It was completely out of the ‘blue’ and almost three months later, I still can’t believe it really.
Around this time last year I hurt my back on a trip to London and wasn’t training – or very sporadically – for most of the season. I finally made a comeback about three weeks before the season ended, and we went into summer break, which was a bummer. But I kept up training at the weekly open mats and vowed to make this current season the one where I knuckled down and showed my coaches what they needed to see to award me my blue. I was actually really excited to make this re-commitment to improving my jiu jitsu. I even bought sports tape on Amazon in the car on our way to the first class of the season, to refresh my white belt stripes. I understood at the end of that class why my boyfriend was oddly, casually discouraging me from buying the tape (“€5? Oh no I’m pretty sure you can buy it cheaper at the pharmacy…”) because, surprise! Blue belt!
I cried of course. Asked my coach if he was for real.. apparently yes he was!
So after six years of training BJJ, sometimes very committed, sometimes not, here I am. A very nooby blue belt. Stepping onto the mat for my first class as blue was really bloody weird and I was so self conscious. I still am a few months later. Of course as luck would have it, I’m currently injured again, some weird ongoing neck pain.
But I can’t wait to get back on the mat and back to my vow of knuckling down and training hard this season.. not as a white belt but as a freakin’ BLUE.
I have had two dentist-made sports mouthguards in the six years I have been training jiu jitsu (on and off), and I rated them pretty highly. Just knowing they were a custom fit, and by someone who knew teeth gave me such peace of mind and confidence when I used them.
Alas, they were a little bulky and not cheap (not covered by my Australian health insurance). I lost the first one.. the second is hiding in my house somewhere probably, or maybe it got lost during my move from London to Strasbourg. Or maybe I left it at my old gym.. who knows! My teeth have moved since I got it done, so it didn’t fit very well anymore anyway.
I moved on to a Sisu mouthguard after seeing another girl rocking one on the mat and being amazed at how easily she was drinking water – and talking – through it. It barely looked like she was even wearing a mouthguard – no bulky mouth going on.
When I received it, I was dubious it would be that great – it looked like just this thin piece of plastic with holes in it! But once I got it moulded successfully (took more than a few tries – even following the YouTube video), I loved it. I had a few accidental mouth knocks with it in while rolling, and didn’t feel like my teeth were more vulnerable than when using a thicker mouthguard.
Once again my teeth moved though, it’s not fitting properly anymore and has disappeared behind the couch somewhere.
I plan to buy another one sometime.
On Black Friday last year I snagged an Opro mouthguard on sale, so that’s my current one. I had scored a free Opro in an online giveaway a year or so earlier, and liked – then lost – that one!
It’s back to bulky with an Opro compared to the Sisu, there are some holes in it however, so you don’t get so much of the saliva build-up that I had with the dentist-made mouthguards, and drinking through it isn’t so bad.
I do love how snug and cushioned my teeth feel in the Opro. The cradle that it comes with for fitting is a really good idea, and I got the fit right on the first try! I bought the red case separately not realising the Opro mouthguard came with one anyway, doh. But it is super nice to use.
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.
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.”
I’m so grateful for training partners with the patience to explain things again to me in English.
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.
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.
You know it’s the season for pretty coloured belts and shiny new stripes when your social feeds blow up with photos of said belts and stripes, and heartfelt posts about the BJJ ‘journey’, amazing coaches, teams, God and next chapters etc.
My own version of the above happened two months ago (early, since I was moving countries before the next Fight Zone grading). And while I mentioned it on Instagram and Twitter at the time I neglected to post about it on this frequently-neglected blog so, here tis:
My third stripe!
Four years in the making, and my second stripe from Bruno Ferreira and Marco Canha. I was super chuffed and a tad emotional, obvs.
I’ve posted before about my progression hang ups, and finally feeling like I could push them aside and just enjoy training without being all angsty. This stripe was such a surprise, and reinforced to me that I WILL get better, slowly but surely, one class at a time, and while having fun.
It was also a really nice way to say goodbye to a club that has been my home and family for three years. I’ll be visiting Fight Zone relatively often I’m sure but, I’m still sad to have left the morning crew and such great coaches.
Sending a big congrats to everyone receiving new belts and stripes this grading season!
“How long now until you’re at the beach?” My flatmate Viktor doesn’t read my blog but he knows ALL about my fitness challenge – mostly due to all the extra washing I’ve been doing. 20 days to go! I’ve had a few ‘nope’ days so far, and let’s be honest there’s probably a few more ahead, but I’m already exercising more frequently than usual so, winning right?
Day 13: Very much an Amsterdam recovery day – and by that I mean recovery from two big work days. I slept a lot, but I did muster the energy to do a hula hoop workout, which my neglected-of-late hoop was surely pleased about.
Day 14: Ran to Mile End Park for some hill sprints. No Matt to keep me going but, there were two other guys already there doing the same thing. I did more than I would have all on my own, simply because I would have felt silly starting after and finishing before them! Finished with some skipping and bootstrappers.
I’m really excited to be able to train three times a week now at my favourite time of day. The gym has also expanded to upstairs meaning a third mat, and a weights room.
Day 16: So Muay Thai coach Jose was in punisher mode this morning; 1.5 hours of sprints, punching and kicking drills, squat-kicking, more running, dreaded burpees and more. And I managed to knock myself in the head with a 7kg medicine ball.. I’m good like that.
Day 17: Morning crew BJJ class FTW!
Day 18: Working from home day since I was heading to Strasbourg (via Basel) in the evening. Was a tad stressed and hadn’t finished packing fully, so was up early to do that, then left mid-afternoon for the long tube trek to Heathrow. Needless to say, the exercisy didn’t happen. Flight delay did though, annoyingly. Not overly long but, saw me arrive after midnight. Bleh!
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!
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?
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
I swear if one more person asked me that at the gym the other night I may have actually successfully taken them down – I ONLY TOOK ONE WEEK OFF GUYS! But ok, I have had to ditch the two-classes-per-week goal of late thanks to a sore knee and back. One class a week is still better than none, right? It just means that no one really seems to remember you still train. 😀
I am happy to report that while the BJJ training has been lacking, other aspects of London life have been full-on in mostly fantastic ways.. I’m starting a new job soon – just after Easter in fact and I am looking forward to it so, so much. My new dream career took a bit longer to manifest in this city than I anticipated and while I have had a blast in the random occupations I have found myself in, I am definitely ready to feel back on track and placing my feet firmly on the rungs of what I feel is now the right career ladder for me.
Before the new job kicks in though I will be making a pretty special Easter trip over to Malta. Special not for the time of year, (although I will no doubt be attending multiple church services..) but because my beloved Nanna will be there, having come all the way over from Australia for what is likely to be her last visit to her home country. It has been 18 months since I last saw her so I can’t wait to give her a big hug and soak up all the family time, along with lots of sun. (*Update, apparently I’m deluded thinking there will be sun in Malta over Easter. Sooooo I suppose I pack a weatherproof jacket instead of swimmers. *sigh*)
There has also been a pretty amazing guy in my life over the past few months and I am enjoying that relationship immensely. After spending the majority of my late twenties single and dating prolifically, it’s such a joy to click with someone and be as wrapped up in them as they seem to be in you.