Here is part two (part one & part two can be found here) of my never ending story on how I got involved in martial arts, and the past to present roller coaster – hope you enjoy it.
I felt very lost for a long time after I gave up martial arts. It consumes your life most nights of the week plus weekends and then nothing for about 12 months. My memory is pretty bad with some things so I am not sure exactly what I did with myself in the 12 month break. By this stage I was fairly established in the fitness industry and I was looking for something new to explore in the industry because body building to me is a snore Zzzzzz. I was reading a lot about different style training, and that is when I came across kettlebells and Cross Fit – this was long before they became main stream as they are today. They both seemed like a tough way to train and I liked the sound of that. I never explored Cross fit but I certainly did with Kettlebells but that is another blog.
How I got involved in BJJ is a complicated story – it started off as a love story but ended in lies, deception, manipulation, and narcissism – everything that is perfect for a bestselling novel, which I will tell one day but not appropriate for this blog. So I will skip all the juicy bits and just fill you in on what is necessary for a fighter’s blog.
So after having about 12 months off from martial arts I went out one night with a friend who was celebrating a figure competition that she had entered that day. My friend was also doing some Muay Thai at a club that she had been trying to drag me to but I had the attitude “been there, done that”. While we were at the pub she pointed out a guy to me and told me he was one of the owners of the martial arts club that she trained at, I just shrugged it off and didn’t pay much more attention to him and his friends. As the night progressed my friend must have told this guy that I had done martial arts and he came over to me and started chatting to me about it. We talked for a while throughout the evening and when he told me he taught BJJ I told him that I had done it years earlier and remember loving it. He told me I should come down and try it one night…I eventually did.
When I first started BJJ I started it for the right reason, continued it for the wrong reasons and then re-continued it for the right reasons again. Confusing I know but in my head it makes sense 🙂
I am pretty sure for the first 3 years of doing BJJ I was asleep, I do not remember retaining anything. I trained a couple of days a week, I kinda fluffed my way through the first 3 years of training. By the time I started to take it more seriously, (i.e. training more) I wasn’t really enjoying it anymore. I was taking my failures way too seriously and every day for years I thought I was terrible at this sport. My coach never took my training serious or what I wanted to achieve. He would belittle my skills, in his “joking” manner. If I asked him for help he would always say “I will show you later” but that later never came. I know he didn’t treat his other students like this, just me, I was the special one. I spent years feeling like crap towards BJJ, I had no self-confidence. If I competed, I automatically went to the competition defeated and the majority of the time I would lose, with my coach in my corner yelling instructions that I could never hear or understand. There were some rare moments where he would tell me he was proud of me but those moments were very rare. It was almost like an old school way to treat people – show little care and on the odd occasion give them some praise just to keep them interested – the club was a toxic learning environment for me.
I know I am not painting a very happy picture of this old coach of mine – he is an excellent coach, he was just a terrible one for me. Of course there is always two sides to every story, he is not fully to blame, I was a lazy student, not in a physical aspect but I was mentally. You have to find the right coach that suits you, someone that you can learn from and it’s fine to stop going to a club if you don’t feel comfortable with the environment, I learnt that the hard way.
I hated training with girls at the start, I found it confusing. For many years I was the only girl on the mats, every now and then other ladies would drift in and out but not consistent. Then after about 4 years of just training with men some women started training more consistently. I found it very difficult, I was territorial, they rolled a lot differently to men and I didn’t know how to handle it. I wasn’t, and still not an aggressive person so when you are used to guys not going full tilt at you but then the girls do, I was taken aback. My ego started to get tested, if I lost to a guy its ok but I can’t lose to a girl who had just started. I felt like after about four-five years of doing Jiu Jitsu I should have some sort of skill to handle new people but I didn’t (well, so I thought). I was discovering that I had no basics skills, these basic skills that should be taught from the beginning of Jiu Jitsu and I was struggling with them. So I continue to struggle my way through Jiu Jitsu, there were nights where I dreaded to go to training but I kept going, night after night and going home upset and defeated. It was affecting my home life with my daughter, she was always walking on egg shells because I was always moody. Some of my training partners started telling me that I was doing really well, of course I didn’t believe them, by this stage I had no faith in myself or my skills and I didn’t know how to handle their compliments.
While I was still training at this gym, a Wrestling/MMA coach joined the coaching team and I had regular PT sessions with him. It took me by surprise that this coach was so encouraging, and took a huge interest in making me better at Jiu Jitsu. He taught me how to wrestle, he taught me a lot of the basics, he taught me how to scramble, and he was one of the best coaches that I had ever trained with at that point. He generally cares about his students, he sees their potential and works on making them stronger, faster, better. To this day I still train with him but unfortunately not as much as I would like. Steve Kennedy now has his own gym called Kickass MMA, a very successful MMA gym – if you want to be a very good MMA fighter or work on your wrestling this is the place to go – only beasts come out of this gym.
One morning while I was at work I had a life changing experience – this experience will be written in my best seller. This life changing experience made me pack my bags and I took off to the US for nearly 5 months to escape from my life for a while. At this point you would think it would be a perfect opportunity for me to give up the sport that I have not enjoyed doing for so many years but I didn’t. It is this sport that helped me with my healing process from the trauma that I was going through at the time and it was during this healing process that I found the love for the sport again. I honestly believe that Jiu Jitsu saved me, it was a very confusing time in my life and BJJ helped me through it. When you are doing BJJ you cannot let your mind wander – you are focused on the technique you are learning or the people you are rolling with.
I landed in Las Vegas by myself not knowing anyone there and I stayed there for two months off and on. I also spent some time down in San Diego and traveled all the way along the east coast. Every morning I would get up and head to the gym and do a morning BJJ session, I would go home have some lunch, have a sleep and then head back to the gym for an evening session. It was hard work training twice a day, it took a toll on my body some days. The standard levels of belt ranks in America are ridiculously high, as you would expect. I was a blue belt and really wished I packed my white belt but I was excited because I knew I was going to learn so much. I met some awesome people and trained with some high level competitors/champions. All I wanted to do was train, eat, sleep and that is exactly what I did. I made a lot of friends very quickly and the Americans helped restore my faith back in to humanity.
They say you shouldn’t run away from your problems but I believe it was the best thing I ever did, I would highly recommend it to anyone going through some heavy shit – take off and see the world, it will humble you. Travel on your own, get used to spending time by yourself; it helps you reflect on your life and the people that are in it. I am stronger for my travels.
When I had to fly home, I was dreading it. I didn’t want to be in Perth anymore, I thought it had nothing for me, too much pain & disappointment was associated with Perth. The only draw card for me was my family and friends. My plan was that when I got home I had to keep myself busy, I didn’t want to sit still for one minute and that is exactly what I did and I slipped back into my life with ease. I removed all the toxic people from my life and reunited friendships that were lost due to the people I was hanging out with. What I did with my time and where my Jiu Jitsu is now, well that is for part four….I know, I lied, I didn’t realize how long the third part would be. So this epic story continues – stay tuned to for part four!