International Women's Day - How Martial Arts Changed My Life

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This day is meant to help spread awareness about Women's equality and highlight women's voices. We wanted to open the floor to Women in Jiu Jitsu & Mixed Martial Arts, and provide a space for them to share their personal journeys. Thank you all for sharing your stories and speaking your truth.

TW: Sexual assault and mentions of suicide.

 

Story #1

Jiu Jitsu brings me life.  As a Mother, Wife and Criminal Defense Attorney, I struggled with a sense of self and having something that was mine and mine alone.  Day in and day out, I felt like I was giving a piece of myself to everyone around me, but I didn’t have anything that was mine that would replenish all the output I was giving to others. 

I started my jujitsu journey thinking it was simply a means to learn self-defense.  As I continue on this journey, it has become very clear that jujitsu is so much more! Jujitsu brings me so much happiness, mental health relief, and an outlet to focus on nothing more than being present on the mat. Jiu Jitsu has given me the opportunity to be a better Mother and Wife, as it has given me the structure and discipline to ensure that I take care of myself so I can take care of others. 

Jiu Jitsu has also made me a better Attorney, as this beautiful art brings me so much peace amongst the chaos of managing a very heavy and rigorous caseload.  Jiu Jitsu is the perfect and beautiful balance of peace, calm, challenge, growth, and chaos.  Jiu Jitsu has changed my life for the better and through Jujitsu I have learned just how resilient and strong I am, and how important taking care of me is. 

- Laura

 

Story #2

 I was first diagnosed with cancer in 2008, and was looking for a healthy outlet during my time away from treatment and jiu-jitsu sparked my interest. As soon as I walked in the gym to inquire, I saw everyone in the class doing forward roll drills. I immediately felt intimidated and scared. I wore a wig due to my chemotherapy and I was ashamed of being bald in front of everyone. So first attempt was a fail, but I always kept it in the back of my mind.


Fast forward to 2015, I finally decided that I wanted to try out jiu-jitsu again and signed up to a different gym. After a month of training I was sexually harassed by an instructor there, it left a bad taste in my mouth and I never returned back. (I even threatened to take that academy to court but that’s a whole different story)
Second failed attempt at jiu-jitsu.

A few years pass and the art never left my mind, in 2019 I finally decided to try again for the third time and I have not stopped since. (They say 3rd time is the charm, eh?) I enjoy it because it was difficult, and it allows me to think quick. Through jiu-jitsu, I have to keep my mind and body sharp.

I love how empowering jiu-jitsu has been for me; as a rape & sexual abuse victim, I feel confident and I feel in control if ever a situation were to arise. I harness both physical and mental strength I never knew existed until I started jiu-jitsu. It has changed how I look at myself, it continues to humble me with the constant practice of the shedding of the ego. I am not just a person who does jiu-jitsu, I am a martial artist. With that, the values of discipline, integrity, and respect shall follow me on and off the mat.

I am a purple belt now,
I help manage a jiu-jitsu academy in Hawai’i with my fiancé (he’s a 4th degree black belt),
I teach kids jiu-jitsu
I also teach self defense and jiu-jitsu to young girls at the foster home every weekend for a local organization.
(Our organization is Cauliflower Collective, we use jiu-jitsu as a healthy outlet for trafficked and at-risk youth in the community. A very good cause if you’re interested in more)

Without jiu-jitsu, my job would not be possible, I would not be able to help my community.
I would not have had the confidence to go out and try things I have never done before, let alone teach a class of young girls and instill empowering skills that could potentially help save their lives.
Martial arts has taught me that a better life exists just outside of your comfort zone. Getting "comfortable with the uncomfortable", and jiu-jitsu has helped me in accepting this truth. I have grown more focused, and goal oriented from jiu-jitsu.

I am who I am today because of jiu-jitsu. I am also growing into the person I believe I am supposed to be because of jiu-jitsu.

-Erin

 

Story #3

I was 25 when I started training. I came from a cheerleading background I cheered varsity and former captain I also coached a little girls team. All my life I’ve been athletic but I was ready to try something new. A single mom going through a struggle. Got in trouble, lost my dad, I was lost. I decided to try Jiu Jitsu and it was very intimidating at first. My school at the time had a female instructor who actually cared enough to mentor me, guide me and introduce me to the sport. In the girl class there were two other girls around the same age. We became invincible we started competing and we loved it. I was so focused and addicted to the gentle art I gave up all my bad habits.

