Saturday, December 17, 2011

Girls in Gis Wish List Donation Drive benefiting SafePlace

It's extremely upsetting to me how many lives have been destroyed or lost due to domestic violence. The worst part is that unless these stories end in tragedy, a lot of the times the abuse can go unnoticed and undetected.  Domestic violence and abuse isn't just for the poor or destitute. It can strike anywhere regardless of social-economic classes. Because the emotional and psychological abuse inflicted it's the victims that carries the burden of shame and embarrassment. It takes a lot of courage for these women to leave (or escape in most cases) and seek help because of the severe emotional, physical and sexual abuse inflicted upon them. But thanks to organizations like SafePlace there is hope for a better future. The work that SafePlace does is phenomenal. They have amazing resources and services to get these women and children's lives back on track. 

Please help us collect donations for those who need it most to start off the new year right!

The Girls in Gis Wish List Donation Drive will run from December 5, 2011 to January 20, 2012

Our final collection day and wrap-up event will be at Girls in Gis-Austin on January 22, 2012 at Gracie Barra N. Austin.

To participate in this drive and set up a bin at your academy please contact Girls in Gis for additional information. Donations can be dropped off at any of our drop off locations during normal business hours or make a donation online at:

Drop off locations for donations:
Rubicon Fight Sport
Trainers Elite MMA
Gracie Barra North Austin
Vamp Dance
Mario Esfiha Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – Brasa BJJ Austin
Joao Crus BJJ
Johns Gym
Paragon Austin
Gracie Barra South Austin
Cedar Park:
Relson Gracie Cedar Park
Gracie Barra Cedar Park
Dripping Springs
Joao Crus BJJ
Eclectic Combat Systems-Brasa BJJ Pflugerville
Fort Worth & Dallas:
Travis Lutter BJJ & MMA
Mohler BJJ & MMA
Peak Performance BJJ
Roberto Kaelin BJJ
Gacho Gold Team
Revolution Dojo
Rio Grand Valley:
Paragon RGV Edinburg
San Antonio:
Carlson Gracie BJJ
Texas Powerhouse
Relson Gracie Waco
Learn more about SafePlace services and resources:

Wish List items include:
· Baby wipes
· Diapers sizes 4-6 & 2-6
· Pull-Ups Size 2T-5T
· Baby Wipes
· Baby Shampoo
· Baby Lotion
· Baby Power
· Baby Formula
· Deodorant
· Body wash
· Soap
· Shampoo and conditioner
· Shower sponges
· African American hair products
· Hair brushes & combs
· Mouth Wash
· Toothpaste/Toothbrushes
· Razors and Shaving Cream
· Body Lotion
· Paper Towels
· Boxed meals: Hamburger Helper, Tuna Helper, Macaroni & Cheese, Mashed Potatoes, etc.
· Canned fruit, ravioli, spaghettio’s, tuna, meat, chicken
· Cereal
· Condensed milk
· Cooking oil
· Juice boxes
· Oatmeal
· Pasta
· Rice
· Seasonings
· Cell Phones

Big Thanks to our Sponsors BJJ Legends, She-Jitsu, Neocell Sports, Super Body Care, Mean Streak, ACT Energy Drink, Fenom Kimonos, Grand Prix Grappling, Paleo Pam and Scentsy Independent Consultant Lana Hunter.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Academy Hunting Homework #3: Ze Mario Esfiha Brasa BJJ

It has been an amazing few months for me as I explored different academies in Austin. I've learned so much being out on my own discovering new territory. Things have not been what I am used to but I enjoy being out of my comfort zone. However, I am slightly embarrassed for being so ignorant about not knowing much about the traditions and customs that go along with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since I came from an academy that didn't observe many customs. Over the past six months I've gotten to know a lot of amazing people, had exciting new experiences, grown as a person and Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, and involved myself in the Jiu-Jitsu community more than I ever have before. It's been a great year. I've really learned a lot about life, people, myself and what really matters most. Most of all, I have found a direction to go in and I am running full speed ahead!

One if the biggest lessons I have  learned is that things really do work out as they are supposed to. Patience is a hard skill to learn in this fast paced world we live in. We are accustomed to instant gratification and when things don't work out right away we can get discouraged. It is  okay to be upset, but the trick is to never give up. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep on rolling!

