In July of 2013, I started learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (bjj for short) from my local bjj school, Wrightson of Towson. If you have ever done bjj, my experience may be similar to yours. If you’re looking into getting started with bjj, you may enjoy reading what I went through. I began as a yoga instructor there, teaching yoga classes twice a week and started watching the gi classes. It reminded me of my childhood. There was an innate desire to roll around with my fellow human being. Like everything you learn in life, you must start at the beginning. Going in to any new place can seem intimidating, though I must admit, being that “tomboy” during my childhood and into adulthood, I have always felt very comfortable around males. Regardless of my background, I was met with a friendly atmosphere of others like me that just wanted to learn. Lessons come in many different forms.
I had two weeks of training before sitting out for the next two months recovering from a planned surgery. I would still teach the yoga classes there but I recalled sitting on the couch just watching and wanting to practice the movements. I didn’t even know what I was watching. Had no clue what a “guard” was but I kept my eyes peeled because this was a new experience for me. A love was born, just like my immersion into yoga, I knew within the first month that this was something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life, happily. My clumsy wrestling childhood through trial and error was pitiful compared to actual instruction from an experienced teacher. Once I was cleared to train, I showed up to every single class my schedule would allow for. I felt like I was having three humans sitting on top of my body when I was pinned or that I flew off the person while in mount the first couple times. It was a little rough on my body at first. However, the body will adapt though and accommodate what you put it through. I also had a regular workout routine involving weights, cardio, and explosive movement exercises, coupled with my personal yoga practice that greatly assisted in the physical demands.
Soon, I started to see and feel a pattern with the movements. I saw a pattern with how I responded. Learning the fundamentals was exciting! The first step to a long journey I was happy to take. What greatly helped me the most, was my coach helping me develop my own style, and having reliable training partners.
Just a side note for those with long hair: Find a way to secure your hair. Nothing was more annoying to me (and still is) when my hair is pinned down to the ground and it affects my head movement. I MAY just learn how to braid my hair or continue the double pony tail holder bun technique. I keep teasing that I will come in bald one day but you know the saying “All truth in jest”, right? For now, I ask my sister to braid my hair into two french braids for tournaments.
Continuing on, I went to other gyms and practiced with different people and different bjj styles from different states. I entered my first local tournament within the first 6 months of training and took second place. (Youtube Video Links: First match here and second match here) While there, I got to connect with more female competitors and was introduced to the Mid Atlantic Grappling Girls community, MAGG for short. (Facebook link to MAGG) I was introduced to many other women in the BJJ community and enjoyed the seminar. Usually, bjj and grappling classes are dominated by men so it was a great way to see future competitors and current practitioners gather together from all over the east coast!
Returning to my home gym after that tournament, I wanted to work harder and train smarter (my time was started to become limited as I was back in school and spent days studying and attending classes) to prepare for my next competition, the 2014 IBJJF NY Summer Open (Youtube Video Links: first match here and second match here). I went in Saturday with stitches still in my mouth from the emergency tooth extraction that was done a few days earlier, Monday (you can see in video 2 my reaction to having my mouth hit around the 0:45 second mark). I don’t think it affected my performance too much. Talking to other more experienced BJJ competitors, they all have gone through something like this. Soon afterwards, I was promoted to blue belt at the gym, where I still train.
A note on owning a Gi (Kimono): Having multiple gis is really helpful, and you won’t stink to your classmates. You constantly use them and they will wear out over time or in my case, if you train twice a day you won’t have time to wash and dry (air dry only!) the gi in that short amount of time, so you’ll need at least a second one to use in between washing the other gi.
When you find a passion, nothing is an obstacle. This is the first post of many on this subject. If you’re thinking of trying something out, do not hesitate. Tomorrow will never come, action is for the present.
What are you waiting for? Life is lived through the movement we do now!
Comment below if you want to share your current or previous white belt experience!