A Gracie Girl
by ANONYMOUS /03 november, 2017
If your BJJ journey hasn’t begun, know that it will be difficult. You will get smashed, you will tap out and you will be overwhelmed. It will make you question your ability and your intelligence, how far you can push your physical and mental boundaries and whether or not you can cope with such a dynamic learning environment. Brazilian Jiu Jiutsu will crush your ego, challenge your memory, test your problem solving skills and push you so far out of your comfort zone you will regularly wonder if you’re actually improving or getting worse.
This is a little story about how I ended up here and why I keep coming back.
I’ve always hopped from one sport to the next. Trying to find the perfect fit for me. I loved gymnastics, but to make the move towards competitive acrobatics I would’ve had to train 5-6 days a week, and as part of a first generation immigrant family, that was totally out of the question. School came first. I spent most of my school years (mostly) unwillingly doing a mix of extracurricular activities. Tutoring, Farsi school and whatever sport my mum suggested or my friends were into at the time. I had the potential to excel, but I was easily distracted and I lacked the motivation to really push myself out of my comfort zone. That definitely still applies, but I can be pretty stubborn.
Growing up, football and gymnastics were what I enjoyed the most and what I spent the most time doing. I was mediocre at both. Once HSC season began it replaced football season for lots of our players. Then, people went on to work, travel, raise families or further study and there were so many new faces each season that it became hard to keep up. Team sports are great fun, but once the dynamic changes and the team spirit evaporates, it’s pretty hard to keep a team of fifteen-ish players on the same page.
I tried Zumba, joined different gyms and did some PT sessions but I still wasn’t satisfied. It was either during my first or second year at university, while working at a call centre part time, that I realised I had to find some form of physical activity that didn’t feel like a chore. At the time I was just training at a regular gym, doing weights and cardio to stay semi-fit, but I was consciously keeping my eye out for something more interesting.
In fifth grade I dabbled in karate for a couple of years, and I always had an appreciation for martial arts. It teaches you discipline, respect, culture and most important for me as a small female – self defence. I was eager to get involved in some form of martial art, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) was growing in popularity. I was on the lookout for a decent BJJ academy to join, asked around on Facebook and did some minimal research, but was still pretty hesitant to sign up anywhere. A couple of people had told me about this place in Alexandria, which was very close to my call centre job and apparently was a decent academy. It took me about two years until I crossed paths with Gracie Humaita headquarters.
Two years later, I was in a very different place. Depressed, unfit and not knowing if my degree was right for me anymore, I was feeling very lost. I was on Centrelink and struggling to find work, and just kept myself distracted with binge drinking, socialising and going to gigs. Yasiin Bey was coming to Sydney and because he had to cancel his set at a festival, the organisers were offering discounted tickets to his side show for anyone who’d purchased a festival ticket. I assumed my friends identity for a cheap ticket and went straight to Enmore Theatre. Coincidentally, I was friends with a guy who was training at the Gracie Humaita HQ in Alexandria and I offered him a lift back home to Western Sydney because I was around the area. Instead of just picking him up, he invited me inside to have a peek around and meet the instructors. The academy was spacious and the instructors seemed like really down to earth people. I was surprised. I had this horrible image in my head of BJJ being some gross kind of boys club with intense/creepy/aggressive guys (which can be true depending on the academy/individual).
I went in for my free trial at Gracie Humaita HQ the very next day and it was nothing like I expected. I was taught to move my body in ways I couldn’t even comprehend. It took me SUCH a long time just to understand how the BJJ forward roll worked. I’d always been taught to keep everything symmetrical and tuck my chin in to protect my neck, so rolling over my shoulder felt very strange. Everything the instructors showed me blew my mind. I was so uncoordinated, had lost a lot of my strength and cardio and it was really hard for me to grasp very basic concepts. But something about this sport had me hooked. I felt nervous every single time I came to the gym, but I kept going. I still get nervous whenever I go to the gym. There’s always something unexpected that could happen, always a new technique that will be really difficult to grasp.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is hands down the most challenging endeavour I’ve ever pursued, but I’m determined to keep turning up. I go through periods of training really consistently, then not at all and it’s very easy to let things get in the way of training and break up your routine. When I went back to university, it consumed so much of my time and energy. I’d avoid going because of all the time it took to get to the gym from Western Sydney (thanks to traffic), all the while forgetting how BJJ goes hand in hand with whatever circumstance you’re in and only makes everything else going on in your life seem doable. We are blessed with some pretty incredible instructors in the Gracie Humaita crew, and over the years they have guided me and given me pearls of wisdom, not only about Jiu Jitsu, but little nuggets of wisdom to help me with whatever I was going through at the time. This community has honestly influenced the kind of person I am today and I’ve come to realise that there is an endless wealth of knowledge that people are willing to share with you - if you are willing to learn.
My heart is in Western Sydney and I’ve lived here for most of my life, so when I heard a new gym was opening up in Parramatta I couldn’t wait to be able to train closer to home. I’d have less excuses not to go because I wouldn’t spend as long in traffic. Since Gracie Parramatta has opened, it has become a home away from home for so many of us. You step into the gym and you can feel the soul and the dedication in that space. It’s a gym, a library and a place that is all-inclusive where you will be welcome with open arms. Whenever I’ve felt uncomfortable and unsure, there has always been someone at Parramatta (and also the wider Gracie Humaita team) who has brought me back and grounded me. Our coaches have built this place from scratch and have made sure to maintain an environment that is family-friendly, supportive of its women and founded on kindness and respect.
As a female in a male-dominated sport, I had to overcome how intimidating a room full of men could be. Retention rates for women in the sport aren’t that great, and a bunch of the Gracie women noticed how hard it was to stay on task when the odds seem to be against us. They started having discussions about what we could do to change the game. A group of amazing women and their families came up with an initiative to keep the momentum going for the females in our team. We would host monthly rotating women-only open mats at different Gracie Humaita academies where we learnt self-defence and new techniques. It would include drilling and time for us to roll with women from the other Gracie Humaita gyms so we could push ourselves and encourage us to build a strong female team that supported each other every step of the way. Gracie Girls was created and the first event was hosted nearly a year ago today. Since then, it has blossomed into something we are all incredibly proud of. It takes a lot of hard work, and we owe it to the women in Gracie Humaita and BJJ in general who have helped pave the way for what we have today. We have developed a really supportive network for women who encourage and challenge each other to constantly improve ourselves and each other.
This Saturday the 4th of November 2017, we are proud to host the last Gracie Girls event of the year at Parramatta once again. It starts at midday and we will go through some self defence that’s tailored for scenarios women are often faced with. We’ll learn a couple of techniques and drill them with partners, an open mat will follow and then we will feast on a BBQ. We hope to see all the Gracie Girls and their families there!
Two weeks after hosting the 2017 Gracie Girls finale, Gracie Parramatta will be celebrating our very first birthday. We’ll be having a BBQ on Sunday the 19th of November starting at midday too. There’ll be games and music and food. Bring your friends, your family and most importantly yourself to help us celebrate an amazing first year.
Our gym is a really special place, and we’d love to meet you and welcome you to our family. If you make a little room for BJJ, it will change your life for the better. Catch you on the mats.
To book for our 1st Birthday, Click the link below!