Sunday, June 12, 2016

Coaching and Training Jiujitsu in China

By Liz

Both of you have mentioned training and coaching jiujitsu in China. What’s that like?

Among a storm of issues, women’s perspective on periods in China is just one of many things that makes life interesting.

I remember when I was training in China a few years ago, and I asked one of my female training partners, “You gonna be in class on Friday?” She responded with a definite, “Nope.”

“Why not?” I inquired.

“Because I’m getting my period soon,” she said.

“...So?” I asked.

“...So I can’t train on my period.”

I was dumbfounded. Then I recalled one of my other female Chinese friends mentioning that she couldn’t work out or eat ice cream on her period. To be honest, it was one of those moments where the whole “cross-cultural exchange and communication” thing goes out the window, and all you can think is, “Are these people crazy or what?”

This conversation happened several more times the next couple years with my female Chinese training partners who would take a week off during their period. It never ceased to render me speechless. With jiujitsu it only kind of makes sense because Chinese women don’t use tampons, only pads. I can only imagine…

But it’s not just jiujitsu. They don’t do any kind of exercise at all during their period.

This year, I’m back in China and teaching class at my gym four times a week, more often than I have in the past. Which means that a few months down the road, someone is inevitably probably going to notice I haven’t taken any time off.

The girls at my current gym talk about their periods openly, even with our male training partners, saying casually, “Oh, I probably won’t be in on Wednesday because I’m getting my period soon,” or “I can’t come train because I’m on my period.”

Side note: There is lots of slang for period in Chinese, but two of the most common are “My great aunt has arrived (大姨妈来了da yi ma lai le), and to say that you’re taking your “regular holiday” (例假). There are other taboos associated with periods: Chinese girls don’t drink alcohol, consume cold beverages or food, or sit in cold air conditioning during their periods either.

I wondered when they were going to notice that I haven’t talked about it or taken any time off. I had a response ready in case the question came. If the question came in the presence of males, I was prepared to say, “I can’t talk about this with guys.” I knew they would be totally grossed out if they knew I trained with them while on my period. Mostly because they don’t understand women and periods, but also because they don’t know anything about tampons.

If the question came in the presence of women, I had an answer somewhat ready.

Indeed, last week, one of my female training partners mentioned, “I hope I get my period while I’m away on my business trip so that when I come back I can start training right away.”

Then she looked at me. “What are you going to do when you get your period since you’re coaching so much?”

Thank God I had already prepared for this one or else it probably would have caught me off guard.

“Well, first of all, I’m on birth control,” I explained. “So my periods are super light to begin with, they usually only last 1-2 days anyway.”

“But isn’t birth control bad for you?” she asked.

“Well not really, but also I have a hormone thing going on and I need the birth control to stay healthy.”

She seemed satisfied with this answer.

Then I said, “Also, we American girls have methods when we’re on our periods so that it doesn’t affect our training. Sometime if you come over to my house, I’ll show you.” I was planning to show her my DivaCup someday. “But also, we don’t have that tradition, that habit to take time off during our period. From the time we’re young, many of us still exercise while we’re on our periods.”

“But with jiujitsu that would be so gross and embarrassing with all the different moves and positions.”

“Yeah, well I have my ways." I knew that she had been a collegiate athlete in the past playing volleyball. “What about when you played volleyball?” I inquired.

“Well, if we were on our period, we could still drill, but just not exert any energy. But with jiujitsu even drilling would not be okay due to the positions.”

Cultural differences. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just different. At first, I thought it was kind of sexist and ignorant of them. But who am I to say, right? After all, we Americans are the ones who don’t like totalk about our periods with other people, whereas Chinese girls are very open aboutit and sometimes even expect special treatment from their boyfriends [check outthis reddit thread I found when doing research for this article]. After all, maybe it would be nice to take a break and pamper myself at home every month…

How does coaching and training jiujitsu in China give you a unique perspective on gender relations in China?

In terms of gender equality at the gym, I would say that China is probably about 75 years behind the United States (think 1950s era) in terms of gender stereotypes about women and female participation in sports. One of my female training partners has encouraged me several times to “Never tell a guy that you do jiujitsu because otherwise you will never find a boyfriend.”

Male newcomers at the gym openly laugh and gawk at me during their first few classes and tell me, “A Chinese girl would never do what you do,” completely ignoring the fact that there are other Chinese women in the class, not to mention the Chinese Olympians who take the world with gold medals each year. Some men feel super awkward in the positions, and some even make comments about not wanting to accidentally touch my breasts (WTF?).

