Jiu Jitsu Training: A Female Black Belt Perspective

Professors DeBlass, Tonon, Russell and Ricardo Almeida at Ocean County BJJ

Jiu Jitsu Times recently caught up with Professor Tom DeBlass and student Jen Allen Russell.  Jen is Professor DeBlass’ first female black belt having received her black belt alongside Garry Tonon.  The topic of conversation was the importance of women training in jiu jitsu and some advice on how to approach it from both Jen and Professor DeBlass’ perspective.

Some key points from the conversation:

Professor Russell

Heavier opponents–It’s important to train with heavier, stronger partners whether male or female.  By thoughtfully and constantly challenging your jiu jitsu and your limits, you will be better prepared for competition and for real-life self defense scenarios.

Body control–Professor Russell compared the way she trains with younger students as being very similar to how Professor DeBlass would train with her.  By focusing 100% on technique and body control, she learns to control not only her opponents body, but to also control her own body more effectively.

Professor DeBlass

The first step–According to Professor DeBlass, we must recognize how hard it can be to walk through the academy door that first time.  The world of the martial arts can sometimes be seen as intimidating and scary to everyone, especially women who are already at a natural disadvantage from a natural strength perspective.  We must go out of our ways to make sure their experience is great from the outset.

Trust is crucial–Building those connections with your training partners and fostering a culture of trust will allow all partners to develop accordingly.  Sometimes when Professor DeBlass wants to go a little harder with Professor Russell, he will let her know and she has the trust in their relationship to recognize the challenge is only to make her a better martial artist.


In this video, Professor Russell and Professor DeBlass free spar.

Professor Jen Allen Russell shows an arm drag to back take and finishes with a bow and arrow choke.


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