It’s Not A Race.


Let’s just draw a line through that last New Year’s Resolution – I’m a one-stripe white belt with a back injury – I am NOT getting my blue belt in the next six months.

And I’m completely okay with that! 

Late last year when I wrote these resolutions I was training hard – very conscious of how quickly my teammates were progressing – I felt this desperate need to prove myself and keep up.

While Sensei had told us it’s not uncommon for people to be on the same belt for a number of years in BJJ, other students I was meeting and mixing with were moving to blue belt within a year to 18 months. 

That goal was going to be a big motivator I figured, a commitment to keep up the training and progression.

But a few things got in the way.. I took a month off for a trip to Europe, couldn’t make class for a few weeks because of work, couldn’t make my old class times AT ALL because of a work shift change, hurt my back and haven’t trained now for more than a month.

A few revelations..

– Life gets in the way. Injury gets in the way, and it’s okay! Not everyone is going to be able to commit to every class and every tournament – not everyone can be on the winner’s blocks at comps and become world champions.

– There is such a thing as a ‘natural’ in this sport, (to a degree) body types, competitive attitudes and athletic backgrounds count for a LOT. I have no advantage in this area.

– It’s not a race. I can be thrilled and in awe of my BJJ friends and teammates as they collect more stripes and medals and proudly wear in a shiny new belt colour, and not feel like I’m being left behind.. because the only person I’m competing against is myself.

For now, the mission continues to treat and strengthen my back so I can be ready to roll when I jet off in 4 weeks time. And if it’s still not good by then? I’ll pack a shiteload of painkillers and just keep working on it.

Missing The Mat.

My BJJ training comeback was short lived. The bulging discs in my back are still an issue and something I really need to get on top of, before I leave in a little over a month.

I really haven’t had a problem with them since 2008, when I first started feeling back pain which turned into sciatica – many visits to doctors, X-rays and MRIs and a few neurosurgeons later, and it eventually came good without the need for surgery.

Intensive physio/a huge focus on core strength, water aerobics, personal training etc.

The good run I have had since though is something I have taken for granted – and doing Jiu Jitsu, it was only a matter of time before my lack of ‘back maintenance’ caught up with me.

Trying to describe what’s going on in my lower back is hard – when I’m standing and walking I feel no pain. Sit/bend down or stand up though, and it’s excruciating on one side, into my hip joint and thigh.

Straightening my leg to stretch is tough, as is raising it in a straight position.

Getting out of bed in the morning would have to be the worst. Sometimes it takes me a good 5 minutes to work out the least painful way to get upright. So you can see how this ‘injury’ is not conducive to rolling!

All I’m allowed to do at the moment is light stretching and moderate walking – and I’m starting to see the extra kilos creep onto the scales.

BUT I must stay positive, must do everything I can to help myself and get strong, so I can get back to the sport I love.

Aussie Jits Girls Represent!

I was sitting in the newsroom at work when this came on one of the five TVs on the wall – I totally squealed “that’s my girls!”

It’s stupid awesome to see the Australian Girls In Gi get national media coverage.

For those unfamiliar with Aussie television, Sunrise is (most of the time?) the number one breakfast TV program. Great exposure for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

If you’re a local BJJ girl or from overseas just visiting, definitely hit the group up for the best Aussie club, and female only open mat meet up recommendations.

Meantime at the Worlds …

Livia Gluchowska won gold!


I have known this woman for only a short time through AGIG, but she is the most inspirational BJJ gal I know, so incredibly hard working and focussed. Huge congratulations Livia!

Pic via IBJJF

Back to it!

BJJ training comeback success!

After a couple of weeks off the mat with a sore back and hip joint, I tested things out in Tuesday’s FAFC class and happily headed home with no soreness, bar the niggling hip.

Still pumped, I went to the new Australian Elite Team headquarters to train on Wednesday night – still under construction, the mat space is going to be HUGE when it’s done (new mats on order).


Something I’m disappointed about though (and I know leasing a space means this is not entirely in AET’s control) is the lack of showers – for both sexes, let alone a female change room.

