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.
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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.

BJJ Bonanza – belated recap.

Oh, look!

It’s my long-awaited recap of BJJ Camp, Copenhagen!

 Briefly though, to cover off on some FAQs from family and friends..

–       I am loving London so very much.

 –       Yes, I’m gainfully employed – having fun and working with some great people at a hospitality agency HQ (managing staff recruitment and general admin), though the master plan is still to move into a Media Comms/PR role. The industry is a much tougher nut to crack than anticipated (said almost every Aussie in London ever, I’m discovering).

–       The feral flatmate refuses to acknowledge my nudges toward a cleaner, more considerate home life- but he may be moving out soon so, yay to the end of mouldy leftovers lying about the kitchen!!

–       I heard/read/tweeted on the big changes in Melbourne radio. Matt & Jo and Hughsey & Kate’s will be big shoes to fill. I’m very excited to hear how the market sounds in the New Year. 

–       Yep, it’s getting chillier.  Did someone say we’re expecting the worst Winter for decades? 

– I’m keeping those affected by the NSW bushfires in my thoughts – stay safe everyone and please give generously if you can.

  • To be honest the gorgeous city of Copenhagen in Denmark wasn’t high on my must-see list – but finding out about a ladies BJJ camp there had me booking my first ever EasyJet flight. Happy to report it was totally drama free, much like Tiger Airways in Oz just be sure to check in online, pre purchase any checked baggage and rock up nice and early.

Organised by Ida Hansson and Shanti Abelha, 8 x World Champion and 3x ADCC Champion Hanette Staack was the very special guest teacher for the three day training camp at Arte Suave.

 I arrived a day early to squeeze in some sight seeing – which as usual I didn’t plan, and regretted it later. Carlsberg Brewery! Lego Land! A Viking exhibition currently on at the museum! So many reasons to return with a proper touristy agenda next time.

I did get a lovely overview of the city with Copenhagen Free Walking Tours though – saw the Little Mermaid and where Crown Princess Mary and her family live at Amalienborg Palace.  Our guide Rikke explained how down to earth the Danish Royals and locals are; Mary and Fred’s eldest children attend a public school, and the family can pretty much cycle through the city without being mobbed by the public or the press.

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 Friday afternoon it was time to drag my suitcase to the gym for camp! So much for never planning to sleep on grappling mats again without an air mattress – just a sleeping bag and makeshift pillow resulted in an uncomfy couple of night’s sleep – but it was well worth it.

Myself, and safe to say everyone else had serious air bed envy.
Myself, and safe to say everyone else had serious air bed envy.

 32 ladies from nine different countries and 22 academies participated in the camp. All belts represented, it was such a privilege to have grappling time with so many highly skilled BJJ women!

There were five gi classes over the three days, and one no-gi – each class a good hour and a half, some as long as two hours with free rolling time in between for those keen to keep training.

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Hanette, Shanti and Ida took turns teaching some of their favourite techniques.

One month on and what do I remember? I’ll be honest, not a lot sitting in my room typing this – shame on me for not taking more notes at the time.

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On the mat though, I have a few extra sweeps to play around with – and some half guard positioning I hadn’t tried before.

 Hanette was very generous with her time – she came out to dinner with all of us on the Saturday night and made it her mission to learn everyone’s names by the end of camp (mission accomplished).

Hanette opened up about her own rocky Jiu Jitsu journey, with Shanti and Ida also offering words of wisdom and advice.

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From Ida, something I think many BJJ girls can say they’re the victims – or perpetrators of at some point; “Don’t be the b*#ch at your academy, pushing the new girls away to keep the attention of the guys on you. We’re not many, be nice to each other and help each other.”

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It was a very fun and empowering weekend, learning from such incredible women. There were also language barriers to overcome (I was reminded of the double meaning for ‘thongs’), sports bras and gis hanging off every possible drying space to keep track of, and we even had a very cute reason to eat cake just before all heading home. 

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