Man-splaining has been brought to a whole new level. I regularly scold new students for telling the girls--who have been training with me for years--what to do.

That being said, I have some absolutely wonderful male teammates here in China who treat me like a sister and who have been supportive and respectful to me as their coach since day one.

Nevertheless, jiujitsu is still highly stigmatized against females in China. We think we have it bad in the US? It’s a walk in the park compared to China. At most of the gyms I have trained at, the gyms usually have 1-2 girls (~5%) per class.

However, I’ve found many of the Chinese women who stick with jiujistu to be, for the most part, bad-ass chicks who are going against some pretty strong stereotypes and cultural expectations to participate in the sport. Some even keep it a secret from their families and friends.

I look forward to many more years challenging gender stereotypes in China. It’s my hope that someday China’s cultural expectations will expand to include more open and inclusive understandings of gender.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying coaching in China. The cultural exchanges and challenges, such as with the period issue, are what make life in China interesting and exciting. 

Coaching in Chinese is not my ideal situation, and sometimes I find myself at a loss for words. However, I often find that demonstrating without language is more effective anyway. And because jiujitsu is such an undeveloped frontier in China, I consider at in-road into further cultural exchanges and gender norms in roads that are still unpaved in China.

At the end of long, tiring days in a foreign country, there isn’t anything better then leaving it all behind, stepping onto the mat, and rolling with people when few words are needed and cultural differences are forgotten.

Liz started jiujitsu in 2011, got her blue belt in 2013, and has competed in 11 competitions.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Sustainable Jiujitsu

By Liz

I’m totally exhausted at the end of every training session. How do I keep from getting injured or burning out?

Developing a long-term training plan and sustainable jiujitsu practice is key to ensuring that we can keep practicing jiujitsu into our eighties as Renzo Gracie did.  

I’ve recently noticed a few patterns with the female cohort at my gym. First, I know several women who have recently been injured or been completely exhausted by jiujistu. A couple of my friends even had to take several months off from jiujitsu because, in their own words, “I’m just completely burned out mentally and physically by jiujitsu.” See Meg’s own post about this

Second, among the women there are ego flare-ups—for example, blue belts getting resentful after a white belt taps them, or white belts going too hard with other white belts.

I’ve had conversations that uncomfortably cross into the realm of, “She always taps me out,” or “At least I tapped her out.” 

Since when did jiujitsu become all about tapping or getting tapped?

I have to admit that I’m definitely guilty of all of these habits. Once I trained so much that I barely had any energy to walk up the stairs in my house. Other times I found myself unmotivated to go to the gym, or else just completely bored during randoori sessions as I repeated the armbar-triangle pattern over and over again.  

There is a white belt who regularly taps me during training. There is another white belt whose guard I cannot pass. There is another white belt I still haven’t been able to tap. During those sessions, I often get frustrated by this and react by either spazzing out on them, pulling back and getting completely passive, or just bottling it up and crying in the shower later.   




I realized recently that if I kept holding on to these habitual attitudes--burning out and getting frustrated--it wouldn’t be long before I either got injured or quit jiujitsu. 

What I mean by “sustainable jiujitsu” is training such that we don’t get injured or burned out easily. We can develop skills so that we train as much as possible for as long as possible. Jiujitsu is meant to be a life-long sport, but it’s necessary to practice some skills to ensure you keep practicing for years to come. Here are some tips:

Take days off.

Get enough sleep. 

Eat clean.

Every session doesn’t need to be war.

It’s okay to tap out. It’s okay to get your guard passed. 

You don’t need to submit people all the time. Sometimes it’s good to practice new moves instead of always going for the tap.

Focus on learning and practicing new things. If we’re always doing the same move from the same position, we’re going to get bored really fast.  

Keep your ego out of it. Practice detaching from the outcome. You will take all the fun out of it, and probably end up getting injured or burned out, if you focus on who tapped out who, how often, and when. 

There is a time and a place for focusing on getting submissions: competition and competition training. If your gym doesn’t have specified competition-training classes, you can set aside one or two days a week during free sparring randoori to focus on getting submissions. 

Remember the point of jiujitsu is to learn new things, improve on those things, help others improve, to challenge ourselves, and to have fun. Focusing on submissions all the time can take these goals out of it for both you and your partner. 

Remember respect for the people who try new things, not the ones who are just beating up the lower belts. If we can cultivate a culture of helping each other and learning rather than one of aggression and defeat, we can ensure that jiujitsu becomes a long-term practice no matter our age. 

