The decision to become a student of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is likely one that you will not regret. Aside from learning effective self-defense tactics, the process of learning this martial art instills a sense of self-confidence. As a female, however, it can be intimidating at first, especially if there aren’t a lot of girls at the school you attend.  The following are just a few of the reasons why you should take this leap of faith, and stick to it, from the perspective of someone who has been there.

The first time I ever entered the BJJ studio where I trained, I was initially impressed by the energy level from the guys who trained there. Then, when I began to observe them more closely, I realized it was very up-close and personal. I’ve always valued my personal space. So when I was asked to give it a try and get in the instructor’s closed guard, I said, “you want me to do what!?” I had never been in a real fight before, and I was unaccustomed to the whole idea at first. I had a goal of getting into Law Enforcement, however, and I knew BJJ was at the base of many training programs, so I used that goal to push myself. I stayed, I learned the basic techniques, and at the next class, I was back for more.

One of the things that surprised me about my classmates was the level of respect they showed to one another, and to me. I was one of only two girls in the school I attended when I first started, so I spent a lot of time training with guys. They were all respectful, and they all wanted to help me get better, so they didn’t go easy on me. I thank them for that. As time went on, I continued to form new goals: earning my first stripe, then my second, then training for my first tournament, and so on. Throughout this process, my classmates became like brothers to me, and we experienced all of our milestones together.

As a result of my time in training, several incredible things happened. First, I got into the best shape of my life, because I was working out outside of the school, so that I could keep up with my classmates. I felt driven to better myself, because I had begun to respect myself a lot more. Next, I started walking taller, and I felt a lot more confident. It’s extremely empowering as a young lady (I was 20 when I started) to feel confident and strong. Finally, I gained a whole new circle of friends in the process. Individuals who train BJJ respect their bodies, their minds, and their teammates, and they will welcome you into the circle if you make the decision to get started.

After training for two years, I applied to the Law Enforcement Department I was hoping to get hired into, and I got the job. My time in the police academy was so much easier for me, because, (as I had suspected), a lot of the defensive tactics training utilized by Virginia state and local law enforcement agencies consists of BJJ. Subsequently, I used my training in a real-life situation on the street. It worked.

So if you’re a female who’s on the fence about whether or not to begin Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training, just take the first step and show up to a class. If you give it one chance, I bet you’ll keep going back, just like I did!

 Amber Ezzell is a James City County Police Officer.