The best way to describe Ze Mario Esfiha is as a teddy bear with some very valuable old school knowledge and phenomenal skill.  My introduction to Mario began with my involvement with Girls in Gis. I asked Mario to invite the women and girls from his academy to our Girls in Gis-Austin event last September. We got to talking and next thing I know I was making plans to come train at his academy. This was shortly after I left Relson Gracie Austin and I hadn't really been training due to my knee. I figured I could do the technique, but not roll and my knee would be OK. I'd never met Mario before and I was excited to check out his academy.

Of course I got lost going a block away from my school campus. Driving and navigating an iPhone can be tricky. Eventually I found  his academy about a 1/2 HR later. I hate being late although I tend to live on Brazilian/ Hawaiian time and I especially hate being lost too! It makes me flustered and anxious. Thankfully Mario was super understanding and it turned out to be a great class even though I missed half of it. However, I was able to catch the entire no GI class which  I found incredibly interesting. I was later able to check out a few week night, noon classes and the black belt promotions. Although I haven't trained at Mario's as much as I'd like to, I learned a lot in a short time.

Mario is a really big guy compared to me. I hate to say it, but I'd expected he would have completely different Jiu-Jitsu style than the smaller guys I was used to. I was pleasantly surprised. Although he may have size on his side, he is also amazingly technical and doesn't have to rely on his size to dominate a match. After all, it makes sense, he's been around for a long time so he's seen a lot of techniques and studied them. He's trained among Brazil's best black belts growing up and is full of entertaining stories about the "motherland" back in the day.  He's also one of the most accomplished black belt competitors in Austin. You can tell he genuinely loves Jiu-Jitsu. It is all he does for a living. He is an easy going guy that likes to joke around and laugh. However, the quality of Jiu-Jitsu at Brasa Jiu-Jitsu isn't a joking matter. It is the real deal. 

Mario creates an adequate amount of time for training although the academy may not be open seven days a week for eight hours a day like I was used to at Relson Gracie.  I do wish there were a few more classes that worked with my schedule, but  as I've visited more academies, I've realized that no one has nearly as much training time as I was used to.  I have also realized that it is not so much about the quantity, but the quality of training that counts.   Mario's GI classes ran from 6-7 and no GI 7-8 Monday and Wednesday nights.  I also caught a noon class from 12-1 on Tuesday-Thursday.  Both classes were relaxed with great technique.  I learned some new moves, transitions and submissions to add to the arsenal.

 Everywhere I go these days I see familiar faces. I think it is just further proof that we are still a small and tight knit Jiu-Jitsu community . My first day at Mario's, I ran into this guy named Doug that I trained with years ago at Relson Gracie. Everyone at Mario's was super cool and helpful. It is a total family style academy. They all seem to get along and seem to be content with their training. It's a positive environment and has a lot of potential for only being a year old. I see good things to come.

  Mario is one of the founders of Team Brasa. He studied under a few different instructors and has a very real and honest take on things.  Mario straight up told me on my first day of classes, that if I was looking for a belt to be handed to me that wouldn't happen at his place. After he said that, I knew we'd get along great.  I don't understand why some academies think that by handing out belts it some how gives the academy more credibility.  For instance, if your brown belts are not really brown belts at heart, it will reflect on the mats.  I respected the fact that Mario said that to me because the last thing I am looking for is a hand out.  I think it is important that your instructor believes in the same principles and standards that you do. It is crucial that you are honest with each other.  I agreed totally with Mario on a lot of points we discussed.  It was refreshing to hear his take on things and his advice as I look for a new academy.  I appreciate the insight and guidance he shared with me.

Perhaps the most eye opening experience at Mario's was at the One Year Anniversary and black belt promotions.  I have seen my share of promotions over the years at Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, but I never saw so many customs observed before.  At Relson Gracie Austin, when someone is promoted, the person is given a belt in front of the class and then it is followed by a gauntlet where the guys bear crawl and are whipped on the back with belts.  The whole process never lasted more than 30 min tops.  While observing Mario's promotions, I was educated on other customs that go along with promotion.  First the person being promoted is called forward, the belt or strip is awarded and then Mario, takes them down with a sweep.  Depending on the level of promotion, the sweep varies.  For the higher belts they were asked to jump and then be swept.  After each person goes through this process they are each given an opportunity to say something.  Next, all of the higher belts sweep those that were promoted.  Lastly, there is a gauntlet of walking through as they get whipped with belts.  It took over an hour to get through the whole process, but I found it really interesting to see how things were done on team Brasa.

