Belt Rank: Blue
Age: 35 and proud! :)
Academy: Gustavo Dantas Jiu Jitsu/Nova Uniao
Instructor: Gustavo Dantas
1. What do you do for a living?
For a living, I am a working artist. I have my own company that revolves around my various forms of art, mainly my beadwork. I work from home and travel to juried art shows around the country.
2. Are you a mom? A wife? A girlfriend? A sister? A daughter to awesome parents that let you do Jiu-Jitsu?
I am a single mom to three awesome kids.
3.Where you a tomboy or a girly-girl growing up?
I was a shy and quiet girl when I was growing up. I was an only child and spent alot of time by myself when I was a kid. This alone time was when I planted my art roots.
4. Did you grow up doing other sports?
I never played any sports at school. Being the loner growing up, I liked to run. I would run everyday after school. I was never much of a team player, I liked doing things where I could get lost in the moment all by myself.
5. How did you find BJJ?
I stumbled upon BJJ in 2008. Just by curiosity. I didn't know what it was. I was a stay at home mom with two small kids and I had gained alot of weight and was out of shape. I got sick of it one day and went to Arizona Combat Sports. I started doing Muay Thai that day and I was so into the gym that I tried the women's only jiu jitsu class. I didn't know what it was but I tried it anyway. There was one other girl in the class. After awhile, she dropped out and I was the only one. By then, I was ready to go into regular class which is what I did. Looking back at it now, I had private one-on-one instruction with Gustavo, that is very valuable training to start off with.
6. How often do you train?
I train very little these days. I am a single mom and I live far away from my family in Michigan, so there really isn't much support for me to continue competition training. Getting pregnant with my third child was such a shock to my system. I was used to training two times a day (morning and night) for tournaments. My two older kids were old enough to cook for themselves and watch themselves unattended. Instead of training lightly while I was pregnant, I had to stop because I had severe morning sickness around the clock. I wish I could have continued being active but my body had other plans. So now, I do the women's bjj class two times a week. It still hurts to not be able to train more, I think about it all day everyday. BJJ is a lifestyle, not a hobby. I'm just waiting for my baby to get older where she can sit quietly with her toys and books while I train. All the girls who I was blue belts with are now purple belts.
7. What is the one thing that keeps you from training some days?
Back then, unavoidable time conflicts kept me from training, things with the kids or illness. I was always in the gym. Now, it's the baby. She'll grow, I'll get back to hardcore training soon.
8. Have you ever wanted to quit?
I always wanted to quit when I first started. I would get so discouraged because it just never seemed like I was "getting it." I was used to being the achiever, mastering the things set before me and to struggle with BJJ, it would hurt my pride so bad. So I would keep going to class because it was perplexing to my why I was having such a hard time. I probably would have quit if I kept losing at tournaments but all of a sudden, I was winning matches. And me being the shy loner type, I would have to make myself get out of my car and go into the gym. I was so intimidated! I was the only girl for a little while until Kristina (Barlaan) moved to AZ. Then I was one of two and her presence definitely made me feel more at ease. I eventually got over being scared of the guys and grew into my strong, tough woman mode.
9. What drives you or inspires you to keep training?
What drives me to train is the love of the sport. I don't mind getting dominated by more skilled jiu jitsu players because it makes me better. I don't mind getting smashed in the face, I don't mind rolling around with stinky boys. These things are all part of the lifestyle and I have grown to love it. All my teammate's dedication, ambition and desire inspire me to keep on training. Even if I am only training two days a week right now, I'm still training, I haven't given up.
10. Do you compete? Why or why not?
I competed alot from 2009-2010. The last time I competed was February of 2011. A week after that tournament, I found out I was pregnant! Luckily, we didn't have any takedown brawls, the girls I matched up with was good technical fighters. I love to compete though, I am very performance shy. I don't do karaoke, I don't dance, I don't even participate in my tribal dances anymore. But when I walk out on the mat, the world around me disappears. And for me, that's when I'm a brave warrior. I hope to start competing again in 2014.
