Jiu Jitsu Adventures: The Gi and I

I can’t believe that I’ve already been here in Singapore for over two weeks, and that in ten days’ time I’ll be back in Adelaide.

My holiday so far has allowed me to live out the fantasy of not needing to do anything except eat well, sleep when tired, spend time with family and friends, and train. No matter how many sacrifices one makes, this is not the reality of everyday life, when the more burdensome aspects of our responsibilities in relationships, study and work all get in the way of our peace of mind, recovery-sleep and focus.

Training at Evolve MMA is always rewarding. I first trained at Evolve in 2011, and it marked a turning-point for me at the time, in terms of health, self-esteem, ambitions and relationships. Being exposed to such a positive environment allowed me to envision a life of positivity and progress for myself, and experiencing BJJ and MMA for the first time helped me to clarify my sporting goals.

It wasn’t easy to create the vision that I saw back then, but three years later I can certainly say that I’ve changed my life for the better. When I look back on the sad, lost young woman who walked into Evolve in 2011 and put on a gi for the first time, I am proud. People who know the real me have commented on it as well – my energy goes towards betterment and progress now, rather than to damage-control.

I have chosen good people with whom to surround myself, and this has strengthened me in the pursuit of my goals in all areas, not just training. In the last two years, I’ve upgraded my Fitness qualifications, achieved High Distinctions and Distinctions for all of my Nutrition subjects and in my first year at University, got my first win in MMA as part of the first WMMA fight in South Australia, won gold in my weight class at the South Australian State Championships and Grappling Tournaments Australia as a white belt, won gold in my weight division at the State Championships at Blue Belt, and competed overseas for the first time. I could not have done a fraction of this without the support and positivity of the people who are in my life now.

Coming back to Evolve has become a sort of ritual for me, something which marks the passage of time, gives me the chance to reflect on my progress, and which always renews my passion for what I do.

This time I’ve particularly been enjoying gi jiu jitsu. In the past, the gi has been an obstacle for me, something that I tolerated but didn’t always enjoy. There have been many times where I wished that there was the option in Adelaide for me to train under a Tenth Planet gym, and be able to do away with the gi altogether. While I do love the Tenth Planet style, and find the Tenth Planet techniques that Nick has helped me to use really relevant to my no-gi and MMA game, being at Evolve has helped me to love and understand the gi.

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In Defence of Culture, Autonomy and Identity: Martial Arts as Protest in the Twentieth Century and Beyond

Lone Boxer

Those who follow me on Twitter would have noticed a lot of my Tweets lately have been about “mysticism” in Martial Arts. I had been writing my final essay for this semester and now it’s done – I’ve really finished Uni for the year. I ended up calling my paper “In Defence of Culture, Autonomy and Identity: Martial Arts as Protest in the Twentieth Century and Beyond.” In the end, what it came to represent to me was the articulation of over fifteen years of Rage that had previously only ever found expression through physical means.

It’s funny that my “Martial Arts” and the ethnic protest that they represented were always a source of shame and bemusement to certain people in my life. I’m sure they’re happy now that I’m doing something “respectable” at University. The irony is that my studies are motivated by exactly the same righteous anger (at being denied a culture of my own while being marginalised by the one in which I live) that initially motivated me to want to learn how to kill people with my bare hands. (Let’s be honest; that angry sixteen year old who walked into a Pradahl Serey Kun Khmai gym and said “I want to learn how to fight” wasn’t interested in spiritual transcendence or individualistic self-improvement).

I never did put hands on those people who were on my teenage hit-list (there was a list) and I have not become anywhere near as accomplished a fighter or “Martial Artist” as I had hoped to be by now. But in the process of writing this essay, I realised that my years of training have been worth something, if only because they have made me a small part of a phenomenon that is much bigger and more significant than myself.

Nothing that I’ve suggested is new: there is a lot that has been written on this subject, and there is room to be far more comprehensive. For example, I was unable to go into s discussion of the Blacksploitation film genre, or to analyse the socio-political implications of Women’s MMA. But I hope that you get some enjoyment or insight out of what I was able to discuss. Comments are very welcome.

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Where Did You Want To Be Two Years Ago?

I was recently prompted to “write the post that was on my mind when I decided to start this blog.”

I went back over my archives and read my first post. It was February 2012. I was enjoying my first year of good health after chronic fatigue syndrome.

I wrote:

Me, 2012, with cake and neck injury
Me, 2012, with cake and neck injury

“Where I’d rather be now is reaching more people through my personal training business, competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, fighting in Muay Thai again both here and in Thailand, and making my debut in Mixed Martial Arts. These are the things that have formed the basis of 2012′s Resolutions, which in turn determine the actions I take each day to make these a reality.” 

Since then, I moved some goal-posts. Transitioning from Muay Thai to MMA was more difficult than imagined, so my goals to have more Muay Thai fights and to go to Thailand have been superseded by my focus on grappling.

I have seen how competitive the personal training industry has become, and how much more clients need than basic exercise programs. I continue to work with fitness clients, while making myself a better exercise specialist and, eventually, a holistic nutritionist through formal study.

One area of my life has gone according to plan, and that’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Losing via ground-and-pound stoppage in an MMA fight against Arlene Blencowe last year turned out to be a blessing. It has driven me to develop my grappling skills.

Last weekend I competed in the South Australian Brazilian Jiu Jitsu State Championships – my first competition as a blue belt.

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On Progression: “Have You Got Game From There?”

Last night, I got my blue belt. I’m still pretty blown away by it, and can honestly say that I wasn’t expecting it at all. Perhaps because, as someone who came into jiu jitsu from a Muay Thai background, the concept of belts and gradings still seems a bit foreign to me.

I have been putting a lot of work into my grappling, particularly since losing my last MMA fight. I felt so disappointed and humiliated by that loss that it lit a fire under me and made me determined not just to be a “striker” who had some take-down and submission defense, but a legitimate MMA fighter, with real jiu jitsu and wrestling skills. I don’t want to have to be afraid of being anywhere in the cage. When posed with the quintessential question “Have you got game from there?” I want always to be able to answer “yes.”

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