I created goals. I became a better mother a better professional a better daughter. Now I am running a children’s class and a women’s class at my gym. I have a group of ladies who are very interested in something so new to them. Everyday with every battle everyone can turn their back on me but the mats never will. Jiu Jitsu saved my life.

-Pryscilla

 

Story #4

A little more than 2 years ago I started my Jiu Jitsu journey. I started only because a friend wanted me to and I thought it would be a good way to stay in shape during the off season of playing softball. 

The moment I stepped onto the mats I was in love. I felt free on the mats. My mind clear from all the craziness of life. I truly enjoyed grappling and learning how strong I was. 

8 months later I was taken to the Emergency Room at our local hospital because the pain in my legs was so severe I couldn't walk. I had a bright red rash spread across the bridge of my nose and down both my cheeks. Every part of my body hurt so bad I was in tears. I learned that day that I had Lupus, an autoimmune disease that attacks the connective tissues in your body. I felt shattered. I was scared out of my mind. I did not know what to do, what my life would become, and how this would affect the rest of my life.

I was referred to a local specialist but he was unable to care for me because I was so young. He called in a favor from a friend and got me an appointment at Duke Children's Hospital. A week later, in spite of a 8 month waiting list under normal circumstances, I was evaluated by a large team of specialists and immediately admitted to the hospital.

Over the next 2 weeks I was given many blood tests, a kidney biopsy, and a lot of evaluations. I learned that I had a Disease known as Lupus Nephritis caused by Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), and stage 4 Renal Failure. I was devastated! My whole world came crashing down around me. How could this be happening to me at only 15 years old!

I spent the next 8 months enduring painful and scary IV chemotherapy. During those months I learned what caused my body to have flair ups and what made my disease better or worse. I had to change everything. I had an extremely restricted diet and was no longer allowed to spend hours in the sun playing softball, surfing, or anything else. 

I continued to train at Jiu Jitsu in spite of everything. It was the one place I was happy. I was at peace on the mats. I felt strong there too, even though I felt weak in every other way. I was able to put all my emotions on hold while I was grappling. It was just me and my opponent. Nothing else mattered when I was grappling. Grappling took all the negative thoughts away. It made me feel whole again.

 I am now a proud Blue Belt and love competing. I can honestly say Jiu Jitsu has saved my life and now is my whole life!

-Abagail

 

Story #5

I’ve been doing BJJ for almost 4 years now. Before I started BJJ I was severely depressed I didn’t know what I was going to with my life, I was 14 and I went through a lot up to that point. I was sexually assaulted by my teacher when I was 11. Everyone told me I was a liar all because nobody witnessed what I went through. After that at the age of 14 years old I tried to end my life twice. I was at the lowest part of my life. The only support I had was my Dad.

After a few months of hell I discovered pro wrestling and I thought that pro wrestling was one of the coolest things ever and it really helped me get inspired to do martial arts. One day my Dad said would you like to try Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and I said sure. I was very hesitant at first. I was scared because I didn’t trust any adults. But after the first lesson which was a day before my 15th birthday I was instantly hooked. Especially since it was kind of similar to pro wrestling haha. I remember my first coach Steve being very hesitant to teach me an armbar on my first lesson because he thought it was too much for my first lesson.

I remember I really badly wanted to learn an armbar because of seeing Ronda Rousey on TV doing it. The more lessons I went to the more confident I got. When I turned 16 I got to celebrate my birthday at BJJ and finally felt like I really belonged somewhere. I’m actually crying while writing this because I just can’t believe how far I’ve come. I’ve also become a kids BJJ coach I love coaching those awesome little ninjas at my gym. It makes me so proud to see them evolve from when they first walk in to getting their next belt. Seeing them get graded is the best thing in the whole world especially the smiles on their faces. Also teaching them techniques so they can defend themselves is awesome.

Kids coaching also inspired me to study a Bachelor in Education so I can become a school teacher which is something I’m really proud of. Especially since when I started BJJ I never knew what I wanted to be in life. I want to inspire kids and be the teacher I never had at school. At the start of 2021 I received my blue belt in BJJ and that really was a huge milestone for me. BJJ has saved my life for sure. Even though I’m an adult now I don’t fear adults or just people who are older than me anymore. And I finally found a purpose to live. 

-Seraphene 


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