This post is not meant to advocate being lazy either. It’s always good to keep challenging yourself in terms of technique, speed, and strength. I am advocating for pushing yourself as hard as you can, but with an appropriate balance between focusing on getting submissions, while also learning new techniques in the process.

Sustainable jiujitsu practice requires maintaining a delicate and tricky balance of challenging yourself mentally and physically, while also recognizing your limits. 

Some days I’m so mentally burned out with adrenaline from the stress of work that all I can do is turn my brain off and go as hard as I can by using the techniques I know best. Some days I’m so physically burned out that all I want to do is hang out in bottom of guard and try the new sweep-submission combo from lasso guard. There is no right or wrong way to go about this. The point is to make sure that we are staying aware of our mental and physical limits and having fun while we’re at it. 

Liz started jiujitsu in 2011, got her blue belt in 2013, and has competed in 11 competitions.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Confessions of BJJ Women

You thought only men farted or got aroused on the mat? Think again. Here is our first installment of BJJ confessions from myself, Liz, and a few other anonymous BJJ ladies!

  • I thought jiujitsu sounded stupid the first time I heard of it, years before I started training. How wrong I was.
  • During intense competition training one day, I was spotting between periods and bled through my gi pants. My friend tried to say something, but I was so worked up that I ignored her and completed the class with a big red stain on my pants. Later she said, "I tried to tell you!"
  • I avoid some techniques because I have small panic attacks when my legs get trapped. I can't even sleep with the sheets tucked in. I don't know why, but my body freaks out and it almost hurts.
  • Sometimes I get slightly aroused against my will doing certain moves, like when people grab between my legs in side control. I can’t help it, and it makes me glad that being female means no one can tell.
  • One time I was rolling with my coach when I felt a fart coming on. I stopped moving and clenched my butt cheeks. My coach said, “Come on, don’t give up now! You have to keep moving, dig deep!” I bit my lip and kept going, praying that I wouldn’t fart on him.
  • I did fart on my coach, and it was loud enough to echo off the walls. I tried to cover it up with a cough, but he was smirking.

They do, and it will happen in their triangle. Enjoy.

  • I only know how to tie my belt the "super knot" way and not the traditional way.
  • I was practicing the fan sweep and really trying to put the hip thrust motion into it as hard as I could. My partner was a newbie and apparently hadn’t figured out he should wear spandex under his gi pants. I could feel his boner.
  • Teammates have commented on my smooth legs (in a non-creepy way), but I rarely ever shave above my knees thanks to gi pants.
  • I hold grudges when men bully and muscle me around on the mat, and I make them pay when I finally get the upper hand whether it's in the same roll or two weeks later.
  • I was going for the belt when I grabbed my partner’s balls--a whole handful of them. He played it cool, but I was mortified.

Ball control, 10 out of 10.

  • During a no-gi match for gold, my shirt rolled up my stomach, and I got self-conscious with everyone watching. She passed my guard because I stopped to pull my shirt down.
  • Jiujitsu is a spiritual experience for me. The gym is my sanctuary.
  • I convinced my coaches I didn't want to work with one guy because he was too spazzy. In actuality, I didn't want to work with him because he always grabbed my ass--in rolls, in drills, and even when we lined up to say goodbye. (Disclaimer: I should have told my coaches. Please tell someone if this happens to you.)
  • I like being in back control because it feels like cuddling.
  • I once unintentionally caressed my coach's balls with my foot while trying to learn De La Riva guard. I kept my foot there a few awkward seconds too long trying to figure out why his thigh was so soft.


Have a confession of your own and want to include it in our next installment anonymously? Send it to us at liz.meg223@gmail.com!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Color of the Belt

By Liz

I remember when I was an energetic and spastic white belt with a naive heart full of hope and eyes full of wonder for the world of jiujitsu. I was like a recently inducted member of a secret cult; or perhaps a new lover eager to please; or an addict needing a fix. I recall lining up in rank order at the end of the queue, and sometimes I would lean my head forward just an inch and sneak a look out of the corner of my right eye. Outstretched before me was a long row of colorful belts like they were mocking me and saying, “You are literally THE worst.”


I remember when I was a white belt, I idolized the blue belts like they were demigods. The purple belts? They were (are) practically gods. The brown and black belts? I won’t even mention those gods of gods. (I am not worthy! *kowtows* I am not worthy!)


