Would you wear this while you roll?

So the RollTec Rashguard went live on Kickstarter today; “the world’s first wearable technology made for grapplers.” What do you think? For me, I think wearing a rashguard with a sensor in it when I roll would confirm what I already know; I spend waaaay too much time and energy trying to defend myself from under mount and side control!

Screenshot RollTech Rashguard Kickstarter page day 1

But I see how it could prove to be quite the motivator, and maybe even help me out of my long-term-white-belt funk.

I’m not really on the wearable tech-train (I don’t own an Apple watch or a Fitbit) but I DO like using the MyFitnessPal and Runkeeper apps on my iPhone. When I use them consistently they give me that nudge to stay on track with my good eating, or extend my park runs by just a little longer each time.

So, maybe wearing the RollTec Rashguard and seeing my position breakdowns (the four fundamentals) and roll timeline on the accompanying app will motivate me to break out of my usual routine?

Rolltech Rashguard position breakdown example

The app’s “suggested technique” videos are appealing, often I want to change things up on the mat, but am not quite sure what would make sense to try differently.

Some stand out points as I was reading through the Kickstarter info (there are loads of others):

  • A £68+ pledge ($99 USD) gets you the rashguard and sensor (with case) – more than a standard rashguard price but you know, wearable tech
  • The rashguard can be worn whether you train with or without a Gi – that’s good if you’re like me, and don’t do much no-gi training
  • Removable, USB-rechargeable sensor in a protective case – but the padded pouch that you put the sensor in, is attached to the rashguard, so it’s not interchangeable if you don’t happen to like the rashguard or need a fresh one
  • 75%-80% motion detection accuracy
  • Only you have to wear the RollTec Rashguard, your partner doesn’t need to
  • Bluetooth range for the rashguard is about 30 feet – this might be an issue if you don’t keep your smartphone in the room with you when you train?

RollTech Rashguard

Am I going to order a RollTec Rashguard?

Undecided. Part of me is inclined to wait and see, and maybe jump in when they release version 2 which, I’d imagine, would likely have greater accuracy and added functionality. Then again, version 2 won’t happen if version 1 doesn’t, and it would be a shame not to see this ‘smart’ rashguard brought to life.

There are lower amounts you can pledge to show your support without buying the rashguard so, either way I’ll definitely be supporting it.

Watch the video and read about the RollTec Rashguard in full on Kickstarter

Check out the RollTec Grappling website

Second stripe happened!

It’s been a long time coming, a LONG time going by the “usual” white belt journey depending on how you look at it.. but I’ve finally earned myself a second stripe!!

It’s a big deal – huge – because it’s the first one from my coaches here in London, Marco Canha and Bruno Ferreira, and a whole 2+ years since my last one.

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Bruno’s morning classes at Fightzone have provided me with some much-needed motivation and consistency over the last few months. Work and other competing evening commitments mean night classes are regularly pushed aside, but 7am twice a week? Perfect for this early bird!

In these classes I have found a really wonderful, encouraging crew and an attentive coach who couldn’t be more supportive and positive.

At every grading Marco talks about attitude and how important it is to not compare yourself to others on the mat. And it has taken me a long time to truly find my happy place in this sport, and accept my life and body’s limitations:

  • I can’t train five days a week and that’s ok!
  • Other white belts will start after me and progress faster than me, and that’s ok too!
  • I’m going to have lower back issues every so often, and I need to listen to and rest my body.
  • I’m not super flexible, but it doesn’t mean a move can’t still work for me in SOME way.

2015 has been a turning point year on a few fronts, all of them good. I think this second little stripe turned up at the time it was meant to, and I’m now really excited to work towards the third!

Working at NAGA UK

I got a new perspective on BJJ this weekend – from behind a scoring table at the North American Grappling Association’s (NAGA) UK championship.

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A fellow jits girl recruited me to be a ring coordinator for the day, and the role was exactly the type of jiu jitsu involvement I had been looking for. No competition nerves, just a little anxious about not wanting to mess up the scoring of anyone’s fights!

All the NAGA staff were super welcoming and supportive of us local ring-ins, training us in our roles in the morning before doors opened at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

I can happily report that no scoring mess ups occurred (to my knowledge), and my fear of being yelled at by some aggro fighter or parent of a little kid didn’t happen either, phew.

