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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I did it! It has been a long time coming, but I finally mustered up enough courage to enter my first Gi competition on the weekend and I did much better than I expected.
I wasn’t exactly prepared – I decided to compete only two weeks prior, and then hurt my back so figured I’d have to pull out. But I felt okay enough the night before, and this comp was what I knew I needed to do to boost my progression and show my coach I actually want to improve.
I was a stressed-out bundle of nerves come the day of the Southend Open – I’d talked myself down so much during the week, I’d gone from ‘I’m aiming for better than bronze’ (there were only three of us in the weight category) to ‘I just want to put up a good fight, not get stuck underneath the whole time, maybe not get subbed in the first five seconds…’
My first fight was the hardest, but I lasted the whole five minutes, and was actually leading at the start before losing on points.
I was only supposed to fight twice, but after the second fight which I won on points (woohoo!) the organisers asked for girls to enter the Absolute category.
I was already in the heaviest female weight division of the day so why not, right?
I won my first two fights (though again no subs) and ended up facing the same woman as before for 1st/2nd place.
To be honest I was dog tired by the final and mustered as much energy as I had left, but she got an americana … pretty quickly, and it was all over.
I didn’t mind though, she was a beast – and I was already over the moon with how I’d performed. I didn’t do anything uber spectacular in the fights but I was able to keep my balance and stay on top a lot of the time, and I managed scrambly-but-successful guard passing!
Of course my coach was right – I’ve learnt so much from the experience and now have a platform from which to start being that bit more specific with how I train.
A chat with a teammate later that day is what will really stay with me though.. she said I have to cement this moment in my mind, hold onto the happy, confident feeling and only look forward. Build on it now, don’t go back to that uncertain, self-doubting place I was in before.
I’m going to stay as far away from it as I possibly can.
Yay endorphins! I really really enjoyed class tonight. It’s not something I’ve been able to honestly say for awhile – usually I’m too busy feeling so ridiculously useless on the mat, and lamenting my lack of progress.
I wasn’t necessarily any less useless tonight mind you, but I felt like I was ‘getting it’ where I normally wouldn’t. Ironically, we were being shown a technique with a few more steps to remember than usual. It may have had something to do with the gazillion brown belts and like, three white belts in attendance.. but I felt good!
Annnd then I bought Doritos on the walk home. But THAT’S TOTALLY OKAY RIGHT?!
I went to my first London women’s BJJ open mat last weekend at Horizon BJJ – got my butt kicked, learnt a lot about where I’m at and where I want to be. The Horizon guys seem great too, a really wholesome club that’s very welcoming – I’ll definitely be dropping by in future.
I GOT A FULL TIME JOB! It’s only taken eight months, countless applications, unanswered emails and phone calls and very few interviews. Gosh London you are a hard nut to crack. And because the universe has a twisted sense of humour, two days after I accepted the job I got called to interview for another, AMAZING job *shakes fist* but, I’m going with my gut on this one. Right now the job I’ve accepted is what I need. It’s “9-5,” working with some pretty inspirational people and it’s going to allow me to train frequently, which means I can really focus in on some little goals – like my first gi comp, I’d like to get THAT out of the way this year. Another stripe would be nice, feeling like I deserve to actually have my first one.. this lax little white belt is getting to work.
Well, this is one for the awkward and mortified files.
I may have broken a training partner… her nose, I broke her nose and embarrassingly we weren’t even really truly, properly grappling at the time. “Light/playful roll?” I’d suggested after class as we were going over the knee ride to far armbar transition we’d just learnt.
Living up to my slow off the mark reputation, she had mount in an instant – and we were laughing as I attempted to wriggle out from under her.
Hips up to buck her off, my head comes forward and… *CRUNCH*“oh my God!” “Oh crap are you okay? Is it bleeding?!”
It wasn’t – but out came the bag of frozen peas and a mirror to check how crooked her nose was (thankfully it still looked pretty straight to me, just red and starting to swell).
I haven’t seen her since as I’ve had a cold and she has also been away from the gym to let her nose heal, but chatting over Facebook there appears to be no hard feelings. At least I hope there truly aren’t.
Just mortification on my side, and the awful feeling you get knowing you’re responsible for hurting someone.
Have you ever broken a training partner? Did it affect your future interactions/friendship on or off the mats?