We are always developing and researching new programs, and look forward to telling you about them when they’re ready. These are the projects that we already have up and running:
Free LGBTQIA+ Martial Arts Class
Every Friday we host a beginner-level martial arts class at Four Elements Fitness in Oakland, CA, for the LGBTQIA+ community, focusing on mixed grappling arts. The class is drop-in, and is free to attend.
In 2016 a group of Bay Area organizers saw that LGBTQIA people were asking desperately for access to self-defense, but were reluctant to attend existing self-defense programs. They found that the major reason for this was that while martial arts studios advertised LGBT-acceptance, they did not have protocols in place for anti-homophobia or gender-affirmation, and were unable to accommodate trans students with difficult relationships to their bodies. Over the next few years, they developed a program with Four Elements Fitness to specifically solve those issues. In 2019, that group of organizers founded Traction Project to make this martial arts program free-to-attend, financially stable, and expandable.
Because it is so unique in the martial arts world to center trans people’s needs in a curriculum, Traction Project’s Friday class is regularly visited by LGBTQIA martial artists from around the world who are looking to build similar programs in their own locales. As Traction Project’s network and financial ability expands, we hope to be able to provide assistance to programs beyond the one we started.
Four Elements Fitness is a Woman-of-Color owned & operated martial arts gym in downtown Oakland. It is known for a small but amazingly supportive community, is also the new home of the acclaimed Sweaty Beatty’s BJJ club, and we are proud to be working with them.
Transfighters Teacher Development Program
The Transfighters Teacher Development program takes a handful of intermediate trans and non-binary students and provides them with gym memberships to train in their choice of advanced martial arts classes.
This is not just an expansion of our free LGBTQIA beginner’s class, but our way to ensure a future for that sibling program. One of the biggest reasons it has been so hard to provide a good martial arts training environment for trans people, specifically, is that there are almost no experienced trans martial artists in the world. While creating gender-affirmative environments in a gym has been an important step forward, trans students have many barriers to training that non-trans instructors have never themselves experienced. Having trans role models in martial arts is also a huge confidence boost for people who are timid about starting training.
It can take a student 2 years to gain enough experience to become a teacher’s assistant, and as much as 10 years to master an art enough to become an instructor. Because most of the students coming through our LGBTQIA+ program are primarily interested in learning self-defense for their personal safety, they have little incentive to continue training beyond a rudimentary level. Normally, combat sports competitions are how people become interested in extended training in martial arts, but the majority of combat sports are still closed to trans participants, especially non-binary-gender people. Traction Project sees that cultivating new martial arts teachers who are trans is essential to a sustainable program, and has created a martial arts teacher development program to encourage and support students who are interested in more than just our free introductory class.
The number of teaching-track students we can support is directly related to our funding, so please consider making a donation to keep this program growing.