Nice one, Ida and Shanti!

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.

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Photo credit – Shanti’s Insta & Fbk

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!

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.

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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.”

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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.

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?

That Awkward Moment When..

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I don’t think about these things on the mat a lot – most of the time I’m too busy defending myself from every angle to be very aware of what possibly odd-looking positions I’m getting myself into with dudes.

But there are those occasional moments when I DO think about it – and wonder at what point in my BJJ training did I become okay with virtual strangers sweating all over me, straddling me, pinning me to the ground and choking me out with their thighs? (not necessarily always in that order)

Some of my male teammates I’m pretty sure I had a bit of (clothed, obvs) crotch-to-face action with before we’d even had a proper conversation!

Bec Hyatt knows the fastest way to get a submission. Invicta 5.
Bec Hyatt (green crotch) knows the fastest way to get a submission. Invicta5

It’s funny how a fart on a mat can create awkwardness and clear out a space for a few minutes … but a tough roll between a guy and a girl in no gi, getting super up close and personal – no one including the participants bats an eyelid at.

A great reflection of the equality in the sport, mind you.

I have been single throughout my BJJ journey to date, so it hasn’t been an issue – but I do wonder if my next romantic interest will have a problem with my  hobby.

Are you in a relationship with someone who doesn’t train jits? How do they feel about you rolling about and accidentally kneeing the privates of sweaty men and women on a regular basis?

And I’d love to read YOUR awkward moment stories!

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.

New attitude is go.. kinda.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself” – I get told that a lot.

Also not to give up, see it as winning or learning.. not losing, everyone’s journey is different, go at your own pace, keep it playful.

So from now on, that is what I’m going to do. Doing already actually, though starting tonight by joining a comp rounds sesh with blue belts may have been a bit ambitious!

I cried a bit (what is WITH that?), got hurt a bit, frustrated, made the usual scrambly and silly white belt mistakes.

But I’m actively going in to every class from now on with an overall personal goal (eg. keep your balance tonight, be faster, more aggressive or keep those damn elbows in!) that I hope will see me keep my cool more, and lose it less.

Head on the outside for this drill!Photo via Jess Fraser
Head on the outside for this drill!
Photo via Jess Fraser

** By the way yup I’m a newbie blogger, still setting up my page, so apologies for the work in progress.

I’m also keen to add other BJJ blogs to my reader, so please recommend. =)