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There was one fight that ended in 7-0, and the friends of the losing grappler started abusing the referee, calling him racist and incompetent among other things. Huge respect for how the ref handled that, and the other mini dramas that cropped up during the course of the day; from crying kids and parents unhappy about the range of experience in their child’s weight division, to a couple of friends who had road tripped to London together from elsewhere in Europe, only to find themselves up against each other in their first fight.

My ref dealt with each issue amazingly, always looking for ways to keep everyone happy and to ensure they got the most out of their tournament. “After all, they’ve paid to be here – I’d like to see everyone with a fair opportunity to get more than one fight.”

I was expecting a late night after friends warned me that NAGA events usually run over by quite a lot. But the final fight was wrapping up by around six-thirty, and we were well done with the pack up by eight. All the mats and merch and medals were loaded on to a big truck to make their way to the next EU competition in Monaco.

Towards the end of the day President Kipp Kollar announced that more than 600 fighters had competed – a pretty sizeable amount to me, but apparently not as big a turnout as at some of their events in America. In saying that Kipp says the UK competition is growing each year.

I had a great time working NAGA (yes I was paid), and have a new level of respect for people who run grappling tournaments. They really do work their butts off to put on a good show.

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So, Have You Ever Tried BJJ?

What led you to take your first BJJ class? I stumbled into mine accidentally.

I rocked up to my gym in Melbourne for my usual kickboxing session, but I had read the timetable wrong.

“There’s no kickboxing on tonight, but Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is about to start – go jump in with the guys!”

I remember feeling so awkward, paired with a dude who was telling me to sit on him, grip his arm between my legs, press my chest into his back and try moving around whaaaat? SO many giggle moments for both of us and the poor guy may have copped a stray knee to the groin a few times too, oops.

I knew nothing about BJJ or grappling/wrestling or judo, but something about that class (other than the God-awful BO smell) stuck, and by my second class I had given BJJ a good google, and even bought a gi.

I’m a weird advocate for the sport. I kinda suck, struggle to make class consistently, don’t follow ‘the scene’ obsessively.. but I know how much I get out of training on a physical and mental level and am always keen to spread the love.

BJJ inevitably comes up in conversation when I’m meeting someone new. In this case that someone was a random Aussie girl I had followed for years on Twitter and vice versa.

She was in London, we caught up (met for the first time! Oooher) I mentioned BJJ and two days later she was wearing one of my gis and rashies, and attending Fightzone’s first Women’s Open Mat. Boom!

She had a blast, and seriously I couldn’t think of a better first jiu jitsu experience than with a mat full of friendly, uber supportive women.  I have a feeling I’ll be spying some BJJ tweets in her feed in the future.

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BJJ Globetrotters Fall Camp

Number of days spent in Copenhagen: Seven, longer than my first visit. Sights seen: Well.. a hostel, a gym, Christiania at night (just spectating mum) and Old Carlsberg Brewery at night. Yeah, that’s about it. Holiday rating out of 10: 11! Non-BJJ people think I’m crazy, but the chance to devote an entire week to training was pretty much the perfect holiday for me. After missing out on a spot at the sold out BJJ Globetrotters Summer Camp, I jumped at the chance to sign up for Fall Camp which also sold out pretty darn quickly. It was held at CSA.DK in Copenhagen, and the gym is located in a really impressive complex – they seem to have every sport under the sun at that place…. archery, ten pin bowling, fencing, all kinds of martial arts, so much wow. My days basically went like this:

8:30 AM breakfast, pack my gear, 10 minute walk from the hostel to the gym. 10:00AM BJJ gi class, maybe do the next class as well. Sit out a session or two to rest/roll/chat with people…2:00PM Do another class, and maybe another (I stuck to about 3 or 4 classes a day). More rest/roll/chatting, eat again somewhere in there. 6:30PM Walk back to the hostel. Haggle over laundry tokens, walk to the supermarket/go out for dinner, hang out with other  Globetrotters waiting for the washing to finish.

Got a big butt, may as well own it.
Got a big butt, may as well own it.

Christian Graugart put together a jam-packed schedule of classes with a really impressive instructor lineup. Along with multiple gi and no-gi classes each day, we could jump into wrestling, judo, boxing, kickboxing and MMA. This was no hardcore training camp however – some of the 140-odd participants devoted all of their time to training, but many took half (or whole) days off to sightsee or recover from partying.

Eric Bydairk's wrestling classes were a highlight - though I still feel as worried as those dudes in the background look when it comes to takedowns.
Eric Bydairk’s wrestling classes were a highlight – though I still feel as worried as those dudes in the background look when it comes to takedowns.

