Jiu-Jitsu is a self-defense martial art and combat sport consisting of grappling, ground fighting, and using leverage and timing to place opponents into a submission hold, forcing them to “tap out.”
Founded in 2013 by Oklahoma native Jenn Gray, She-Jitsu offers Jiu-Jitsu training exclusively to women.
“I witnessed a lot of violence growing up and experienced violence against myself growing up as well. So, I had a hard time growing up, which predisposed me to anxiety and depression. Later on in my early twenties [I struggled with] alcohol and drug addiction,” Gray said.
Gray experienced traumatic events when she was 19 and 22 years old. She began using drugs almost daily just to cope with the trauma.
“I kind of just gave up on life. I was living just a very miserable existence. I really didn’t care if I lived or died. I was in a really dark place when I found Jiu-Jitsu. When I went to a class, [it had] been years since I had been to a gym or worked out. I was very unhealthy. I was also dealing with eating disorder. There was nothing healthy about my lifestyle whatsoever,” she said.
In 2008, Gray walked into her first Jiu-Jitsu class, not expecting much. Afterward, she sat in her car and cried for several minutes.
“I didn’t really understand why I loved it so much. But I kept coming back. And when I started Jiu-Jitsu 14 years ago, there were maybe five women in the state of Oklahoma training Jiu-Jitsu at that time. The female Jiu-Jitsu community, even around the world, had not [come] to be at that point. There wasn’t a women’s Jiu-Jitsu community back then. I was training with all men. There would be a woman pop in here and there, but for the most part, it was just me and a bunch of guys.”
Gray described the difficulty of training with all men. However, she did not dwell on it, as her mind shut off while practicing Jiu-Jitsu.
“This is my therapy,” she said.
Gray credits Jiu-Jitsu as the “catalyst” to her entire healing journey. By practicing Jiu-Jitsu, she was able to get sober. She realized if she spent her time drinking alcohol and using drugs, she wouldn’t feel like going to Jiu-Jitsu. She began attending therapy, eating a better diet, and creating healthier habits.
“I started She-Jitsu because I wanted to get more women to train Jiu-Jitsu because of the way it made me feel. And I wanted to share the benefits that I was gaining from Jiu-Jitsu with other women,” Gray said.
Now a first-degree black belt, Gray has had the opportunity to instruct hundreds of women with the seminars, classes, and camps She-Jitsu offers.
“I [want] to use [She-Jitsu] as a way to make women feel more comfortable coming into an environment like [this] because it is very intimidating, especially if they are a sexual assault survivor or a survivor of domestic violence,” she said.
Gray explained how Jiu-Jitsu could sound like a very violent sport to outsiders.
“Jiu-Jitsu is based [on] leverage and timing. That means it doesn’t require strength and it doesn’t require speed. When we learn how to use our bodies as leverage as women, that gives us a huge advantage over someone who’s bigger and stronger than us.”
“The core of women’s self-defense is learning how to preserve our energy during an assault or even a domestic violence situation. Because once we’re exhausted, we just give up.”
Gray also educates women on setting boundaries and teaches tactics to help identify potential predators.
“[We want to] lower our risk of overall assaults,” she said.
80% of all victims know their abuser before an assault takes place. Join She-Jitsu to begin learning self-defense today.
Visit shejitsu.com for more information. She-Jitsu takes place Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. at 114 E Queen Isabella Blvd., Port Isabel, TX, 78578.