There is one bag storage/change area with a window, so it’s not really a space to full on change in.. and there is one – ONE toilet. To be shared by everyone.

I never realised what a luxury even having a female change room and shower was, until I read Jiu Jiu’s blog post on the subject.

I have no idea what to expect now when I move to the UK, I suppose it will depend on the BJJ club.. but the thought of having to head home from training on the tube without having had a shower ain’t too appealing!

There was a black belt grading tonight which I wasn’t able to attend, but I snagged this team pic off Facebook anyway – such an awesome, inspiring (albeit smelly) Jiu Jitsu family they are!


And a final highlight of the week – my patches arrived!


Custom Patches Online did a terrific job with some detailed (for a patch) artwork, my idea with these is to give them to BJJ people I meet on my travels. If some make their way onto bags – or even gis that would be pretty cool. =)

Bikram Yoga – some kind of hell.

I knew what I was in for – I went through a phase about a year and a half ago where I was going to Bikram Yoga classes three times a week. I was a wobbly, inflexible mess then and I am even worse now.

Just add back injury to the above. But THAT’S why I have returned to the hot room.

My Osteopath thinks I have a disc herniation of sorts, something I’m familiar with having a sister who needed an operation hers was so bad, and having had three bulging discs previously myself.

So no Jiu Jitsu for me until it settles down… I am allowed to walk, do the prescribed back/butt strengthening exercises and pilates/yoga – backward bends are ok, forward bending not so much.

So I went into the room knowing there would be a few moves I would sit out, ok possibly a little smug in that knowledge too (weeee unscheduled rest/water breaks!). What I didn’t expect was how crazy dizzy I would feel ( I totally ate and drank beforehand in preparation too). I ended up having to sit out a good half of the class.  

Thankfully I didn’t embarrass myself by fainting! And I did stay in the room the entire time, which scored me points with the teacher. 

Something I forgot about which I will have to erm, rectify before my next visit – open plan showering after class = lots of female nekkidness!

Supermarket stop for some wax on the way home.





Another Seminar? Sure!

This one was for a great cause, too – helping Livia fund her trip to the 2013 World Championships in LA.

A physio visit and week off training had settled my back, and since I wouldn’t be full on rolling I figured it could cope! 

I learnt my lesson when I woke up in pain the next morning .. but oh well.

Dan Shaw and Lachlan Giles took this one at Absolute, we went through an attack series from closed guard and did some lasso spider guard. All very impressive, and I kind of had the hang of things by the end, when I wasn’t muddling my left and rights.

The guys were cool with us filming them going over everything again, too – and Dan also posted some vids of the moves on Facebook for us later, so hopefully I’ll be able to start drilling some things when I get back on the mat.

Photo credit: Livia Gluchowska

A couple of pearls of wisdom I took away from this sesh – Break Grips and Move Your Hips!

“Jiu Jitsu is a grip fight, whoever gets good grips will win, so get your grips and work on what technique you can get off that grip.”

Photo credit: Livia Gluchowska

Meantime it has been another week off jits for me, I did drop by my gym for a class, just to watch. Have some back exercises to do three times a day, and I’m hopeful it’s not too long until I return to training.

My First BJJ Seminar

Sophia (McDermott) Drysdale, Australia’s first female BJJ black belt.

Recommended by AGIGI honestly didn’t know what a BJJ seminar involved! I was envisioning a uni lecture where you sit and listen to someone speak, and take notes.

Or I figured you just watch them demonstrate moves.

Thankfully I asked, found out it was more like a class and made sure I packed a gi!

Cool vid put together by Jess Fraser.

I brought a notebook and my phone out on the mat too, though it’s up to the individual whether they allow photos/video and since I didn’t ask Sophia before she started, I decided to play it safe and keep my phone to the side.

Ditto the notebook it turned out. Other than a couple of scribbles in drink breaks and during the Q&A at the end, I really didn’t have the time or the thought to take notes.

After a quick warm up Sophia got us into pairs and we took turns moving around our partner who was flat on the floor, chest to chest, arms behind our backs.