It was such a thrill just to be surrounded by like-minded people all week, and there were no egos on show – the black belts who were teaching classes were also participating and socialising with us lowly white belts. Higher belts were asking ME for a roll, whaaaat?! I was given lots of advice, which I gladly took on board. 2014-09-25 15.14.33 I made some notes on the techniques that seemed to work well for me. A lot of them came from Christian and Daniel Marquez’s sessions. It was interesting to see all the different ways people were going about documenting what they were learning. Some were glued to their video cameras, others left the mat regularly to take notes or did it straight after the class. I liked David George’s advice which was not to film, but to fully participate in his classes, then film yourself doing the techniques later. 10662035_10152255278391876_6619861301384643377_o (2)Oh yeah, this guy Keenan rocked up one night too and took us through the Worm Guard/variations (of which I could do like, two). He decided to make it a gi-only seminar and devoted a good 45 minutes at the end to taking on all the camp black belts (you’ve probably seen the video) down to a few purples. With all the travelling he was doing, Keenan said working that part into his seminars meant he could at least get his own BJJ training in everyday.

Keenan Cornelius Vs Christian Graugart
Keenan Cornelius Vs Christian Graugart
Contrary to my Instagram declaration.. yes I did wash my rashie.
Contrary to my Instagram declaration.. yes I did wash my rashie.

A couple of Keenan insights from his Q&A: when at home he only trains four days a week, taking off Wednesdays and weekends. And he doesn’t incorporate any vitamins/protein shakes into his diet. He also doesn’t really change much about his training schedule leading up to a competition, finding that it only adds extra pressure if he does. Oh, and (smiling at the time) he called Kit Dale irresponsible for being all anti-drilling. Being you know, Keenan Cornelius, he doesn’t need to drill anymore but says he might do 30 minutes or so of something as a warm up. On Saturday morning we could participate in a friendly in-house competition. I chose to help keep score rather than compete (hell, I was on holiday after all!). Did I wish I’d entered later though? But of course. There were maybe 12-15 women in total at camp. I got to catch up with Marie again which was fab, and experience the (literally) breathtaking pressure of purple belt Kira Ingelsrudøyen from Norway, who I am in total awe of. I also met Jodie Bear and am really looking forward to catching up with her again in the UK. You’ve probably read (and like me maybe related to) this great piece of hers on big girl BJJ problems.

I had this under control, I swear..
I had this under control, I swear..

I flew my tired (slightly hungover) self home at the end of the week with a bunch of new techniques to work on, pretty Globetrotters merch stuffed in my suitcase and lots of invitations to visit places in Europe (and the US!) that I hadn’t even thought about travelling to. I sure as hell am thinking about it now though. What a wonderful BJJ team and community you have created Christian, thank you and see you at the next camp.

"One is the loneliest number.." so us solo country kids had a group shot.
“One is the loneliest number..” so us solo country kids had a group shot.

Hello from Copenhagen!

A quick hej from BJJ Globetrotters Fall Camp – I’m having a blast training with approximately 140 other BJJ fanatics from all over the world.

Csa.dk taking some wonderful photos each day of camp.
Csa.dk taking some wonderful photos each day of camp.

It’s day three and I have taken the morning off to rest my aching muscles and catch up on work emails, but I’ll be back to it in a few hours – wrestling and no-gi class here I come!

Tomorrow will be an exciting day.. Mister Worm Guard himself is paying us a visit! Woohoo.

I am frequently posting pics to @GypsyGirlInGi Twitter and Insta, and #BJJGlobetrotters – check it. X

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Time In Malta (take me back!)

Arriving at Gatwick Airport to see rain bucketing down made me want to get right back on a plane to Malta! I had such an amazing week connecting with family in the village where my dad spent his early childhood.. more on that in another post though.

If you think the BJJ scene is small in your city – try having just two (maybe three) clubs … in your entire country. That’s the reality in Malta.

With the total population coming in at under half a million, it’s not surprising that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is still very much in its’ infancy.

Image: maltabulb.com
Image: maltabulb.com

As Brown Belt Keith Darmanin told BJJ Eastern Europe – he had to incorporate MMA/striking into his classes originally, just to keep people motivated.

Keith’s academy BJJ Team Malta (established 2010) was the first on the island, and it’s the only club focused solely on BJJ.

