Girls In Gis brings its community-oriented Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training to Denver
A longtime Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitor, Shama Ko loved her sport, but she saw too much division and exclusion when it came to gender. After discovering Girls In Gis, however, a training and support community for women and girls practicing Jiu Jitsu, a whole new world opened up to the fighter. She is now the program director for Girls in Gis and is bringing the Texas-based organization to Denver for the first time this Sunday, February 24 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Easton Training Center, 1304 South Santa Fe Drive. In advance of the gathering and training session, Ko spoke to Westword about why a group like Girls In Gis is imperative to women's success in the male-dominated sport.
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Mike Calimbas Girls In Gis founder Ashley Nguyen with Shama Ko.
Westword: What is Girls In Gis?
Shama Ko: Girls In Gis is based out of Texas - and we've been hosting events here for about three years. These events are designed to be by women, for women and girls. It's for beginners on up to expert and advanced participants that train in Jiu Jitsu. Through our events, we are not only trying to foster the community of women in the sport, but also to encourage other women and girls to join. We don't have any age restrictions or prior experience needed.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is rapidly growing as a community, and while more and more women are joining, but we're still the minority. The purpose of Girls in Gis is to foster that community of women, because a lot of times you find, even now, Academies may only have one or two females in their school. So, they are used to having to train with guys - and they are bigger, stronger and built differently than women. Our events are a way to give women and girls more of an opportunity to train with partners their size and their skill level.
What can participants expect at this Girls In Gis event happening in Denver?
The event we're doing in Colorado is the first of its kind for us; our hope is to bring it the program to Colorado on an ongoing basis, like we do in Texas. This is a trial for us to see how it works within the Jiu Jitsu community in Colorado -- we already have more than eighty girls registered in Denver, and it's still growing.
For this event, we'll have three groups: advanced, beginner and kids, lead by four different women. Most of the women teaching will typically have been training for at least three years. In Jiu Jitsu, there's belts: white, blue, brown and black, and we have a brown belt from Easton Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and she'll be leading the advanced group.
We start with games to get everyone comfortable and allow for introductions - sharing how long they've trained, what brought them to Jiu Jitsu and why they started training. From there we go into warm-up -- it's an extension of the introduction, in terms of getting the girls comfortable. A lot of them have never met each other, or if they have, it's because they're competing against each other - which is a completely different dynamic than we're trying to create here.
With Girls in Gis, it's non-competitive; we're friends, we love Jiu Jitsu and we're just sharing the experience. Then we begin the instruction - the instructors will show a few moves and we'll go into what's called an "open mat" where they roll, drill, talk and hang out. Here in Texas, (this method) has really brought strength to the community. We had realized that we were only seeing each other when we were competing - we weren't friends, we weren't supportive of each other.
But through Girls and Gis events, it created a completely different dynamic; now we're networking and sharing and talking about our bad days on the mat. It brought unity to our community, even though we still compete against each other. But we go out there and we both want to win - but in the end, we support each other. And that's what we want to do in the Denver area.
We really try to reinforce that you should really be proud of the academy you come from and the school that you belong to. But it's our love for Jiu Jitsu that unites us. So that's what Girls In Gis is about.
Continue reading for more on the event.