Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What does Jiu-Jitsu mean to me?

A few weeks ago, in my unprofessional opinion, I decided it was time take the knee out for a test drive and see how it would hold up back on the mats. I have to say it's great being back. My knee is not quite 100% better yet, but I've been able to roll a few times with much lighter opponents. For the most part it is just drills and technique that I've been focusing on. Now of course, I don't want to jinks myself, but its held up pretty well thus far.

Even though my return to the mats is a celebratory event in my life, it is bitter sweet. It's still strange to be on foreign mats in a new school, with a different instructor and new training partners and no patch on my back. I do miss my old training partners and instructors. But its time to "man up", because I have a new purpose, to find a new BJJ "home". It is one of the biggest choices I'll ever make. So I am not taking this decision lightly. I am being as patient, open minded, honest and as well informed as I can be in selecting my next home.

Over the past two weeks, I've taken a class at four different schools. Everyone has made me feel so welcomed and right at home wherever I've gone to train, which has definitely made this process easier and more enjoyable. The more schools  I visit the more I am learning about what components should go into choosing a school or a team. And the more schools I visit the more the list grows and becomes revised. I see this as an ongoing process and I am okay with not rushing through it. After all, it is  a big decision that hopefully I  will never have to make it again.

I can only imagine how overwhelming this process can be for someone brand new to Jiu-Jitsu.  How would someone with no prior experience and no knowledge of the martial art even know what to look for or where to start? How can they really know what is  right for them when they have nothing to compare it to? Or maybe having previous experience makes the decision much harder and the novices are the lucky ones who are  blissfully ignorant.

Even though I am more the right brainy, crafty, artsy type I am incredibly OCD ( obsessive compulsive disordered) when it comes to organizing, planning and structuring things. I have lists for my lists, so naturally, I've composed a plan of attack for my shopping adventure.  In doing my pre-shopping research of Austin academies, I was shocked to see how many academies have opened since I first started in 2003. The number of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academies must of at least tripled in the last decade. There are more options than ever. There are at least 23 schools, 20 teams and 18 black belts (one female one) in Austin. The old days are long gone. Growth is good for all of us and I think it's healthy for academies to have more competition. This forces them to up their game in order to retain students and ultimately stay in business. Nowadays, if someone isn't happy, they can just leave knowing they have choices, which wasn't the case a few years ago.

To me having choices is extremely important when making such a big decision as to what academy and team to choose. I feel the more choices the better. But on the flip side, too many choices can also be confusing. This isn't easy process and  I am realizing is that it sure helps to know what it is you're looking for in the first place.The first step in my BJJ shopping experience was to establish my personal goals. Which presented me with  A multitude of  questions. For instance, do I want to teach? How actively do I want to compete? How do I want to contribute? My mind has been swimming, but it all comes back to the most important question..... what does Jiu-Jitsu really mean to me?

That's an incredibly hard question to answer even with as much experience as I have under my belt. Some people use the word addiction to define what Jiu-Jitsu means to them. Addiction implies negative connotation. I like to think that I am not enslaved to Jiu-Jitsu.

I prefer to think I am passionate, dedicated and in love with Jiu-Jitsu.  Just as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has evolved, my feelings about what it means to me has continued to change over the years.  The more I train Jiu-Jitsu, the more it becomes a part of who I am. Jiu-Jitsu has aided me in finding my weaknesses and build my strengths on and off the mats. It has given me a sense of purpose in life. Jiu-Jitsu is not just a martial art or a sport, it's a lifestyle. It is  what motivates me to be a better person.  The best part of Jiu-Jitsu to me is that it is an amazing gift for all of us to personally define.   

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Summer Fun-Living, Learning and Growing.

Growing up in Hawaii, I had no idea what the hell "seasons" were. I don't think I even ever used the word until I was eighteen and I moved to the "mainland". In Hawaii, it's pretty much one season year round. Don't get me wrong, I am by no means complaining about Hawaii's climate. I miss it everyday. Since I've lived on the "mainland" for over a decade I've gotten a taste of the four seasons and have come to learn how exciting the changing of the seasons can be.

