 16:09
I agree with this - the simple fact is that some women are more comfortable training without men around. If your club dislikes that you're welcome not to run female-only classes, but equally they're welcome not to show up to your mixed classes. – Jon Story Mar 24 at 21:34
@DaveLiepmann No, I'm not saying their feeling is invalid as there is no such thing as invalid feelings. I acknowledge them but the best course of action is to show them that such fears for men in general are unfounded rather than validating it by telling them they don't allow men for their protection. – bluehallu Mar 24 at 21:40

Just as a women that trained in both women-only and mixed-classes:

  • Body issues - I feel more confident when I'm surrounded by women. In my gender-mixed training I always make sure I wear long pants.
  • Strength - I can't do push ups, which is totally accepted in women-only class but less accepted in classes where there are mostly men. This is of course even more important if you have to directly fight with other people in the training. It can be scary to stand in front of very trained men.
  • I just like to be surrounded by women sometimes. It feels a bit more relaxed.

Other reasons:

  • Believes - In my women-only class there were some women who prefered to not been seen in revealing clothes by men.
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Welcome to the site and thank you for your answer. I slightly edited the format of your post to make it easier to read but otherwise should have left the meaning unchanged. – Sardathrion Mar 24 at 14:41

I agree the desired end-state has men and women training together, but it can be difficult to start there.

People do not always voice complaints. I suspect this is because complaining is viewed as a form of weakness. In judo, which involves close-contact grappling, I have seen men (instructors even!) get inappropriately cozy with young women; they create extra contact while practicing or maintain contact long after a drill is over in a way they do not when practicing with a man. I, as a man, have never seen a woman complain about this. If a man or woman did the same to me, I would be offended.

I have trained with a woman who refused to wear judogi pants because she thought they were not flattering to her appearance. This idea may seem silly because everyone else is wearing the same pants. Nevertheless, this is how the woman experienced mixed-gender training; part of her experience was that she was on display.

It's hard to train in an environment where everyone is bigger than you. This is a factor for injuries as Dave has already covered, but it also creates a disparity in perceived progress. Bigger people can make up for technical deficiencies with muscle and "win" while training, but this is not possible for smaller people. Even if a smaller person is actually developing their technical skills at a faster rate, they may experience falling behind their peers and being the class dunce. What do people do when they feel like they are failing? They drop out.

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