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The Power Of Jiu Jitsu For Female Victims Of Intimate Partner Violence

Written by: Dr. Leslie Davis, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Jiu Jitsu…a martial art also known as “the gentle art”. In my opinion, it’s the perfect martial art to train as a woman, especially for female victims of intimate partner violence (IPV).

Sad beaten up girl with wounds on the face being scared and trying to hide

Intimate partner violence includes the use of violent behaviors (physical and sexual) and intimidating behaviors of one romantic partner towards another, in order to exert power and control.

Any woman who trains jiu jitsu will probably share how intimidating it can be on your first day because there’s a great chance you might be the only woman in the gym full of big, sweaty men rolling around on a mat. You’ll walk into the room and see what seems to be guys cuddling and sometimes trying to murder each other. You’ll sense a high level of intensity in the room combined with the smell of a teenage boys’ locker room.

Just imagine how that might feel for a woman who has a history of being physically abused by her partner. All around her are various forms of triggers. If she has the courage to stay, she will soon learn the power of jiu jitsu.

In my 5 years of training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu O’Fallon, I have seen many women come and go. Once I received the rank of blue belt alongside my jiu jitsu partner, Vanessa Sims, we started a group called We Roll Too to empower the women in our area, to develop sisterhood, and to have opportunities to openly ask questions of upper-ranked female jiu jitsu practitioners.

As a blue belt, I have chosen to focus on the mentorship side of the art as I observe how women roll. Some women are very aggressive and enjoy dominating both men and women in the gym. Other women are timid and tend to focus on defending themselves.

As a psychotherapist, I began to wonder if there was a connection to how women train in jiu jitsu and their life experiences with violence. Through many conversations with my jiu jitsu sisters, it was not surprising that many of us had a similar history of experiencing intimate partner violence.

The jiu jitsu mat oftentimes becomes a sacred ground for those who are committed to the journey. And on this ground, I have witnessed various signs of trauma, such as panic attacks, crying, misplaced aggression, and sometimes isolation. I have also seen and heard many stories of women who display a multitude of reactions to their unidentified response of FIGHT, FLIGHT, OR FREEZE.

Sometimes I wonder, “If only they knew the power of jiu jitsu.”


While training with a partner, a woman may be triggered to attack, as the movement and positions of jiu jitsu mimic real-life scenarios of violence, but within a controlled environment. The power of jiu jitsu for this woman is that she will learn offensive techniques that can be used against a larger and much stronger person, as well as knowledge of when to attack, if she needs to be more aggressive.


As a woman trains with bigger and stronger opponents, especially men, she is likely to be placed in vulnerable positions on the mat. The power of jiu jitsu for this woman is that she will learn techniques for self-defense, including how to escape a stronger and more aggressive person.


With the range of skills and techniques in jiu jitsu, it’s not uncommon for beginners to freeze when trying to remember a technique that was taught in class. This reaction also happens when a woman is attacked by her romantic partner and struggles to decide how to properly respond to get to safety. The power of jiu jitsu for this woman is that she will gain confidence in her abilities to protect herself, and she will become less likely to freeze if she is attacked in the future.

The power of Jiu Jitsu includes a community of support

We live in a world where a woman’s safety is always at risk. Although there are reports of women who have been abused by training partners or coaches, many women find that jiu jitsu provides a sense of safety and community. For a woman who has a history of IPV, this is crucial to her healing journey.

I am blessed to have found community with the women I am privileged to train with every week. I have also developed a sense of safety with my jiu jitsu brothers, whom all treat me with respect. As one of the tiniest women on the mat, standing at only 4’11” I can truly say that I am not afraid to train with any man in my gym, because I know I am in a safe environment with amazing people who care about my well-being.

The power of jiu jitsu can be transformative for women who have been victims of intimate partner violence. Women who train jiu jitsu will be empowered mentally, physically, and emotionally. To all my future and current jiujiteiras, it is my hope for all women who decide to use jiu jitsu as part of their healing journey, that you learn to overcome their triggered responses of fight, flight, or freeze.

If you or someone you know are in need of domestic violence resources and education, please check out The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

If you are a female wanting to learn the gentle of art of jiu jitsu, let’s connect to discuss how to locate a gym to accommodate your needs.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Dr. Leslie Davis, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Leslie Davis is a licensed counselor, relationship coach, mental health consultant, and podcaster. Using an Emotion-Focused approach, she empowers women and youth with tools to develop healthy connections. Her work with clients focuses on attachment styles, self-esteem, and empowering women to cope with anxiety and depression. As the Founder and Executive Director of Hearts in Faith, NFP Dr. Davis also brings awareness and addresses the needs of single mothers, single fathers, and youth in her community. You can find her podcast, She Matters with Leslie Davis, on various platforms including Apple and Spotify.



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