In my opinion, summer is the season not only with the worst weather here on the "mainland" , but with the most tendency to provide me with crash courses on life's lessons mostly learned the hard way. This usually forces me to re-evaluate and clean house. During the summer season, I tend to be faced with more tests that define who I am and help me realize what type of person I want to be as I am ultimately guided in my life's path. Summer is never an easy time and it can sometimes appear that things are more difficult than it has to be. Maybe it's just the 100 degree plus weather that has me more impatient and edgy. Or could the "wrenches in my gears" in the summer helps pave the way for the changes that Fall leads to?

This summer was the longest break I've ever taken from Jiu-Jitsu in all of my time training. I am sure that anyone who has been injured in Jiu-Jitsu and is as in love with Jiu-Jitsu as I am, understands how it feels to suddenly eliminate a huge part of your life. In a strange way not training made me feel like I'd lost a sense of my identity. The worst part for me was how much I wanted to train but couldn't. I missed the physical and mental challenges Jiu-Jitsu presents. I also really missed seeing my Jiu-Jitsu family everyday and no work out can compare to Jiu-Jitsu. It leaves some big shoes to fill.

Without training, I really felt lost for a while. At first, my whole routine was thrown out of whack. It was strange having so much free time that used to be occupied with training. I didn't know what to do with myself. Then I decided to dive head first into working on my business and working on the many other projects I've taken on. Why not become a work-a-holic! I love what I do! If anything, I can say it's been an extremely productive summer.

Now, I am grateful for this time away from training which has given me time to think. No matter how hard it was to be a "bench warmer" all summer, I realize that taking a break from Jiu-Jitsu was exactly what I needed to do. It allowed me to re-assess and evaluate several areas of my life. I learned a lot about myself and my weakness which led to me finding more of my inner strength. In the end, this has aided me in making some of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make.

These decisions have forced me to open myself up and provided me with so many more opportunities that I couldn't have otherwise had. It's definitely been an eye opening experience. I've been learning more about Jiu-Jitsu, the history, lineage, principles, beliefs, politics and shared personal outlooks. I've learned more about what to look for when "shopping" for a school, my preferences, my values and learning more about what components make up the best school and team for me. I've been meeting new people in the community and best of all I am learning. I won't lie, some days I still wake up and wonder if I made the right choice. I've never been good at accepting change. It's scary being out on my own with out my "family". I feel like a freshman in college away from home for the first time. It's both scary and exciting at the same time.

I feel like my life has been turned upside down and then right side up again like a snow globe. But no matter how difficult things may have seemed, I got through them and it was a growing experience. I feel it all balanced out..for everything negative that happened something amazing quickly followed. I've been doing a lot of jumping through life's hoops, but in the end I am learning everything will work out exactly as it's supposed to. So now that the "flurries" have finally started to settle I am left feeling more confident than ever knowing I can take on what comes next. I've got a lot of decisions to make and a lot more "homework" to do. But in the meantime I am going to have some fun! 'Cause isn't that what summers all about? And it's almost over.

The leaves are dropping off the trees giving the illusion of fall, but looks can be deceiving in Texas. Due to the massive drought everything is withering up and dying. But there is hope. The other week we finally had our first break in the 100 degree marathon and dare I say it actually felt like Fall. The cool, crisp Fall night air made me frisky. My stomach was full of butterflies fluttering about in anticipation of something. What could it be!?!! The only thing that can be for certain is change.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Girls in Gis-Houston & Two Year Anniversary Celebration

I've always had an obsession with collecting quotes and finding ones that are most relevant to the phases of my life.  When I was in high school I was always running around with a pen and pad or a voice recorder asking everyone to share a quote. One of the most inspirational quotes I've recently found was from the great words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail". 
Perhaps that is one of the many unique qualities I love about Jiu-Jitsu, because it is truly our own personal journey.  No two people will have exactly the same experiences, goals or challenges to overcome.  Although our experiences will be unique, there is always comfort in knowing that we are not alone.  