I have not been in a rush to decide on what academy to join.  I've been taking my time and considering all options which has helped in teaching me patience.  Life can move really fast and can easily slip by if we don't pay attention. My advice, slow down, take a break and check out a class at Brasa Jiu-Jitsu! They've got some awesome Jiu-Jitsu, good people and a relaxed and encouraging environment.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Even Big Girls Cry...

I was recently informed that the new IBJJF rules now include that if you cry during your match it is an automatic disqualification.   I think they are talking about the kids, but I could be wrong because I know even big girls need to cry sometimes. Healthy crying is an important way for us as human beings to relieve stress and show our vulnerability.  My latest mantra is "to embrace myself as I am and own it!".  That means to be myself and be proud of who I am.  Our happiness and self value needs to come from within. It should be deeper than material possessions, socio-economic class, race, age, sex, religion and especially not from what others think of us.  Each of us are special and unique in our own ways,but sometimes it is not easy to remember that.  Loving ourselves unconditionally and allowing ourselves to be freely who we are, is a crucial ingredient to happiness, success and fulfillment.

 My heart always goes out to the little ones when I see them sobbing and crying after they lose a match.  Sometimes I'll start tearing up with them.  I just want to hug them and tell them  I know exactly how they feel and it will be alright.  I have never had shame in admitting that I've also cried on the mats.  I've always been a sensitive and sympathetic person, even as a child.  Crying has been my immediate emotional release.  Even though I have grown  a thicker skin over the years, that doesn't mean I still don't need a good cry every now and again.  I always feel better afterward and it helps to clear my head.

As a blue belt Jiu-Jitsu competitor and when I was first a purple belt, I'd have to say I've cried after I lost matches more often than not.  My blue belt is made up of more tears than sweat or blood.  Thankfully, I've always been fortunate in having loving coaches and teammates that made me feel better when I needed it most.  Losing sucks, but in the end I've always learned more from my losses than my wins.  My losses have played a much larger role in my development.

Of course we all want to win and crying after a loss may look silly  to some people,  but sometimes it is out of our control.  When I've lost, I didn't cry necessarily because I lost the match.  It was not because my feelings were hurt or my ego  got bruised.  I sometimes cried because I was disappointed with my performance or frustrated for not pushing hard enough all the way to the end. Crying for me is a release of extra energy after the adrenaline dump when pent up emotions come boiling up and because I tend to be a head case (over thinker).

Sometimes when I lose, there is a huge sense of disappointment and frustration that goes along with it that can be haunting.  Especially if I know in my heart I gave up or didn't live up to my potential.  It can be rough to accept  a loss after all the sacrifices I've had to make to compete at that level after spending months preparing and pouring everything I had into doing my best in reaching for the gold.  It's physically, emotionally and spiritually draining at times.  I've even cried in preparation for a tourney from exhaustion, frustration or relief. Most of the time it was the release that allowed me to feel whole again and to keep on going.  I've also cried when I've won out of happiness, gratitude, excitement and perhaps an element of disbelief that I achieved my goal. Crying may not solve anything or change the outcome, but I don't think it's something to be ashamed of.   Even if you cry, the point is to never give up and keep moving forward and learn from our upsets. They are just as important elements that make us who we are and help shape us into the strong, confident and independent people.

A study by Dr William H. Frey II, a biochemist at the St Paul-Ramsey Medical Centre in Minnesota, found that there is an important chemical difference between emotional or stress-related tears and those simply caused by physical irritants – such as when cutting onions.

The study also found that:
  • 88.8 per cent of people feel better after crying, with 8.4 per cent feeling worse.
  • On average women cry 47 times a year and men a mere seven.
  • Until puberty, crying levels are much the same for each gender – testosterone may reduce crying in boys while estrogen and prolactin increases the tendency in girls.
  • Men may excrete more of the toxins related to emotional stress in their sweat because they have higher sweat levels than women.
  • The mantra to children 'Be brave, don't cry' might not be the most helpful because some believe crying can actually help reduce pain.

I don't see crying as a sign of weakness but as a healthy function of human nature. Crying is a normal emotional release to for women, men, boys and girls alike.  Who cares what others think about your tears.  It takes courage to allow your emotions to show.  Be true to yourself and let your tears flow!