When I rolled with blue belts, their technique dominated mine. They could fold me into a pretzel, armbar me in their sleep, and pass my guard before I even got in guard. They had fancy techniques I’d never seen and could manipulate my limbs like it was their job. They seemed so experienced, so COOL. They were the eighth graders in middle school, the cool kids in the cafeteria, the seniors in high school. They seemed untouchable to me. They were what I wanted so badly to be. They gave me advice, and I hung on to every word. They intimidated me with their skill and experience, and with their jokes, handshakes, nods, and knowing smiles. They were all friends with each other, and I was the awkward and uncoordinated noob.


Being a white belt definitely feels like adolescence sometimes.


After I’d had my white belt for one year and four months, a friend hinted that if I did well at the next tournament, I might be ready for my blue belt. “No way,” I responded, though inside I was doing cartwheels. Maybe, just maybe, it was time for me to enter the rank of the blues.


I did relatively well at that tournament. In no-gi, I lost by points in the finals after barely missing an armbar (and, somewhat regretfully but not really, fucking up the girl’s elbow because she refused to tap). In gi, I lost in the finals by points to a ferocious white belt who was also the wife of a famous black belt. So that one didn’t really even count, right?


My coaches kept telling me how proud they were of me. “How long have you had your white belt?” one coach asked me after my matches were over. “A little over a year,” I responded shyly. Could this be it? Could this be the moment I’m finally promoted?


Indeed, a couple days later during morning training, the two coaches who had helped me the most in my training up to that point promoted me to blue belt. Finally, all my hard work had amounted to something great. I was one step higher on the totem pole. I was bursting with pride.


The thrill of being a blue belt was short-lived.


Whereas yesterday I was a highly skilled white belt, suddenly overnight I became a sucky blue belt.

After a belt promotion there’s elation and ecstasy and then… you crash. It’s gone in the next moment. You fall low and you can practically feel the vertigo as you drop suddenly… now what? You’ve worked so hard to get to this point and now that it’s here… and it’s almost anti-climactic… under-whelming. It’s on to the next stripe, the next belt color.


I lost pretty badly at the next five competitions I participated in. I doubted myself as a blue belt for the next two years. I couldn’t stop that nagging feeling in the back of my head that kept saying, “You only got promoted to blue belt because you’re female.”


I could just imagine the coaches' conversation, as if I had eavesdropped: “Well… she’s pretty good… for a girl. We should just give her a blue belt because she tries really hard.” In other words, not unlike the awful pity fuck, I thought they had given me a pity promotion. After all, how could I deserve my blue belt when I was still getting destroyed by white belts?


Note to self: Try not to make up assumptions and conversations in your head. You’re almost always completely wrong.


Now, coming up on the third anniversary of my blue belt promotion, I feel more confident with my blue belt status.  


However, even after three years as a blue belt, I would be horrified if I was promoted to purple belt anytime in the foreseeable future. Sure, it would be nice to be acknowledged by my coaches for the time and effort I’ve spent on the mat. The seduction of external validation is not entirely lost on me.  

I’d still prefer to just curl up with my blue belt and hang out in mediocrity. Sometimes I don’t want to have the pressure of having to perform at a higher level.

In one sense, I think that’s why we get promoted: to push us into the ranks of the next level. I would guess there are tons of people in my gym who would love to stay blue belts forever. Because once we get promoted, the pressure mounts and we’re expected to perform at a certain level. It pushes us to keep improving.

Yet… why? Why does it matter what color my belt is? It shouldn’t matter. It simply means that you’ve been doing jiujitsu for a certain period of time. And yet… it carries some undeniable baggage along with it. And I think everyone experiences and interprets that baggage differently.


Maybe it’s an ego thing. It would be nice to remain as a good blue belt for the rest of eternity. I just want to stay in my comfort zone. My blue belt is like a security blanket now, a kind of shield that keeps me from the shame of being dominated by purple belts and keeps me doing relatively well at tournaments.


I feel no shame whatsoever when a purple belt dominates me, like one did the other day so much that my head spun and I started seeing stars, I walked off the mat licking my wounds with the comforting thoughts of, “Well, she was a purple belt. Of course she’s better than me. She’s probably been doing jiujistu for like 15 years.”


As a blue belt, white belts still tap me out occasionally. And when that happens, my ego gets bruised really bad.


In situations when we feel our ego pulling a temper tantrum, I think it’s important to remember jiujitsu is about the process--of learning, of challenging yourself, of trying something new, of being vulnerable.