Programs like Girls in Gis provide so many opportunities for women and girls in the BJJ community.  Not only is the group a great place to pick up some new technique or grapple with other women, it's the friendship and unity that is built at each and everyone of these events that make them truly special.  How often do we as women get to share our jiu-jitsu experiences, perspectives and outlooks with other like  minded women?  Unlike most women in the community, I've had a truly unique experience in BJJ.  I've never been the "only" woman in the academy.  My first two instructors were women.  Needless to say, I never experienced a shortage of women to train with over the past eight years. I have been extremely fortunate to have learned the long-term benefits of training with other women firsthand.  Perhaps that's why I strongly support the vision of Girls in Gis, because I know how important it is as a martial artist and competitor to be able to train with women and share our passion with each other.    

There is no doubt that the Girls in Gis Houston event was a smash hit!  Prior to the event, Fighter Girls did an excellent interview with Ashley Nguyen, the Girls in Gis founder, on what exactly Girls in Gis is all about and where it came from.  Ashley Nguyen did an outstanding job hosting and instructing!  Everyone loved it!  To get a full recap and see photos visit TXMMA!  More articles include, and  Additional photos I took can be seen on Shama Ko Photography FB.

As I sat on the sidelines taking photos of the forty women and girls on the mats, I realized just how unique and  special this moment was.  We are on the verge of something monumental!  Change is coming and it's our unity and support that will strengthen our efforts as a whole.  Jiu-Jitsu means a lot of different things to different people and people train with different motivations and purposes.  Hear some of the stories from Debra Ibarra on Grappling Girls Guild, Lana Hunter on The Fightworks Podcast and Jodi Lynn Baughan on!  Great article ladies!  I enjoyed reading all of them! 

Each and everyone of us are trail blazers in our own ways.  I am extremely grateful for the strength and generosity of women like Triin of Fenom Kimonos/Women's Jiu-Jitsu Championships and Ashley Nguyen of Girls in Gis.  Their revolutionary visions have manifested into extremely successful enterprises that have continually touched the lives of so many and have brought together the community of women in jiu-jitsu in a way it never before seen.  Thank you to both of you for leading the way for so many of us and offering inspiration to all of us.  Keep up the great work! 
The next Girls in Gis event is on September 25th in Austin at Trainers Elite MMA!  Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thank you Relson Gracie Team

After careful consideration and much contemplation, it is with great sadness that I have decided to leave the Relson Gracie team. The tremendous amount of loyalty, love and devotion I have for this team, my school and instructors Phil Cardella and Richard Gibberson has made this decision even harder. This is a decision that I never thought I'd have to make, but I feel that it is best choice for me at this time. Although I am extremely saddened by the closing of this chapter in my life, I feel it is necessary in order to continue on my quest for knowledge in jiu-jitsu and to reach my personal goals.

I consider myself to be very lucky to have been introduced to jiu-jitsu by Phil Cardella, my close family friend, and for the amazing eight years that I've been a part of this team and under his instruction. I would not be the person--BJJ practitioner or athlete--that I am today if not for the love and support from my instructors, training partners and team.

I will forever treasure the foundation and insight that you all have given to me and the guidance I've received. I have the utmost respect and faith in my team's abilities on the mats and for my instructors Phil Cardella, Richard Gibberson and Relson Gracie. This has not been just a team to me. This academy has been my home that I have been lucky to be a part of it since it began. My training partners, teammates, coaches and instructors have been my family for almost a decade. I've shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears on those mats throughout all of my training. I don't just see this academy as a place, but as a something that I love very much  and something that I am saying goodbye to. All of these components have made this decision so difficult.

Nonetheless, it is time for me to move on. No matter where this path takes me, I will always have fond memories of this school and everyone in the Relson Gracie family. The talent and level of proficiency on the mats, the generally good quality of people on this team and devoted training partners I've had, has made me so proud to represent this team and be a part of this jiu-jitsu family. Thank you all for your support, encouragement and love. I wish you all the best and much success. I hope our paths cross again and perhaps we can train in the future. With all my heart MAHALO and ALOHA!