Leuven summer camp day 1: Control the space

“Where are you from? Australia! Wow you’ve come a long way to camp!”

“Yeah but no actually, I live in France, not quite as far..” I had this conversation on repeat during day 1 of BJJ Globetrotters Summer Camp in Leuven, but I didn’t mind much.

The speed dating part of the welcome session was a great opportunity to try to start putting names to faces, and learn where in the world everyone is from. However with 200+ people at camp, Christian told us not to feel bad about needing to introduce ourselves to the same people multiple times this week!

Germany, Malaysia, UK, Iceland, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, USA.. the international atmosphere here is awesome.

I was really happy to see a good bunch of people I’d met at the 2014 Copenhagen Fall Camp, including a guy I had given one of my ‘gypsy girl’ patches to – he’d sewn it onto his gi – so cool!

Keeping with tradition, Christian taught the first class of camp – “Bellybutton touching contest + attacking made easy.” I really like Christian’s teaching style and the way he encourages us to look at things simply: fundamentally jiu jitsu is all about defending the space between your chest and your knees. Open up when you have control of the space, and close when you don’t have control.

“Imagine you’re in a castle and you run out to attack, but run back in when the enemy advances.”

Christian believes that approaching rolls like this allows you to be more creative; you’re worried less about executing particular moves and instead just focus on putting/keeping something in that chest-to-knee space to control it – and it can be anything – an arm, a knee, your head, how about a finger? He encouraged us to experiment and see what worked and what didn’t.

“If your first focus is to take the space, everything else (passing etc) is going to be easier.”

“Just fucking shoot and hope they don’t get past your cannons” – common mistake.

Christian also got us to try rolling while one of us commentated out loud, to show how we should work on that flow chart in our heads.

It certainly took a lot of the usual stress out of the roll for me. Instead of thinking ahead and trying to remember set ups, I kept focused on just getting into that space and staying there – and I found myself naturally turning to moves that made sense for the position I was in.

Leuven here I come!

Selfie from the start of the journey… I'm on my way to Nancy to meet up with a fellow BJJ Globetrotter, to hitch a ride with him to Summer Camp in Leuven, Belgium.

We've never met before but, minor detail. I've done a thorough Facebook-stalk, and am 99% sure he's not an axe murderer.

I'm so excited for camp! It's my first BJJ Globetrotters camp since Copenhagen in 2014. A few people I met at that camp are on the participant list for this one, so I'm looking forward to catching up with them, and throwing myself into a week of training.. maybe a bit of partying too.

BJJ has certainly taken a back seat since I moved to Strasbourg – part life excuses, part lazy me. It's going to be such a treat to spend the next seven days away from my laptop and focused on jiu jitsu. And – little wins – all the instruction will be in English. 😉

32nd birthday of surprises

I hadn’t thought ahead too much to my birthday this year. It’s funny how after the angst of turning 30 passed, my birthday just became a bit uneventful again. Also being in Strasbourg, I didn’t have my gym crew or other friends close by to arrange a pub session like I would have if I was still in London. But I needed to mark 32 somehow, so I arranged a lunch date with girlfriends, another one with the man, and I thought that would be it. Turns out.. it wasn’t!

Birthday day

I met up with some GGI girlfriends on the Friday that was my birthday. We had a nice catch up, ate delicious food at East Canteen, I was wearing a favourite outfit that day, it felt like a pretty nice way to mark my birthday.

I haven’t been making many BJJ sessions of late – let’s face it, it has been a trend since my Strasbourg move. So going to class that night was on the agenda – what’s better than birthday rolls?! I had a few cards and little parcels sent to me by friends and family, so I left them on the coffee table for when we got home. Growing up, my mum always used to tell us that a present gets better, the longer you wait to open it.

Present surprise

The man had added his card to the pile too, and if I’d read it before we left the house I would probably have known what I’d find when he pulled his car out of the garage… but since I didn’t, cue shock and lots of happy/embarrassing crying!

I have wanted a bike for ages, and he got me the exact style/colour that I wanted, complete with a basket.

Black bicycle with basket

Surprise….party!

We’d already planned to head to a vegetarian restaurant on the weekend, and one of the girls I’d had lunch with on the Friday – Chelsea – told me to drop by her house to pick up a gift. Honestly, I had no idea, and no thought that it might be a ploy for something else… even when she suggested we head on in to their garden for a drink before we continued on to the centre of the city to shop! Yes I’m so gullible…

Hiding for the surprise birthday moment

And I was so overwhelmed.