It was all about using your whole body when on top to keep the pressure on your opponent, as opposed to most of the strength coming from your arms. Also altering that pressure as your opponent tries to escape (“be like a water bed”) and being on your toes so you’re able to move and adjust quickly!

From there we worked on the most effective positioning when in side control, and step by step went through a few of Sophia’s favourite armbar moves.

A few things I’ll be working on (no brainers but hey, unco white belt I be!)

–       Move on your feet, not on your knees, ‘duck walk’ around for the far armbar.

–       Be more parallel than crucifix to apply the correct pressure to the best areas in side control, including hip to hip.

–       Hips forward ladies!

–       Post/grab your gi as you’re settling in for the armbar, you don’t have to lean back for it until you’re ready.

– Do your warm ups and drills fast if you want to roll fast – sprints not long runs, short but intense push ups, sit ups etc, rest then do it all again.

At the end Sophia invited questions, and talked briefly about her journey through the ranks. She revealed while she never felt a BJJ gender issue in Australia, training overseas including in Brazil she was treated differently as a woman on the mat.

But at the same time she says we have to accept we’re participating in a male dominated sport “you’ve chosen to be in it, don’t expect special treatment, although also don’t be afraid to speak up to say this is what I need” ie. to sit out, or to go over something again.

Sophia believes there’s nothing wrong with tweaking an instructor’s move a little to make it work for you and your body.

And just in case I wasn’t finding this seminar with Australia’s first female BJJ black belt inspiring enough, Sophia told us she’s planning to compete at the Worlds in less than two months time, despite the fact her second child will only be about four months old!

My BJJ motivation has definitely returned.

Sophia Drysdale Melbourne seminar 2013.
Sophia Drysdale Melbourne seminar 2013.

BJJ slump.

So I hurt myself playing with the big kids again.

I joined a grading class last weekend, Andrew was going for his orange belt (coach uses the kids system to give adult white belts ‘stepping stones’), lots of the blue belts were there to give him a tough rolling session, we drilled while he went through the techniques he had to know, then he got me for some scrambly white belt relief!

I felt a lower back twinge and hobbled off straight after class to get a massage. I have had three bulging discs in the past (not jits-related) so am very wary when I get back pain in BJJ.

Thankfully it’s not very often. But it’s also the reason why I hate being stacked – I freak out about my back and pretty much let my training partner pass straight away to avoid the pressure/potential injury. Not great, I know.

I haven’t trained all week – I haven’t exercised all week actually except for a big walk. Shame on me.

To be honest the motivation died pre-injury though, when the local Gi comp I entered got cancelled due to the organiser being unable to pull it all together. 

But tomorrow I get back on the BJJ train. Sophia Drysdale (old interview, I believe she has 2 kids now!), Australia’s first female Black Belt is holding a seminar at Dominance, so with a week of rest behind me I’m hoping I can participate without much pain, and learn a new thing or two.

Just being around some of the incredible AGIG crew should get me back on track.

** I have been told to ask Sophia tomorrow, but as it’s my first seminar and I’ll probably be sitting out some bits, I’m wondering what the general rules are when it comes to note taking, photo and video recording? Can anyone enlighten?

Working out my Game Plan.

I am yet to enter my first Gi comp. I should, I know – but a combination of things have stopped me to date.

– I hadn’t been training much in Gi, working more No Gi instead for upcoming comps.

– I haven’t felt as ‘in control’ in Gi – all these grips that render me useless and find me tapping from chokes I never saw or felt coming!

– I don’t have a game plan.

The last one I’m only just getting my head around. At the last Gi round robin (where I spectated and thought later, ‘I should have entered’) I overheard a girl talking to her teammates about how their game plans were coming together nicely and really working for them, great implementation of their game plans etc.

What on earth is this game plan and how do I get one?!

I really didn’t know where to start.

I’m thinking about entering the Synergy Pro or a local comp coming up at Melbourne Uni – they’re not far away, and I haven’t been training super consistently, but I want to do one .. just to throw myself into another comp asap.

So I mentioned it on Twitter, and got tweeting @JiuJitsuJournal who has written this great post – exactly what I need to begin.