The thrill of jiujitsu for me comes with trying something new even when I’m scared of losing the position. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten my guard passed by a white belt because I was trying to work butterfly or X-guard, or gotten swept when trying a new submission.


Yet that one in a millionth time when you’re actually successful with a new move? That is thrilling like nothing else, and in a second we’re transported back to our white belt inner-child, high on cloud-nine after finishing a triangle.

And yet the thought of getting my purple belt terrifies me. When I get my purple, I will return to the bottom of the totem pole again, this time as a sucky purple belt.

When we feel we are sucking at life or sucking on the mat, it’s important to remember it’s not the people who are good at stuff who we respect. It’s not just because we have a blue or a black belt that people are going to respect us, or even how well we can close that triangle. It’s the people who make an effort whom we respect. It’s the people who approach the world with adventure, who are okay with failure, and who reach out with compassion--those are the people who we respect.  

Liz started jiujitsu in 2011, got her blue belt in 2013, and has competed in 11 competitions.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Jiujitsu Confession: I Burned Out

By Meg

I have not trained jiujitsu in almost two months. When I moved home from China, I decided to take a break for several reasons: injuries (I can now turn my head all the way to the right and almost so on the left!), wallet (going from paying nothing to $150 a month feels like lopping off an arm), and the last reason, the guilty confession--I burned out on jiujitsu.

At the time, I didn't want to admit I was burnt out. Seemed like a sin. I was a coach and part of gym management, but I dreaded going to the gym. I wanted to relax and work on other interests. I wanted to look over my shoulder without having to turn my entire body.

Looking back with some perspective, I’m cutting myself some slack. A handful of factors contributed to the burn-out, starting with the original founder and head coach leaving the summer before. The person who had provided motivation, encouragement, and drive left a hole in the gym atmosphere.

Afterwards, two other teachers shared the responsibility of teaching advanced classes. Although each very talented, the techniques became muddled. One day we learned single leg X guard, and the next we learned De la Riva. My brain did not compute, and under the lack of pattern and repetition, I stopped picking up new techniques.

Early in 2015, the club moved to a new, nicer location. We added classes, and I picked up two beginner's classes to teach. Coaching others and watching them succeed provided the positivity and enjoyment I'd been missing.

Advanced classes, on the other hand, shrank to include just a few people. The lightest, compared to my 53 kilos (121 lbs), was still 20 kilos (44 lbs) heavier. After receiving a few more injuries, I stopped rolling with all except one safe partner.

With my interest at an all-time low, I did what any person would do: I questioned my love for jiujitsu. 

My friend, Sarah, and I took a BJJ-intensive trip to Thailand (read all about it here and here) in August, where we only trained. We trained two times a day, at least four hours a day, gi and no-gi. I challenged myself to train with everyone. I gained some much-needed training with Sarah, someone of a similar build, mindset, and level.

Most importantly, in Thailand I trained under Olavo Abreu. This coach corrected my technique, adjusted movements for my size, and passionately encouraged me during rolls (in a somewhat unintelligible Brazilian accent.) Slowly, my interest showed its face again. I felt excitement for jiujitsu that I hadn't felt in over a year, and I fell in love with it again that week.

Following this trip, I decided to focus on coaching until returning to America in November. Coaching the once-awkward-and-uncoordinated-noob to a basic level, and then watching them armbar some newer noob made me excited and content. Adjusting techniques for size and injuries brought me new understanding of the moves and leverage. There are better ways to learn jiujitsu than getting pancaked under a 90-kilo (200-lb) man.

Back to the present. For now, I'm letting myself take this break. My husband and I train together occasionally, but I am focused on other goals at the moment, like returning to school for another degree. Last night, I tried rock climbing with my sister--something I'd have never had the time to do before. It was fantastic.

When I get back on the mats in a class setting, that will be an awesome moment. I look forward to it every day. But, right now for the first time in three years, jiujitsu does not take priority in my life. And that's okay.


Meg started jiujitsu in 2012, got her blue belt in 2013, and has competed in five competitions.


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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Maintaining the Work/Life/Train Equilibrium

By Liz

I’m too busy to train. How can I balance obligations to my family and my crazy work schedule with jiujitsu training?


I competed last month, and in the five days leading up to the competition, I took some time off from the gym to rest up. I thought to myself, “Hooray! Now I’ll have more time to devote to work and school.” Indeed, I did spend more time in the office than I normally do, but I can say with confidence that I didn’t actually get more work done. I spent a lot of time staring at my computer screen doing nothing, playing on my phone, or otherwise distracting myself with Facebook, Reddit, and Netflix. My brain just couldn’t sustain the additional workload I expected from it, especially in the absence of physical activity.