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More happy tears!

It meant so much that Chelsea and Yannick had gathered all of the people in my life here in Strasbourg – from GGIs to jiu jitsu teammates, co-work office colleagues and French classmates. How lucky I am to have so many incredible friends in this place!

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And I even got homemade lamingtons and fairy bread thanks to fellow Aussie Victoria, and a stunning cake thanks to Chelsea and Marlene’s excellent taste.

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This birthday is going to be tough to top, definitely one to remember.

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A big thank you to Andrea and Kevin for taking all of these great photos. ❤

Cracking out the ‘fat gi’

We all have one – the gi that, despite a few hot washes, hasn’t shrunk to be a perfect fit. The sleeves are still a bit long, the pants baggy, the jacket shrugs too easily off your shoulders during warmups and rolls. It’s the gi that usually languishes at the mid-to-bottom-end of your weekly rotation.

For me, this is a white (blargh) Fuji Sekai women’s gi, and right now it’s my go-to. Why? Because life is busy, I’m not training regularly or doing much interval running, so I’m in chunky-girl mode. In reality, I’m only a few kilos heavier than usual, but it’s enough to make my two favourite 93 Brand gis a bit tight: “Sorry, can’t do spider guard tonight, might split my pants/can’t get my legs high enough..”

How do you keep active when life gets busy?

I need to do more than this, but here’s how I’m trying to keep the calorie creep at bay while I’m not training much:

  • I jog to the tram stop really, because I always forget to check when exactly the next tram is arriving, and usually it’s on the approach just as I’m rounding the corner. But there’s nothing like a frantic little jog to get your heart pounding in the morning.
  • I get off a stop early and walk a few extra hundred metres to the office. But not if it’s raining. Because meh to that.
  • I do workout videos in my living room. My favourites at the moment are Sophia Drysdale’s 5 Day Workout Challenge – booty,  abs,  full body cardio .. at 8-9 minutes they’re the perfect length for my attention span when I have a lot on my mind. I usually choose two or three, then cycle through them a few times so I’ve had a solid-feeling workout.

I also went on a bit of a fitness app downloading spree… I haven’t even opened up all of them yet but I have stumbled onto some fun, short-but-tough video routines I keep revisiting.

  • I hula hoop. Sometimes I’ll do a hooping workout and other times I’ll just pick it up and muck around for 5 or 10 minutes in my work day, when I need to get away from the computer and take a break. (Pro tip: move your laptop out of the way lest you accidentally hoop it off a desk..)

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My standard hooping face.

None of these activities are as satisfying to me as a BJJ or cardio boxing class, but they fill the void well enough, and keep me from outgrowing my ‘fat gi.’

How do you stay active when you’re not making it to training?

My first two months in Strasbourg

Wow, my first two months in Strasbourg have FLOWN! It’s amazing how settled you can become in eight weeks… London? Where? Did I actually live there for three years? Really??

Although, when I headed back there recently for a few days, it felt like I was just returning from a regular visit to see the man; the only difference being that I was staying at a hotel and not my cosy old East London share flat.

But back to my new hood! Here’s a little highlight reel.

I had the warmest welcome courtesy of my boyfriend’s mum, and I may have cried a bit when she gave me a big hug and welcomed me to my “new home in Alsace” with this amazing brunch spread.

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French welcome brunch – dat cheese!

 

I’m taking French classes at the Universite Populaire, and unlike the classes I took in London, this course is virtually solely in French (duh) and the students don’t share a common language. Though when we’re REALLY stuck, most of us understand if the teacher switches to English to explain.

 

While my reading and comprehension is definitely improving – thanks also to reading children’s books – I’m not feeling overly confident trying to use French day-to-day, and know I need to be braver. However it’s tricky when my understanding is still so limited. If I throw out a sentence in French I usually don’t comprehend the reply (unless I’m in a store and can kind of guess). I feel like it’s a bit of a waste of everyone’s time so right now there’s lots of “Bonjour” and “Merci” .. and I don’t get much further before needing to sheepishly ask “en anglais s’il vous plaît?” Baby steps.

I joined a new BJJ club which is the same one that I have been visiting for the past two years. Everyone is really friendly, and learning jiu jitsu in French is easy in some ways, challenging in others. Of course it’s so visual which makes it easy, but while I now recognise the words for knee and foot for example I often miss if the instructor is saying like, “never do x this way.”

