Are we ready for equality in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Today I’d like to discuss a topic with you that is a little controversial. Actually, it was going to be a discussion about women’s prize money in Jiu Jitsu competitions and the issue of inequality. I was researching this topic in other sports as well, but today we were surprised by a verbal attack on our dear affiliate, Mario Reis. It was actually one of his students who instigated this discussion which came about through another student who was not allowed to train in Mario’s competition class.

I wanted to point out a few things. Firstly, Alliance is a Female 10x world champion team giving total support to women in competition; we have big champions like Gabi Garcia, Andressa Correa, Monique Elias and many other champions that fly our flag and represent our team. They have always been treated with the utmost respect and also treated as equals.

It’s important we understand that Alliance’s teaching methodology which has been behind the construction of our schools and has attributed to our success, is based on the division of levels because this allows every student to find a place. For example, the student that doesn’t have the ability to be a competitor, still has a class where he can train and where he can develop. I think the biggest criticism is for the academies that do the opposite, which doesn’t preserve and take care of the students. Those academies that put all the students together in the same class pose risk to their students — not just physically, but in terms of that student’s experience and learning.

When we talk about the competition groups, they must always be separate, because the level of competition today is extremely high and the training so intense. In my academy, the competition class is at 10am. In this training, regardless of being a man or a woman, if a student is not fit for that level of training they are not allowed to do it. But that is a requirement regardless of gender. When it’s a women, we can easily fall into that trap of victimisation – it’s not because she’s a woman, it’s simply because she’s not fit to do that particular class. The division of levels is such an important prerequisite for taking care of our students. Like I said, not just physically, but for what Jiu Jitsu can bring to that student.

There doesn’t exist in Mario Reis (someone I know really well) any kind of sexist stance. There exists a teacher who is careful and doesn’t mix one thing with another. When we speak about prejudice, how would we talk about an academy just for women? or a women-only class? is this prejudice as well? No — it’s an option, just one more product; a place where women feel more comfortable to train is great, it’s more people training Jiu Jitsu.

So, this post is to support Mario and the decision he made and to criticize the student who instead of resolving the issue directly with him, spread this on the internet in a malicious way. When you’re a client, if you’re not satisfied with the service in your academy you have every right to find another; there’s no need to publicly denigrate the image of someone who does so much for our sport.

This then leads me onto my next topic which I originally wanted to talk about: equality (or lack of) between women and men in sport. There’s been great evolution in women’s Jiu Jitsu and they’ve been fighting for that continuously for many years, putting on better and better performances. Personally, I’m a huge fan of women’s fights. I’ve seen lots of them, and if I had to choose some of the best world champion fights, I would definitely put Michelle Nicolini, Tammi Musumeci and various others amongst them. I saw Bia Mesquita fight, I saw Tammi, Bia Basilio, Gabi, Andressa, Nathiely etc. so many stars in our sport who are dominating their space in the sport little by little.

I think, yes — the federation could alternate the finals between women and men. I think this would help women’s Jiu Jitsu and it would help people to stay watching because sometimes people leave when the women’s fight starts and they don’t watch, perhaps not knowing the technical level that women have today. When you intercalate the fights, you have more opportunity to showcase what women can do. I think this is a measure the federation could do very easily.

But when we talk about prize money, I have slightly different thinking. I don’t think it should be equal. I don’t think it should be equal for the following: women don’t generate the same money. You can measure money in different ways. There is the audience, but this can be hard to measure especially because the prize money doesn’t come from the audience. The only income the federation has is from registrations, so I think it should be proportional to the registrations. An example: if you have 1000 male registrations and 500 female registrations, the female reward needs to be proportionate — half of the prize money. I think this way is fair and women will continue to evolve and grow. For example, I was researching Basketball, money-wise the difference is 250x more for men in the USA. The women have a league right? The WNBA is a really strong league but the politics are simply different for the prize money because there are different audiences, different money and different sponsors, and I think this has to be understood. In the same way as when we go to the other side and look at the world of fashion. Female models earn more than men, why? what kind of prejudice is that? simply because they sell more and attract more people. Brands invest much more in women’s fashion and the world is like this.

If we want to take women’s Jiu Jitsu to the same level as men’s, there is still time – it’s a long path to go down but I think that’s what should be done. There’s no judgement that men are better than women, it’s simply that there are more men practicing, more men competing and simply more money involved in men’s Jiu Jitsu — consequently the prize money can’t be equal.

One more time, I want to say I’m a huge supporter of women’s Jiu Jitsu. I have great students and athletes in my academy at all class levels, from competition level to beginner level —all women are extremely welcome. Jiu Jitsu is a great tool for women and I’m really happy that it’s growing all the time.

I think in the end, this discussion is beneficial for everyone. I think everyone should have the opportunity to give their point of view, I just wanted to make this post because of what happened with Mario which was an act of cowardice. I think using private audios for other people to hear isn’t right and it causes unnecessary confusion. I think we need to have constant discussion so we can have a sport that includes people better, regardless of gender, social class,  colour of skin.

I think Jiu Jitsu is here to break down all these kinds of prejudice. That’s the position I take.

I hope you liked the discussion and please comment below!


Uma opinião sobre “Are we ready for equality in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

  • 31 de outubro de 2019 em 12:31

    Mestre Fabio Gurgel, obrigado por compartilhar seus pensamentos! Vivemos em uma sociedade sexista como bem frisou Mahamed Aly no youtube. Em várias universidades européias e americanas, existem medidas concretas para mudarmos isso. Benefícios, por exemplo, para mulheres que engravidam, já que elas não têm como produzir e render como os homens. Fazendo o paralelo, não seria o caso de incentivarmos as mulheres em vez de apenas mantermos o status quo? Já que no jiu o dinheiro tipicamente vem de inscrições, não sei, talvez juntar o dinheiro das inscrições de homens e mulheres, e daí premiar a todos igualmente? Será que algum homem iria parar de competir por isso? Será que mais mulheres se interessariam por competição? Vale uma reflexão. Um grande abraço!


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