After returning from the Women’s Grappling Camp, I wanted my experience to come to Mississippi. I wanted more women to train with, more ladies who I could share the art with and have a sisterhood.
At the time, I was only a white belt, so my aspirations of teaching were nonexistent, but my aspirations of competing & becoming a world champion were at the forefront of my mind. It was in April 2012, I received my blue belt. I had competed maybe 3x as a white belt, but now that I was at a new belt, it was time to take it up a notch.
At this time we were training at a Tae Kwon Do studio, we ended up being homeless for maybe about a month training outside on Mississippi State’s campus. We eventually moved to a storage unit on Stark Road. We had about 1000 total square footage of space, and only about 700 sqft of mat space. It was a unique experience.
It wasn’t until the beginning of 2013 that I started teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in that little spot. We’d have up to 4 ladies in my class, but a different group of 4 each time. Sometimes, there’d be no one. It would be discouraging, but I would remain positive and continue trying to promote and talk to the ladies who did show up outside of class to encourage them to come back.
We stayed in that spot for about a year, I believe. It wasn’t until we grew into the next spot the ladies program really took off. By the time we moved to Louisville Street in 2016, it was a very successful program. I was also able to promote my first two blue belts. Two special ladies who stuck with me from their beginnings and took BJJ into their own.
I’m very proud of the program and the legacy that has been left. I know other students are beginning to teach, and it literally makes my heart so full to see the ladies excited about the jiu jitsu and the women who surround them.
It was hard learning jiu jitsu being the only female on the mat while my male counterparts were also learning jiu jitsu. How did I know an escape or sweep worked? I didn’t. I questioned jiu jitsu, especially when I saw that it wasn’t working for me. I remember a specifically a hard afternoon of training, I just couldn’t get out of anything. My teammate and good friend just seemed to be muscling me. He was probably 155lbs and I was 120 soaking wet maybe. I was so frustrated and mad that I left the mat to go to the office and cry. I vowed I would never cry on the mats. I wasn’t going to ever show that emotional weakness.
And at that particular time I had a very supportive person in my life who would continue to influence my jiu jitsu journey until I moved.
I learned of Hillary Williams. I googled her. She trained with big guys. She even beat them in tournaments. I wanted to be just like her.
I went on to google women in jiu jitsu and found Women’s Grappling Camp. They were taking registration for a camp in San Antonio, TX, for January 2012. I was graduating December 2011, so this would be a great graduation gift to myself, I thought. So, I packed my things, forgot my gi & my belt, and took a road trip that January.
And that’s when my passion for women in jiu jitsu began after that camp…
Whenever people ask me this, I always feel like it’s such a loaded question. I don’t know why, but I just feel like it’s a long, convoluted story. So, let me blog this while it’s on my mind, and I don’t forget.
I started Tae Kwon Do as a child.
I had to take a break, but got back into it during my senior year of high school.
I earned my blackbelt after I graduated.
I continued Tae Kwon Do in junior college.
When I got to State, I wanted to be a well-rounded martial artist. I wanted to learn all styles. I wanted to be able to defend myself if a fight ever got taken to the ground. I wanted to fight MMA. (This is where I start to feel my story becomes convoluted. Maybe, it’s because I forgot why I started.)
Checked out some classes with the Mississippi State University Brazilian Jiu Jitsu club. Busy schedule with still Tae Kwon Do training and colorguard at the time. MMA Instructor, Kevin Lindsey, started to introduce grappling to our school. I competed with very little xperience in the little tournament & got armbarred, yet laying there trying to remember the hitchiker escape.
Second year at State, I revisited the club and started training more while still training TKD.
Club moved off campus to our Tae Kwon Do school.
Club split from Tae Kwon Do school & became a full-fledged business.
Went with the business, as I felt I was growing and feeling I was accomplishing more in Jiu Jitsu than with Tae Kwon Do.
Because remember, Jessica, the reason you switched majors was you wanted to train martial arts full time. You switched from Psychology to Sociology (ended up falling in love with Sociology).
And I am going to leave off with that. Maybe I have been choked too much to have forgotten the reason, but it’s good to finally start remembering…
So this past weekend was the first time I have competed since December, my Fight 2 Win match with Anna Salome. I was not that nervous, but still had a little anxiety as I wanted to do well in my home town with my home team and had some new experiences along the way. I had 3 tough matches, 2 in nogi and 1 in gi. Competing at a higher rank brings a lot of difficulties that you probably wouldn’t expect. You can never underestimate your opponent, because with Jiu Jitsu, just like MMA, one mistake can cost you the match. It can put you behind and take you forever to play catch up.
Saturday, I was prepared for 2 matches. 1 in nogi and 1 in gi, both at my weight class. I felt like this was a good warm up going into the Atlanta Open. I have been nursing a strained LCL and been working really hard to rehab it and bring it back up to par. I was surprised about my 2nd match in nogi absolute against a really game opponent, but I saddled up and went out there anyway. I unfortunately have not been training nogi in quite a few months, and I feel like that’s a terrible excuse because Jiu Jitsu is Jiu Jitsu, right? It is a terrible excuse. I lost focus during the match and was unable to recover the points I lost on two takedowns with just one sweep. Disappointing, but I learned alot more from that match than the other two.
It was interesting to have a different vibe going in. A boyfriend who doesn’t do jiu jitsu, but who is 100% supportive. It was different, and I was worried I’d feel like I’d have to babysit, but I didn’t feel like that at all. Thankful for that.
Atlanta Open is right around the corner. May 6th. I have moved up to light weight as my walking around weight has moved up a few pounds. I hate cutting weight and having to worry about what I eat the day of competition is not something I want to do.
May 6th will be the real test. Time to focus on closing up the gaps in my game.
I think one of the turning points in my jiu jitsu career will always be my trip to Australia. I felt so incredibly free, and that feeling has somewhat stayed with me. My personal life had already been flipped upside down, so why not go to the other side of the world? I don’t look at that trip as an escape, but as an open door that led me to a new world. A new place of being for myself. How could a small town girl travel to Australia because of Jiu Jitsu? The only answer is God. God has given me this ability, and I am going to use it and give it back to Him.
I could not be more appreciative to Jess Fraser for making the opportunity happen. I was able to work my tail off with private lessons and seminars to finance my trip to Australia, but I was so concerned I was going to run out of money. Thankfully my family and Father had me taken care of. I was blessed with a travel gift that made the trip more than I could have ever imagined. I will forever be thankful for those people who contributed.
Noone knew my concern. Noone knew it was my biggest stressor. Only 1 knew & He took care of it like the great Father He is.
In reference to my last post, I want to share this link with you.
My Bruises Are From…
We can all agree that jiu jitsu is pretty rough, and you get bruises, gi burn, and all that fun stuff.
Some of you may not realize the stigma that comes along with bruises on a woman. People may ask if everything is okay at home. I remember training Tae Kwon Do in high school and I had bruises on my arms and shins all the time. It was nothing new to me, but I often wondered how many people thought I was getting abused. And it’s really sad to me that that is the first thing that pops into our minds when we see bruises on a woman.
Can we try to change the narrative a bit? That women are strong and powerful and can get down and dirty? Or is it a good thing that people care enough to ask if something is going on at home? But sometimes physical signs of abuse aren’t there, are we aware of covert abuse? Could we spot it if we had to? Things to think on.
The first week of work I came in with a split lip. The second week of work I come in with a busted nose. But every week I am gaining skills and building confidence because I refuse to be a victim again. And that is something for another post.