There is also a Checkmat team, Fight Legion and Keith tells me the scene consists of just a few other MMA clubs, one of which is doing some gi training.

Naturally in a market of this size students are going to regularly gym-hop to maximize their opportunities to train, which makes it interesting come competition time! Keith says local grappling comps like this one see fighters sort of representing multiple clubs.

He has students travelling to the big tournaments in Europe and coming home with medals, including his first purple belt – a female by the name of Michelle Zarb who was also the first Maltese woman to ever get promoted in BJJ (Keith being the first ever Maltese, under Master Rogerio Olegario).

I could not have received a warmer welcome when I visited. Carry-on luggage restrictions meant I could only fit no gi gear, but the guys on the mat were all very accommodating and put up with me slip-sliding around! Being the middle of Summer it was so muggy, I’m impressed they keep up the gi training at this time of year with just the standard gym fan to get the air moving.

Language-wise, pretty much everyone in Malta speaks english and whether for my benefit or not – Keith taught in english that night so that made things easy.

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Kudos to Keith for pioneering BJJ in Malta – I will see you all again on my next visit soon!

Meet Marie

I came away from my long weekend in Strasbourg with another girl-crush – I have these frequently in BJJ. There are so many awesome women in this sport helping to enrich the experience for the rest of us, regardless of our rank or motivation to train.

In this case, the incredibly warm welcome I received from Marie-Laure Kocher has stayed with me, and made me realise how much of a difference a gesture as simple as a smile can make when directed at a club newcomer – even more so when that newcomer doesn’t speak the local language!

So here’s a little more on the lovely Marie.

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I first discovered BJJ as I studied in La Rochelle, a city on the west coast of France. One day during a judo class, I sparred with a guy who rolled in all directions like a cat (Guillaume Baudoin who is now a BJJ black belt and instructor at Spirit JJB). He just arrived in the city and wanted to open a BJJ academy. I was a bit bored with judo at that time (I practised for around 12 years) so I took benefit of this opportunity to discover a new martial art.

The BJJ scene in Strasbourg is beginning to grow. There is the Gracie Barra academy (around 60 members) which was the first in town. Christian Sardella has done a lot to develop BJJ in the area. Now there are two sister academies in the south of the city. Recently a Brazilian black belt has opened BJJ classes in a kickboxing/MMA gym.

I don’t know that much about the BJJ scene in France. There are academies in the biggest cities, but it’s not as developed as in countries like the UK, Germany or even Switzerland. Actually martial arts are not that popular in France. I would like to discover more academies in France over the next few years, and visit Florence Couzin’s academy (one of the first, if not the first, female BJJ black belt in Europe, she also won the worlds as a black belt).

My biggest challenge in training BJJ was first stepping on the mat being the only woman in the class, then returning and continuing to train. It is sometimes hard to be the only girl on the mat (still the case today). By the way I wrote an article about that on my blog which represents my experience as a beginner.

The best of my travels late last year (which included Australia) was definitely the BJJ people I met along the way. Each of them made the visit unique. I wrote articles about every academy we (my boyfriend and I) trained at. I experienced BJJ in a different way.

If you’re coming to Strasbourg, you must of course explore the city center. It’s really nice to walk around or to bicycle around the middle age streets, buildings and the riverside. Historic places to see: the Cathedral, la Petite France, and the “Neustadt” quarter. There are some interesting museums for people who like history. Also go to the European quarter (with the UE Parliament and the European Court Human Rights) and the Orangerie park.

Petite France Photo: Courtesy of the Strasbourg Tourism Office
Petite France
Photo: Courtesy of the Strasbourg Tourism Office

Strasbourg and all Alsace is famous for its cuisine and wine. People should try for example a real Tarte flambée, a choucroute or a Baeckeoffe, munster cheese. To drink: riesling, gewurtzraminner and, of course, a beer with Picon 😉

Strasbourg is really nice in the summer. When it’s sunny, locals like to be outside and have a drink. There are many nice bars around the city center. During the summertime there are also a few growing music festivals in Strasbourg or close to the city.

Photo: Courtesy of the Strasbourg Tourism Office.
Photo: Courtesy of the Strasbourg Tourism Office.

In December, it is all decorated with Christmas lights (and a huge Christmas tree). There is a big Christmas market in the city where you can find local food, warm wine and handcraft.

Christmas Market at the Cathedral Photo: Courtesy of the Strasbourg Tourism Office.
Christmas Market at the Cathedral
Photo: Courtesy of the Strasbourg Tourism Office.