 

Infini Jiu Jitsu team 2016
Photo: Art of BJJ

I’m so grateful for training partners with the patience to explain things again to me in English.

I rode my first upside-down rollercoaster

 

Holy HECK, I was frantically thinking about how to get off Europa Park’s Blue Fire Megacoaster even as we were strapped in and making our way out of the loading bay. It was seriously OUT of my theme park ride comfort zone!

Europa Park is pretty amazing (in saying that I’ve never been to Disneyland), and if you’re ever in this part of the world it’s totally worth a visit (I found this article after our day there, which sums the place up nicely).

 

The park was decked out for Halloween when we went (with a crazy-huge number of pumpkins lining the walkways). I’ve never been one for the super thrillseeker rides but this time decided to push myself … I won’t lie, the recent tragedy at Dreamworld was playing on my mind a bit that day.

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Because it was still #Halloween at Europa-Park 👻

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I’m not working in my pajamas… every day

I knew when I first moved to Strasbourg that I couldn’t be working five days a week from our small apartment – I’d go a bit mad – so I joined a co-working office and for about €10 a day I can work in a really fun, open plan environment with a great bunch of people, and they have frequent four-legged visitors! Much cute!

 

I’m making new friends because again, I’d go a bit mad without my own circle here, so I joined Girl Gone International and went to my first catch up with them in my second week in town; a brunch and spa day, such bliss! As the name suggests, they’re (mostly) international gals who have found their way to Strasbourg for various reasons. A truly lovely, supportive group I’m so happy to be part of.

I’m getting Christmassy because how can I NOT when I’m living in the Capitale de Noël? Tree’s up, presents are mostly bought and Christmas markets visited, multiple times. It’s really a great time of year to be in Strasbourg.

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#Christmastree is up! 🎄

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How I met my boyfriend

I’ve never written a post about it, but when Aftab put the call out for stories of “finding love whilst travelling” I thought why not tell the tale – nice and succinctly.  🙂  

Handsome much?

It’s at the below link if you’d like to read it, along with the lurve stories of a few other travel bloggers. Enjoy!

http://www.freshandfearless.co.uk/finding-love-travel

30 days of fitness – part 4

I definitely had higher expectations of myself at the start of this month, in setting my “exercise everyday” challenge. In hindsight, was it too ambitious? No. Was I just too busy? Maybe, not really? I had a good number of lazy days, that’s what happened basically. 

I am ending the month on the right note at least. Exercise ALL the remaining days until Malta! Unless I don’t..

Day 28: Not hungover per se, but definitely feeling the effects of a day in the sun with booze and not enough water.  After spending all day working from bed in my PJs, I got into my running gear and jogged around (some of) Victoria Park. Finished with sit ups and burpees at the outdoor gym.

Day 29: Monday BJJ with the morning crew. Best start to the week. After running yesterday I was even less bendy than usual, bit ouch, but an enjoyable ouch.

Day 30: Jose was all about the pad work in Muay Thai class this morning. Only 10 minutes of other cardio hell instead of the usual hour+. I got paired with a southpaw which, along with needing to remember some long-ish combos certainly got my brain firing.

How NOT to remove SNS nails

BJJ and pretty nails don’t mix, not for me anyway, since I clip them down every few days to avoid being ‘that’ scratchy-nail person on the mat. And polish? Meh. I only bother for special occasions. But after getting my first SNS manicure for my sister’s wedding, I found a way to clumsily manage a mani and training. Sort of.

That’s Signature Nail Systems by the way- I had to look it up.

The pretty shot

SNS nails

Aren’t they lovely, plastic fantastic-looking amazingness?! Seriously solid. I was drumming my fingernails along everything. Just because.

Obligatory wedding snap (one groomsman to two bridesmaids! We made it work).

Since my ‘enhanced’ French mani was thick and blunt and really not longer than my natural nail length, I got away with training twice in Australia in the week following the wedding; no scratching anyone or feeling like I may inadvertently rip my talons off.

Back to the UK, and although the SNS was starting to grow out, I wanted to be vain and keep that souped-up nail feeling for a little longer. But how to trim them when they’re too thick for clippers to handle?

Cue manic filing! It was tedious, but it worked.

