I was bruised and sore. I had men whom I wasn’t dating lie on top of me and whose sweat dripped all over my face.
It hurt to laugh, it hurt to walk, and it even hurt to reach out for anything an arm’s length away. All because I decided to take jiu-jitsu and kickboxing classes to see if a small person could handle them.
“Muay Thai [the second level of kickboxing that includes elbow and knee jabs] is good for self-defense as far as offense,” said Nabil Khatib, an instructor at Team Bushido MMA Fitness Center. “In Muay Thai you don’t really walk away. It’s a moving forward type of sport.”
Kethe Engen, 24, has dabbled with kickboxing. She admits being smaller means your arms are too short to reach your opponent.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu on the other hand, was adapted with smaller people in mind. Its creator, Carlos Gracie, learned Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and modified it to suit his smaller build, thus creating Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Gracie’s sport, Khatib explains, is great for self defense and mainly focuses on submissions and grappling – techniques used to gain physical advantage.
Anyone who is small, or just new to jiu-jitsu relies on instincts and physical strength says Doug Ryan, another Team Bushido instructor. However, this isn’t a sport where size matters.
“Starting off [small and new people] certainly find a difference because they’d be at a disadvantage there,” said Ryan. “On the long run it actually works out better because you’re forced to… refine your technique.”
It’s easy to get frustrated with all the different grappling methods. By the end of the session, I would be so worn out that I would question my sanity for signing up for the classes.
Engen says this rang true for her, but she became addicted. Once she starts training, nothing else matters.
It was definitely exhilarating when I was in control and it made me realize I could take on a larger opponent.
“You just feel stronger every time you train and even if you lose you learn something,” said Mélissa Brunet, 23. “It is very reassuring to know I have the competence.”
In Engen’s words: “Even if you’re really small and not so strong, if you have good technique, you’re going to kick everybody’s ass.”