11. Where do you think the drive inside you to fight comes from? (whether you compete or not)
The drive to fight comes from my roots. I grew up around violence but I never participated because I was such a quiet sweet girl. I found myself being a victim to mental & physical abuse and stayed weak for many years, suffering in silence. I just snapped one day. Luckily for me, I found BJJ at the right time. I went through my divorce as a white belt, I think the hurt, anger & rage fueled my workouts. I took those ugly feelings and worked through them positively at the gym. BJJ is my therapist.
12. What are some of your biggest upsets either in training or competition?
My biggest upsets are things like unwashed gis for 5 days in a row. C'mon guys, clean those gis!
13. What are some of your best accomplishments either in training or competition, on or off the mats?
When I am training consistently, I notice all other areas of my life are in line as well. I'm big on discipline. With the way that I like to live my life, there isn't room for laziness or substandard work. One of my greatest fights was against a super skilled girl at Pans 2010, I took second place to her but just to look back and be in the company with such kick butt girls, is a huge accomplishment to me. This whole BJJ community amazes me. All the time and commitment and heart, when you're in company such as this, you know you're hanging with the right people.
14. What are some of your fears with BJJ?
The only fear I have with BJJ is that I will never get to train the way I used to. But I know it's irrational, I know I will train hardcore again soon (God willing.) I just need to be patient.
15. What do you love about BJJ the most? What do you dislike?
There's so much to love about BJJ but what I love about it is the strength (mentally and physically) that it was given to me. Little shy me is rolling with the big boys and girls! I don't have anything that I like about BJJ, other than the big macho attitudes that men have sometimes and dirty gis. :)
16. What are your future goals with BJJ?
My future goal is definitely getting back to tournament training and competing again. I plan on being a black belt even if I'm 75 when I get it! I know it's a long journey but I must keep pushing myself to meet the challenges. I also hope my kids grow and flourish in the sport as well. I have a spunky 18 month old daughter that is growing up watching us.
17. Did BJJ change your life? How?
BJJ changed my life for the better. It was there to help me thru my divorce, it improved my health, it improved my discipline, it was there to show me I can achieve great accomplishments and now it's there to bring my children through life. The funny part of my BJJ journey has been the shock of people back home on my reservation. They just are amazed that I would be doing such a sport. I guess it's true when they say you have to watch out for the quiet ones, huh?
18. Do you have a BJJ practitioner you look up to whether it be male or female?
I really look up to my Nova Uniao team mates. I have admiration for the men who train their hearts out and truly love BJJ but I have to say, my team mates (who also are my teachers & friends) Kristina Barlaan and Sarah Black. There's nothing bad you can say to women who work their hardest with all their heart. Their hearts are in a good place and they are dedicated and motivated. I always say, you are the company you keep and what better role models to look up to. Kristina is a good friend who is an aunt to my children, she was there for me when I had my baby. Sarah also helped me to go gluten free which is something I could never do. I owe these two the world!
19. If a girl was standing outside of your academy scared to come in and try BJJ, what words of encouragement would you give her?
I would tell her, you just need to get in there. I always tell new girls that I had to pry myself out of my car to go inside. There were days that I would park in the parking lot, sit there and then drive away because I was scared. If the desire is there, you just have to get in the gym and make it go away. You have to put away your fear, your pride, your expectations and just experience the moment. Pretty soon, it will get better. I'd say, BJJ is never easy but you'll start getting better where you will have more confidence in yourself.
20. Any last thoughts?
Women in BJJ has grown so much over the past couple of years. Like I said before, for the longest time, I was one of two women in the gym. Now there is a full women's class every week with new girls starting all the time. So to be a part of this minority, I am also Native American. For awhile, I knew of only myself (as a Native woman) that was competing in IBJJF tournaments. I am happy to see more and more Native American women training these days.
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