Belt Rank: Blue
Academy: Revolution Dojo
Instructor: Jeff Messina
It was the summer of 1972. I was still three years old, just a few months shy of four. We lived in the house that my great grandfather built, on a farm that had been in my family since the Reconstruction Era. My two older brothers spent their days playing in the woods, leaving me with my mother who was pregnant with my little brother. I was lonely and bored and begged to go play with my brothers in the woods. They argued that I was too small. That I would whine, cry and fall behind. Finally one day my mom sat me down and said in a very stern voice, "You are going to play with your brothers today. If you whine, if you cry, if you fall behind, you will NEVER be allowed to play with your brothers again." She scared the bejesus out of me. But the loneliness I felt at home by myself was greater than my fear.
For the first week or so, my brothers tried desperately to loose me, to make me give up and relent to the safety of home. But I wasn't having it. No matter what, I refused to whine, cry or fall behind. I refused to be left behind and excluded. I was the only girl in two generations on my Dad's side, (currently four generations) and my generation on my Mom's side. So this determined stubborn streak served me well, as I was greatly out numbered. I learned to hold my own in almost any situation, no matter the odds.
Flash forward almost forty years:
My sons and I had been training in the striking arts on and off for several years, and we were in the market for a new gym. Being that my boys were grown, I let them choose the style. They choose Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The first day at our new gym, my boys and I were warming up in one corner of the gym. The other students were in the opposite corner whispering to each other. I didn't think much about it at the time. Within two classes, a few things became very apparent. First thing was that at 112 pounds, my striking skills were useless in a self defense situation. Jiu-Jitsu was definitely better for self defense. Second, I was the smallest and oldest student at the gym. Third, I was the only female at the gym and most of the guys had never trained with a female. These things didn't bother me too much. I was used to having the odds stacked against me. I just had to make a few adjustments.
First thing I did was cut my long fingernails because I didn't want to scratch anyone. The guys were very concerned about pulling my hair, so the second thing I did was to cut my waist length hair into a short bob. And I was good, or so I thought. It wasn't long before life interrupted. Being young adults, my sons schedules soon became too busy for martial arts. Within a few months, I was the only one of our clan left training at the gym. I was OK with that. I understand how life can get in the way. No big deal. I was OK, or so I thought.
The obstacle that I didn't expect was the loneliness of not having any one to share my Jiu Jitsu experience with. Being the only female, I wasn't "chatty" with my new team mates. My son's were too busy and wouldn't understand all the problems associated with being a woman in BJJ. My Girlfriend's didn't speak Jiu Jitsu. They had had a difficult time understanding the striking arts, but when it came to the Jiu Jitsu, they would just change the subject. I became lost, and didn't know what to expect or what to try to achieve. I didn't understand Jiu Jitsu enough to set goals. I didn't have anyone that I could talk to about my achievements. I had no body to listen to my frustrations. I had no support system when it came to Jiu Jitsu.
Desperation led to Google. Google led to BJJ GRRL, Georgette Oden, Slideyfoot and many other BJJ people online. Each provided a wealth of information and support. I finally started making progress in BJJ and felt confident enough to compete. The other students started encouraging their wives and girlfriends to train. Now I have numerous women to train with and talk too. I am also comfortable enough with my male training partners to ask them questions and share my Jiu Jitsu experiences with them. I couldn't ask for a better Jiu Jitsu family. They are always there for me and encourage me to be the best that I can be. My Jiu Jitsu journey has been a challenging one, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Thank you Revolution Dojo, for opening your doors to me and letting me be a part of your Jiu Jitsu Family.