A quick reminder about equality in an important year.
This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, granting women the right to vote, striking a huge blow in the ongoing fight for equality. But the fight still hasn’t been won.
As Jiu Jitsu practitioners, we all know that gender orientation, age, race, size, belt rank, none of those things matter on the mat. What matters is technique. With proper technique, you’re just as likely to get submitted by a female-identifying white belt 10 years younger and 20 pounds lighter than you as you are a male-identifying black belt 10 years your senior and 20 pounds heavier.
Because of the mechanics involved, Jiu Jitsu can be viewed as egalitarian, possibly one of the only combat sports that can rightfully earn that tag.
But let’s not go patting ourselves on the back just yet. Just because the essence of our sport comes from a place of “equal opportunity combat”, it doesn’t mean that any one of us is off the hook in the fight for equality.
So let’s count this moment as one reminder among many. Let’s remind ourselves to attack inequality when we see it. Not just in our own personal lives, but in the structure of our industry. Because if everyone is truly treated equally on the mat, then they should be treated equally when it comes to competitions, enrollments and with gear that actually works for their bodies.
It’s progression. Something we also understand as students. Not all progress involves a massive leap forward (like winning the fight for the right to vote), sometimes it involves smaller progressions. Like working to create a locker room free of language that promotes the “othering” of marginalized communities.
The list goes on, but we’re not here to scold, we’re here to remind: Jiu Jitsu has equality in its DNA, let’s make sure it continues to be represented IRL. This 100 year anniversary is a great reminder of how far we’ve come in the fight for equality, but we still have a long way to go.