The awesome ladies behind the BJJ Autumn Bonanza I attended in Copenhagen are off to Abu Dhabi – winning their weight classes and closing out the open at the World Pro Trials in Portugal.
A huge thanks to Shanti Abelha for finding the time while in comp mode to answer some questions I had after the Copenhagen camp – on the training weekend, and the female BJJ scene on this side of the world.
- You’ve held ladies BJJ camps before, what prompted you and Ida to start organising these events?
The whole “women’s BJJ camps” movement is fairly new, and actually something that I see has grown concurrently in Europe and the US, and only now is getting more popular in Brazil. I think it was around 2009 that some coaches started organizing women’s camps in Scandinavia, and Ida and I were one of the first to be invited to teach at these camps. It was great to have the opportunity to teach at these camps, but the natural step for us was of course to host our own camp at the gym we train, where we felt we could structure the camp as we thought best and be able to give women a great welcome to “our home.”
- How much has female participation in BJJ grown from when you were moving through the ranks to now?
It has grown immensely! When I started BJJ, the highest ranking female in Scandinavia was a single purple belt. Now, we are five black belt women in Scandinavia, and more scattered around Europe. The growth and difference is also really apparent at the large IBJJF tournaments, such as the World Championships. This year, there were literally hundreds of girls and women competing at the World’s. When I won World’s as a blue belt in 2007, I had three matches. This year, some of the blue belt female champions had 6 fights to reach the top of the podium – meaning the category could have had over 60 competitors. The level is also really high throughout all belts, the women winning at the highest levels train full-time, and I see that the top girls winning at the lower belts have a very complete and tight game. But I don’t think that we have seen the end or even the top of the growth curve yet, actually I think that this explosion in women’s BJJ has only just started recently, and we will be seeing a lot more.
- How did yourself, Ida and Hanette decide on what to teach over the course of the Copenhagen camp weekend?
We are all well-rounded but also have our preferences for what we like to teach. It was quite easy to agree on actually, especially as Ida had baked apple pie for the three of us to enjoy while talking the program through. We all three place great emphasis on teaching good basics, on showing the positions we feel work best for us, and on making sure that it is something that anyone from any level could learn something from. Also, as we have quite a few women who have participated in previous camps, we make sure to have some variety and not teach exactly the same positions as in the previous camp.
- Obviously the participants get so much out of these events, what about for yourself, Ida and Hanette?
I get as much out of it as the participants, and I am sure Ida and Hannette would agree with me! Firstly, just being able to gather so many female BJJ’ers in one room is a huge reward in itself. We all love teaching and sharing our experiences, so for us it is great to give something back to the BJJ community, see you all learning the positions and being so eager to learn even more. It is inspiring for us to see and be part of the current growth of BJJ for women, and see such a broad diversity in terms of which types of girls and women train BJJ.
- What are your thoughts on the standard of BJJ women in Europe compared to those you’ve trained with and competed against from elsewhere?
I think the standard in Europe has always been high and will continue to be so. The European culture supports very much the idea of strong, independent women, and this is mirrored in the way we are treated in our gyms and the way we train. We have a lot of good female European competitors at all belt ranks – if you look at the results for the World’s this year for blue, purple and brown, there was a very good distribution of medalling participants between Europe, USA and Brazil. This trend will continue, and it is only a matter of time before this distribution will also be visible at black belt.
- Any training tips for the girls post camp on how best to absorb and ‘lock in’ all the new techniques they learnt?
There can be a lot to absorb during a camp that lasts a whole weekend! I think that if you want to make sure you learn and absorb as much as possible, you need “document” the techniques in some way – either writing in a notebook, or filming together with a training partner after class. And then repeat, repeat, repeat, also when you get back home.
- When is the next ladies camp?
We aim to hold the BJJ Bonanza twice a year – autumn and spring. We have just talked about the date for the next camp, and it will probably be around February some time. We will be announcing it soon, so keep an eye on Facebook!