Belt Rank: white
Time training: one year
Academy: The Lab Fredericksburg
Instructor: Chad LeBrunn under Leo Dalla
here it goes,
I have always been interested in martial arts, but as a military kid growing up, I always had to start brand new to each gym every two years. So I vowed to do it on my own when I got old enough.
After college, I joined the Peace Corps and was placed in Ukraine. Over there, women's roles and the stereotypes they are prescribed to in everyday social discourse is very much like women here fifty years ago. There are few women sports teams comparatively to men, and women are seen as passive and targets. A few times I myself was cornered by drunk men on the road, which is legal there, and feared for my life. These events made it more important for me to get involved with self defense. However, I was still in Ukraine where, in my village, the opportunity to practice the art was nonexistent. So instead, I decided to empower girls by creating a sports team for young girls. I saw girls go from insecure and awkward to out-spoken and confident. It showed me how much athletics and passion can change a persons self image.
Upon my return, in February 2013, I researched local MMA/BJJ gyms and found one not too far from where I was living in Fredericksburg,VA. At first I became involved in order to know how to defend myself if I was ever in another situation as the ones I were exposed to in Ukraine. However, as I was on one side of the fence, the MMA side, I always noticed how hard the people on the other side, BJJ side, were training. The difference and similarities in the two sports and the pure exhaustion of the people as they rolled themselves off the mats at the end of class intrigued me. It wasn't long before I ordered my gi and started training. I started training more BJJ than MMA. I found my passion, so much so that I would come early before the gym was open and be one of the last to leave. As a trainer at golds, my schedule is flexible and BJJ became, and still is, my passion.
My instructor eventually came to me and asked me if I would like to help instruct kids class. As a white, belt I was hesitant and nervous but he said I would mainly be assisting him like the other instructors do. He teaches and we help. After a few months doing so, I realized how much of an impact I had on the girls there. I became a role model for them. A couple of the girls have now even competed. Though they are still the minority at the gym, they are eager to learn and love to roll with me. I view my position there now more as a mentor than as an instructor and I believe that is what my instructor intended. For the girls to have someone to look up to and to roll with, and for the parents to be comfortable seeing their daughter roll with an adult female.
As I continue to compete, I have done 6 tournaments so far and am signed up for the Atlanta Open in August, I will continue to exemplify BJJ as a sport but also as a way of life to the young girls. Not just as a passion, but as codes to live by in life. Honoring those who have worked hard to get where they are, respecting others, being humble and knowing you can learn something from anyone to name a few.
I know this bio was long, but I wanted to share my journey, how I got to where I am, and how appreciative I am to BJJ, to my instructors who help me, and to my students who give me joy.