It’s not the first time this has happened. There was a period of time a couple years ago when I wasn’t able to train. Sometimes it takes time off from the gym to realize how much you appreciate its presence in your life.


I spent more time in the office, but wasn’t any more productive than when I’m training regularly. Normally when I know I have training in the evening, I work efficiently and concentrate on the task at hand so that I can get everything done. But when I don’t have my training time as a deadline, I procrastinate and easily get distracted when I’m trying to do work. As a result I end up staying at the office late, but don’t end up getting much done. I leave the office feeling burned out and unproductive.


I try to maintain a satisfying work/play balance, but we all know it’s easier said than done. How can I follow my dreams of being a successful career woman and writing a book, while still maintaining connections with my family and friends? When is it time for me to buckle down and work hard, and when is it time to take the day off and spend time with the people I love?


I often struggle with how and when to make jiujitsu a priority in my life. Many of the women (and men) who have families especially struggle with when to train and when to spend time with and take care of their kids. For me, sometimes it feels like jiujitsu should take a lower priority over work and friends. After all, it’s really just a hobby, while my career and family is my future and my life.


However, since I began training over four years ago, I’ve learned from experience that training is essential for my mental health. Training is a type of self-compassion (it’s my ME time) that I cannot live without because my training time is key to keeping myself from burning out. In other words, not training would be the most selfish thing I could do. If I didn’t have the “me time” that training allows, I wouldn’t have the energy to be present for my family and friends. Quitting training would be the most detrimental thing I could do for my career. If I didn’t have the stress outlet that training allows, I wouldn’t have the mental or physical energy to devote to work and school.


When you’re super busy, that’s when training is most important to get rid of the stress and keep yourself from burning out mentally. Whether you’re studying for school, working in an office, or taking care of kids at home, we all need mat time for some self-care, stress relief, and time away from the house. Not only is physical activity key for getting a good dose of endorphins, but training allows you to see friendly faces at the gym and devote time to yourself and something you love to do for pure fun, something all of us need and most of us simply don’t get enough of.


I don’t think about the train/life balance as an opposed dichotomy. I see my training and my life as fundamentally intertwined: training is my life and my life is training. Training is fundamental to my life not just for the physical and mental benefits, but also for the friendships and community that I’ve been able to build as a result.


As I reflect on 2015, I’m so grateful for the presence of jiujitsu in my life. BJJ changed my life in a big way. It gave me confidence to protect and stand up for myself, helped me to believe in my value and worth, and gave me a sense of purpose and meaning. Last spring when I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a status update from a training partner and friend, Christal Christian. She wrote the following message, “from the bottom of my heart,” she told me later. She wrote beautifully about how I feel regarding the importance of jiujitsu in my life.




A few weeks ago, I was drilling with another female BJJ enthusiast. After we were done drilling, we sat on the mat and talked for over an hour (it was mid-day and the gym was virtually empty). We talked about the ups and downs of life and our insecurities, and she gave me advice on how to deal with emotional hardships, as well as being a woman in a male-dominated environment: keep a journal, don’t stop writing, believe in your fundamental value as a human being, and don’t be ashamed to take up space and stand up for yourself.


After drilling and talking with her, I realized that training isn’t just about going through the motions of a move or roll. It’s about community. It’s about having the time to talk and laugh with friends. Even though that hour I spent talking with her was one hour I didn’t spend at the office, it was 100% worth it. I realized then that the time I’ve spent at the gym whether training or talking with friends has been worth it, whether for keeping me sane, keeping me devoted to work and family, or keeping me mentally and physically healthy. And I’m not saying to never take time off. Rest and recovery is just as important as your time in the gym and taking breaks are key for keeping jiujitsu a sustainable life practice.

Keeping the work/life/train balance in equilibrium is key. Work and life are not opposed dichotomies. It’s not a zero-sum game where time training necessarily means time subtracted from your life. Nobody wants the work/life/train spheres to be fighting in a hierarchical ranking of one over the other. Rather, if you can bring them into an intertwined equilibrium, you can develop community and take care of your health at the same time. Who knows? Someday you might even build a career out of doing jiujitsu, and get your family on the mats, too.


Liz started jiujitsu in 2011, got her blue belt in 2013, and has competed in 11 competitions. She’s learned through training that sometimes the bravest thing you can do is just show up.

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