In two hours I learned how to flip a man twice my size over my back. I am small woman, 5 feet 6 inches tall and 100 pounds, and thanks to instructor Paul Moresi’s women’s self defense in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu I now feel that I can protect myself despite my small stature.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is a martial art and combat sport that teaches a smaller person to defend themselves against a larger adversary by using leverage and proper technique.
Moresi, owner of Ralph Gracie Jiu Jitsu in Bend, explained, the Gracie family, founders of BJJ in 1914, modified judo and traditional Japanese jujutsu (practiced as Judo) to create the art. The Gracie family was trained by Esai Maeda. Maeda was a champion of Jiu Jitsu and a direct student of Kano, at the Kodokan Judo Institute in Japan.
Ron Ruff, a blue belt (level two), introduced the class by saying, “Most people nowadays have never been in a physical fight. Have any of you been in a physical fight before?” The silent head shakes from every woman in the group answered the question with an affirmed no.
“Exactly,” said Ruff, “Most people nowadays haven’t even been in a fight. It goes down fast and it’s unrecognizable. We are here today to teach you what to do if you are ever physically confronted and we hope that you will never have to use the information we teach you.”
Ruff then explained the steps to avoid being physically confronted: trust your six senses, create personal space, don’t ever deny when you are in an uncomfortable situation, watch your drinks and always travel in a group.
The exercise portion class began with a light warm up of aerobic exercises to warm up the body. Myself and about fifteen other women jogged around the large matted room getting acquainted with each other’s cadence. Most of the woman in the group seemed to be in their late twenties to early thirties, and all but two expressed themselves as completely new to BJJ. I felt anxious to take a BJJ class initially because of my complete lack of experience; but it was comforting to know the majority of women were beginners, like me.
After the warmup, we all lined against the wall and Moresi and his assistant, Andrew Wing, a purple belt (level three), showed us the first of four potential hazardous holds. Moresi then explained that the poses would be most successful with repetition and that each move needed to be practiced at least five times so that it become more of a natural reaction than a process that requires thought.
The first was being confronted with a choke hold. Wing grabbed Moresi’s neck and in an instant Moresi stepped turned his back to his attacker and lifted him onto his hips. Moresi then explained that he took his attacker at the shoulder and his elbow with his hands, then stepped into his attacker with his back turned and used his hips to pop his attacker onto his back. Morsi then had us break up into groups of two and practice.
I awkwardly introduced myself to my partner, Tanya Randall, a woman in her early thirties with a bouncing six-year-old daughter, Ellianna. We shook hands and then laughed as she reached for my neck.
“I am a lover not a fighter,” Randall explained.
“I’ll pretend to choke you first then,” I said.
After we got the move down we were directed over to a mat where we actually threw the “attacker” down onto the mat.
The second was being confronted from behind as the attacker clasped their hands together at the victim’s chest. Morsie then demonstrated a three-part move that started with a wide squat and a step to either side of the attacker, then a back step with the opposite leg to be able to lift the attacker from the side using the hips as a support. We all practiced this for about fifteen minutes and I felt my confidence improving. My partner expressed the workout she was getting from repeating the exercises.
The third was another hold from behind. This time the attacker had her arms clasped in a diagonal from the shoulder the opposing hip. This move involved grabbing the arm at the elbow and wrist and thrusting your hips back to lift the attacker onto your back.
The fourth Moresi explained was the most vulnerable position to find oneself in. Wing sat on top of Moresis his and held his throat in a choke hold. Moresi used a combination of his arm, leg, and hips to lift his attacker off of him, with his back flat to the ground. The upward thrust of the hip is the most important part of the sequence, called a bridge. It was awkward but incredibly effective.
I feel more confident now than I ever have about defending myself and I would recommend Moresi’s class to any person looking to improve her own self defense, to participate in a fun workout or to simply experience BJJ.
Moresi offers classes during Fall, Winter and Spring term to COCC students and said that the class is geared for beginners and has a equal mix of men and women. Moresi also offers classes twice a day to the public and has students from age five to sixty-five.
He said that the Women’s Defense class will continue and he hopes to add it into the weekly schedule in March. Moresi hopes that the class will benefit the community and help promote knowledge and awareness to of the benefits of BJJ.
Danielle Meyers | The Broadside