For a good three weeks I successfully kept my nails short for BJJ, and that French manicure – while it looked a little odd with the white part steadily disappearing – continued to hold with no problem. Mind you, it was swiftly looking worse and worse.

SNS french manicure filed down

So this is where laziness just set in really. Who cares what my nails look like! Buy acetone or go to a nail bar to get the stuff removed? Pah! I’ll just let them grow off.

SNS nail pulled off

All the BJJ gripping started prying them loose mid-roll to the surprise of my training partners; Holy shit I just found your nail…oh it’s fake? Phew..

Thankfully I didn’t feel a thing or lose any real nails in the process but, I do now have half a hand of weird-looking pink stuff left on my claws, and my nails are definitely feeling thinner/weaker, hopefully temporarily.

Glue residue on nails
Don’t worry, that’s mostly glue residue, not ragged layers of nail.

Would weak nails be a thing if I had removed the SNS you know, the responsible-manicure-girl way? Maybe, maybe not, the internet seems divided. Either way it’s probably the route I’ll take if I ever get a proper manicure again.

My sister had a great wedding photographer by the way. You can check out more photos here.

Reflecting, recharging etc.

The start of a new year – and a new diary/planner – is as good a time as any to reflect on the last 12 months. Here are my highlights.

I bought a new Moleskine diary this weekend. But before I shelve the old one and start filling these crisp new pages with plans and appointments, I thought I’d have  a flick through and recap my 2015 highlights because, well, it’s the thing to do as you start a new year isn’t it?

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  • I spent some precious time with my Nanna on her last trip to Malta. ‘Last’ because as she’s in her late eighties it’s very unlikely she’ll make the long journey over from Australia again. I also got to hang out with my awesome aunty Anna – she’s always so much fun and we have the best talks.

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  • I landed my first full-time job in PR. This has been a goal ever since I quit my radio career and moved to the UK, and a casual conversation at a bar for a friend’s birthday a good 12 months ago actually led me to this role. The next time I consider bailing on social plans, I’m going to remind myself of this wonderful encounter, and reconsider.
  • I flexed the talky – i.e. I did some voiceover work and had a weekly UK/Europe news chat with Justin on i98fm.  It was really fun to get back behind a microphone! I hope to do more of it this year.

  • I went back to Australia for the first time in almost two years. Time truly has flown – how have I been in London for now approaching THREE years?! What struck me when I visited Oz back in May though was how so much hadn’t changed. I mean, friends have rings on their fingers where they didn’t have them before and some girlfriends now have bumps and others babies but, there was something really comforting about slipping back into old conversations with them, visiting the BJJ clubs I used to frequent and feeling like it was just another training session, seeing my dad in his usual chair in front of the TV at home and chatting through the day’s events with mum and my sisters. I was a complete noob on the train and in shopping centres though: if I stood on the right side of the escalator instead of the left once, I did it a thousand times! I was happy to find that while I thoroughly enjoyed my trip home and could have extended it for another week or two, the visit didn’t leave me pining for a move back for good.
  • I turned 30. I’m totally still scratching my head at this, to be honest. How did 30 happen? When did I make it here? Why do I not feel like I should be 30 yet? Is it a total cliche to say that? Maybe it’s societal – and my own – expectations of where I should be and what I should have/own at 30 that I’m clearly not at/possessing, maybe I just really don’t feel “my age.” I have read a lot of comments/articles about how secure people tend to feel in themselves in their thirties. I certainly feel like I have some catching up to do.

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  • I went to another BJJ Bonanza. Yes! The super fun women’s BJJ camp in Copenhagen that I did in 2013 is still going strong, and I was able to make it back in October. This time the camp featured Mackenzie Dern and she is seriously the nicest, most grounded 22 year-old I have ever met. Along with teaching us some great moves over the course of the weekend, what sticks out for me about Mackenzie is just how chilled she is. Between sessions she would sit around with a group of girls, happily sharing stories of her notable fights and telling us the ‘real stories’ behind some of the headlines. And if she wasn’t doing that, Mackenzie was taking charge of the gym’s speakers, flipping through her favourite tracks on her phone and generally just being rad. I also got to catch up with a bunch of ladies that I met at the BJJ Globetrotters camp in 2014.

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  • I ended the year with the same guy I started it with and in the same place, Strasbourg, where I spent the Christmas and New Year break. My relationship is totally a highlight and continues to be. I’m looking forward to whatever’s up next in this long distance adventure of ours.