Oh, hey there

Stuck between tube stops due to a signal failure on the district line… what a perfect opportunity to play catch up on the blog!

Belated Happy New Year – I made a simple BJJ related resolution, and I am proud to say that I have stuck to it so far:

Make it to training at least twice a week.

Two sessions as a base is extremely achievable, and I find I’m beating myself up much less than when I was getting to four classes one week (huzzah!), but then sometimes none the next.

In happily averaging three times per week at the moment, and trying to really focus on retaining more of what I’m learning. Moving off one stripe in 2015 would be kinda nice. I do still have the short term training memory of a fish though, sadly.

What else is occupying my time? Well, I’m job hunting – I mean proactively job hunting as opposed to just wishing a new gig would fall out of the sky. Crossing fingers and toes a shiny opportunity presents itself soon (well spoken EA/Project Manager and media type for hire, just sayin).

Happy 18 months in London to me!

10169401_10154091121055511_6068526885309243980_n

HOW have I been in the capital this long already? Ashamedly I am yet to see the inside of any museums bar the Hunterian, and have only made it to one musical (Urinetown, odd title but a good show).

While many of my Aussie friends here are now realising they have under a year left on their working holiday visas and are frantically trying to tick off their euro travel bucket lists, I am wondering when I should start compiling mine.

The beauty and danger, of an EU passport.

I’m really keen to make this year count – on and off the mat, in my career and in my personal life. The latter part of 2013 was very much a career holiday. 2014 saw me jump into a bunch of new things including my first Gi competition (I did enter a second Southend Open in November, annnnd let’s just say I didn’t surprise myself but I DID learn a lot).

It’s time to build now. Oh, and I’d also love to find a new flat.

Advertisements

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.

1380821_10154765896215511_6606193500490630093_n

 

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.

Going ‘No Poo’ (not what you’re thinking)

“There is no way I could do it” – that was my initial reaction to this article about giving up shampoo. Nice in theory, but when your hair is a matted, sweaty mess a good 2-4 times a week after BJJ class.. not lathering it up = festy mcgee right? WELL, I’ve discovered actually no.. and I’m about to enter my fifth week as a sporty no poo-er!

Unfortunate term yes (American I believe), but nothing to do with bowel movement or lack of, and everything to do with giving up shampoo for chemical-free alternatives. Washing with bicarb soda followed by apple cider vinegar being where most people tend to start.

Why?

I’ll admit for me, it’s less about the no-chemical thing (but, awesome) and more about seeing if I can improve the quality of my hair, which took a massive nosedive when I moved to London.

I have fine hair to begin with, so when it started breaking like crazy and coming out in clumps in the shower I was pretty miffed. I have definitely noticed an improvement in my hair’s strength since getting on some hair vitamins eight months ago, but it was still pov. Damn you, hard water! *shakes fist*

So I bought Lucy Aitken Read’s Happy Hair eBook (total steal), joined a bunch of Facebook groups, read a bunch of blogs, got utterly confused – but kicked off my no poo journey anyway.

I’ve kept it simple so far, trying an egg wash, the bicarb and water followed by the apple cider vinegar and water mix, I’ve also applied coconut oil to the ends and have rinsed my hair with english breakfast tea – WOW the shine!

Spacing the washes a good seven days apart, I have found that after BJJ class where I’d normally shampoo or at least chuck conditioner on my hair to freshen it up, actually just rinsing it well with water (or tea) has been all it’s needed, and no stink!

I’ve also been brushing my hair a lot more than I normally would, gotta distribute those oils.

So far so good..
So far so good..

There’s apparently a ‘transition’ period where your scalp goes a bit nuts on the oil production before returning to its’ natural balance – I either haven’t hit that stage yet, or maybe I’ll have an easier time thanks to not normally having particularly greasy hair.

I have a bit of a challenge coming up with BJJ Globetrotters Fall Camp in Copenhagen. I’ll be attending the entire week and training multiple times a day, so my hair will no doubt get super sweaty and smelly … but I’ve bought a chemical free (apparently) shampoo bar and conditioning spray to pack in my suitcase, we’ll see if it does the job.

The Big Question

Has the quality of my hair improved? Honestly, I’m not sure yet. Particularly after a tea rinse it feels thicker – but I think I need to give it a while longer before I can really say. Going no poo definitely hasn’t made it any worse.

Will I keep this no shampoo thing up long term? No idea! For now though I am enjoying slapping random kitchen ingredients on my head, and the shampoo and conditioner bottles remain tucked away at the back of the cupboard.

– Have you ever tried giving up shampoo? Tell me about the joy (or horror?!) that lies ahead! xx

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.

IMG_0520 copy

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.

Carlson_gracis_lux_sticker-013-v2

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.

BJJ Girl Problems

I love this post on BJJStyle.com – hair, bruises, period woes YES! But it was point no. 1 I found myself referencing on the tube ride home from a party tonight.

Making small talk with a random guy, conversation turns to interests, I mention BJJ and get the “Ohhh I’d better not mess with you then!” line.

Normally, I kind of laugh it off and keep chatting about whatever. This time, with the BJJ Girl Probs list fresh in my mind I called him on it.. “Why do guys even say that? If I didn’t do Jiu Jitsu would you be messing with me??”

The answer – Um, Ahhh no I mean.. Well, I guess it’s kind of like a pickup line, sort of thing..”

Conversation kind of dried up after that – sorry dude.