Time Training: Ten Years November 2013
Academy/Instructor: Gracie Humaita Austin/Paulo Brandao & Donald Park
As a young child and teenager, I was not particularly athletic, although I tried soccer, softball and basketball, where I always seemed to twist my ankle. I never had any interest in Martial Arts. It just wasn’t my thing. However, much to my dismay and reluctance, my Martial Arts training began in 2000. My boyfriend at the time and his brother Phil Cardella (my former BJJ instructor), had both studied Martial Arts most of their lives and insisted I learn how to defend myself. So I tried out Muay Thai and what do you know, I loved it. I trained for close to three years. Even though I loved to rough house and have been around BJJ over half my life, I never had the desire
to train. It wasn’t until 2003 when I was finally persuaded to try BJJ on for size and what do you know, but the “shoe” fit.
So what was it that finally got me started?
When Phil’s girlfriend, Christy Thomas started teaching women’s only classes, I finally started training. What started out as supporting a friend, turned into a new found passion of my own.
Much to my surprise, after one BJJ class I was immediately hooked. I traded in my gloves for a gi and have never gone back.
Starting off in a women’s only BJJ class was a much less intimidating environment than being in a room full of guys. I was much less self-conscious and afraid to make a fool out of myself. After all, it was just us girls. Before long I was comfortable enough so that I was training in the regular classes with my boyfriend.
The big turning point.
The biggest turning point for me was when I finally broke up with my boyfriend of twelve years. Like most long term relationship break ups, there is a period of adjustment which in my case was also accompanied with loss of identity, a lack of self-confidence and some depression. However, in my darkest moments, I found Jiu-Jitsu to be my light. BJJ gave me a new purpose, a new passion and direction. I was determined to pull myself out of the hole and up the hill to the top of that mountain. And I did. In 2009 I totally amazed myself!
All my energy went into being the best athlete and competitor that I could be. My life became BJJ 24/7. Everything changed and most importantly so did I. I was in the best shape of my life. I was confident, focused and determined. I was on fire! I won the pluma purple belt division at
the 2009 IBJFF Pan American Championships and went on to win second place in the pluma purple belt division in the 2009 World Championships. I never thought that I was capable of any of it and I totally surprised myself in the best possible way.
And the exploring continues.
Then a few years latter my Jiu-Jitsu journey made another sharp turn and led me on a new path. It may not have made sense, but in the end there’s always a reason. My new path allowed me to refocus my energy away from myself and my personal goals and focus on something more important...making a difference and utilizing all of my talents to do so.
Girls in Gis has give me a chance to give back all I’ve gotten from BJJ and share the blessing of BJJ with others. The most rewarding aspect of my new role is encourage more females to try BJJ by providing the same non-threatening environment I started in and also seeing the impact GIG has on new and existing BJJ players. In addition, I’ve had time to develop my BJJ and MMA photography brand, Mean Streak Pix and showcase my writing skills with a number of different publications. My setbacks may have taken me out of the competition circuit for a minute, but I’m returning stronger than ever. You could say I have some unfinished business to take care of! I want to earn that gold medal at the Worlds and I know it will be mine someday.
Throughout my journey thus far, I’ve taken on many different roles and learned so much. Throughout it all, the most valuable asset I’ve acquired is getting to know who I am. My ups and downs have allowed me to evolve as a BJJ player and person. Finding my weaknesses has allowed me to discover and build on my strengths. My BJJ journey has been an adventure and I
have a feeling it’s only just begun.