Dom always takes ridiculous pictures! I would come
out looking stupid as hell but she pulls it off. My hat is
off to her for constantly pushing to be herself and
encouraging others to do so as well!
I first met Dominyka, Vedha, and Erin at a BJJ competition while in New York catching up with some of my seasonal friends that I had met during their summer vacations spent enjoying the tumultuous winter weather of Rio de Janeiro.
The day after the competition I headed over to Fabio Clemente’s gym Jiu Jitsu for the People to attend the 12 P.M. all female open mats that are headed up by Dom and Vedha. Erin was in town for the competition (Erin and Dom used to train together at Marcelo’s before Dom switched teams and Erin moved to California) so she showed up at open mats as well…. With her whole life in tow.
Seriously. She had like 5 bags with her and was sitting disheveled on a bench with her tired eyes intent on her iphone. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know that I wasn’t the only person in the game that was struggling. I mean she was a brown belt, in the upper echelons, the crème de le crème, and if she could have her life thrown into an upheaval at the drop of a dime thanks to untimely accommodation issues, then the Everest-sized mountain of problems that I was dealing with didn’t seem so isolating after all. It was reassuring to know we're all in the same boat!
There was mad talk about boys, tacos, and ice cream. Like they like
food just as much as they like jiu-jitsu.
And why shouldn’t they? They had each double medaled at the previous day's competitions after multiple fights and still managed to make it to training the very next day. Dedication needs a day off every now and then.
The next day I interviewed the 3 for an article that I was writing for Digitsu on women in the sport. I get a lot of question from girls that are just starting or thinking about competing so I thought I would be insightful to hear what someone more experienced than myself had to say. This blog is a follow up with interesting tidbits that got left out of the official write up.
Feel the BJJ love!
Jiu-jitsu is about learning (not winning). That means learning about yourself: what you’re capable of doing. Learning about other people: how to build relationships and how to diffuse tension.
Erin says the best advice she ever got was when Kron Gracie tried to console her after losing a fight.
“No one cares.”
Simple yet powerful. Compete to compete, to learn new things, to test what you’ve already learned, to have fun. But other than you, your mom, your dad, and social media following that have faithfully double clicked the selfies that you have inundated their timeline with… no one is really going to remember or care who blue belt absolute champion was at Worlds, Europeans, or any other local competition.
So don't take yourself to seriously and just go out and have fun (then follow it up with pizza and icecream with friends).
Boys are meant to train with not to fight.
It’s insulting when Reddit warriors, couch samurais, and youtube black belts try to speculate on a sport that they are not involved in or on topics that are irrelevant to them. One particularly frustrating fantasy that has been floating around the web is the idea of women fighting men. I mean, women want equal pay and equal attention so why not put them up again men, they’re age-old oppressors and let them go neck for the same cash prizes! Right?
Wrong! Men are men and women are women. This is a physiological fact and there are concrete physiological features that accompany it that make the idea of a fair fight between men and women to be purely fictional and highly insulting.
So, no, Dom will not be facing off against King Gordon anytime soon.
Quitting is Not Ok. Avoiding is.
Don’t banish yourself to a world where you’re only training with females. It’s important to learn to train with guys just as much as guys need to learn to make the training environment more accessible for women.
contact and unwanted training partners. Just kidding. Vedha relaxing in between
fights at IBJJF New York Pro
You have to train with the boys but that doesn’t mean that you have to roll with every last spastic white belt, smelly blue belt, or pretentious purple belt. Learn to say NO! Erin recommends telling the truth, let them know what’s up. Maybe they’re too aggressive, maybe they need to invest in better laundry detergent, maybe a rash guard to cover up their chest hair would make them a more amenable training option.
If you’re like Vedha and are too timid to drop the truth bombs, well you better undo your ponytail right quick and take your sweet time re-braiding it and re-re-braiding it while the time one the clock winds down.
It was funny to hear the girls trade horror stories of training with over rambunctious boys or how to tactically tie their belt in the slowest way possible to avoid an undesirable training partner.
“I got you tomorrow” or “I’m really tired” can only go so far. By the time you get to the higher belts you don’t just learn to train, you also master avoiding training as well.
Maintain the power by keeping your hair dry and:
You don’t need to roll with everyone and you don’t always have to roll. Sometimes drilling, or reviewing positions and techniques is enough. You go over a lot of stuff in class and most of it probably goes in one ear and out the other as you insist on doing what you do best… and if you’re a lower belt doing your best thing and doing the right thing are rarely the same thing. Break your old habits and develop new ones by drilling (preferably to music). It’s fun, it’s easy, and you don’t have to get sweaty so you don’t have to wash your gi or your hair when you’re done.
Save time. Save energy. Save shampoo. And just drill.
Submit the Stigma: Fight for a Cause
I know about Erin through (her now officially registered non-profit) Submit the Stigma a campaign that started off to promote awareness for mental illness. After losing her father to suicide, Erin started the movement to with the hopes that more people would become aware of mental illness and the signs associated with it.
Erin is a brown belt having made her way up the ranks while working for Gracie Mag, studying for a college degree, and traveling around the world to compete and write about jiu-jitsu... all the while coming to terms with her own anxiety and personal problems.
Jiu-jitsu has helped change the lives of a lot of people and for me, it's definitely inspiring to see someone going out and creating awareness on the therapeutic effects that BJJ can have, I hope that my own organization Terere Kids Project will also reach official nonprofit status one day!