I can’t wait to catch up with Marie again in the future at BJJ Globetrotter events. Be sure to pay her club a visit if you ever find yourself in Strasbourg.

Surprising Myself

I did it! It has been a long time coming, but I finally mustered up enough courage to enter my first Gi competition on the weekend and I did much better than I expected.

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I wasn’t exactly prepared – I decided to compete only two weeks prior, and then hurt my back so figured I’d have to pull out. But I felt okay enough the night before, and this comp was what I knew I needed to do to boost my progression and show my coach I actually want to improve.

I was a stressed-out bundle of nerves come the day of the Southend Open – I’d talked myself down so much during the week, I’d gone from ‘I’m aiming for better than bronze’ (there were only three of us in the weight category) to ‘I just want to put up a good fight, not get stuck underneath the whole time, maybe not get subbed in the first five seconds…’

My first fight was the hardest, but I lasted the whole five minutes, and was actually leading at the start before losing on points.

Photo: James Dennis/Southend Open
Photo: James Dennis/Southend Open
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Photo: James Dennis/Southend Open

I was only supposed to fight twice, but after the second fight which I won on points (woohoo!) the organisers asked for girls to enter the Absolute category.

I was already in the heaviest female weight division of the day so why not, right?

Photo: James Dennis/Southend Open
Photo: James Dennis/Southend Open

I won my first two fights (though again no subs) and ended up facing the same woman as before for 1st/2nd place.

To be honest I was dog tired by the final and mustered as much energy as I had left, but she got an americana … pretty quickly, and it was all over.

Photo: James Dennis/Southend Open
Photo: James Dennis/Southend Open

I didn’t mind though, she was a beast – and I was already over the moon with how I’d performed. I didn’t do anything uber spectacular in the fights but I was able to keep my balance and stay on top a lot of the time, and I managed scrambly-but-successful guard passing!

Of course my coach was right – I’ve learnt so much from the experience and now have a platform from which to start being that bit more specific with how I train.

A chat with a teammate later that day is what will really stay with me though.. she said I have to cement this moment in my mind, hold onto the happy, confident feeling and only look forward. Build on it now, don’t go back to that uncertain, self-doubting place I was in before.

I’m going to stay as far away from it as I possibly can.

Photo: James Dennis/Southend Open
Photo: James Dennis/Southend Open

Wine, Cheese, (Beer!) And BJJ

Partially bailing on a girls weekend in France for BJJ? I thankfully have some very understanding friends. While they don’t ‘get’ the sport, they certainly do get that it’s special enough to have me gushing like a teenager after attending a class on our first night in town.

I honestly didn’t know much about Strasbourg before this trip, other than it being near Germany, and one of the seats of the European parliament. But thanks mostly to super cheap EasyJet flights, I found myself in the main city of the Alsace region in eastern France, asking for directions to Gracie Barra 67 (thank God for Google translate).

I was reminded yet again just how awesome – and small the BJJ universe is, when I met the only other girl in the gi and no gi class, Marie-Laure. It turned out she had recently been travelling on my ‘home’ side of the world, AND rolling with some of my favourite AGIG  ladies! You should read her most excellent blog.

Marie quickly took me under her wing, partnering me and translating instructors Geoffrey Kintz and Christian Sardella.

This particular night’s classes were less focussed on techniques and more on rolling rounds, giving me the opportunity to be paired up with (and squashed by) pretty much everyone on the mat. Later, Marie was great in letting me work through some specific techniques with her.

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After class, in true BJJ Globetrotter spirit (a team/movement I only recently heard about, ashamedly) Marie not only offered me a ride back to my hotel, but also a walking tour of Strasbourg the following day.

Taking in and learning about the sights from a local’s perspective.. what could be better, seriously?

How about hanging with her BJJ teammates at a cool little beer festival right next to a stunning gothic cathedral? Yup, I got to do that too, and nervously say “une bière s’il vous plait” – baby steps, you know.

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Meantime back with my girlfriends, copius amounts of cheese was gleefully eaten along with way too many croissants and pastries. I also inhaled my fair share of the local specialty – flammekueche. Did I mention the Alsace wine? There was plenty of that too, naturally.

We also wandered around the Petit France quarter, took a boat tour and caught the train to the pretty town of Colmar.

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I’d love to head back to Strasbourg at the end of the year to experience the Christmas Markets. After such a warm welcome however, I could easily return to this city just for more BJJ.