Now I’m not one for excuses when it comes to training and competing fails, but there is something that women in jiu jitsu can’t get away from that can hinder our training and can affect the results in competitions. Periods.
Last month I competed at the Abu Dhabi national pro trials in London. It was not my best performance ever, it was along the lines of one of my worst. That day I woke up with a fuzzy head, feeling lethargic and not wanting to get out of bed. I doubled up on coffee and had a decent breakfast as I had weight to spare, but nothing would shift this fuzzy, hangover like feeling in my head.
To cut a long story short, I got choked twice and didn’t bother entering the absolute with my default bronze medal for a trip to the Abu Dhabi world pro. I went home and ate chocolate. The next day I got my period.
My strength and conditioning coach takes my training very serious and wanted to know what went wrong. What was different in my diet, exercise, warm up, my nights sleep prior to the comp. Nothing was different. I did mention that I got my period the day after, but it was over looked. Perhaps this is something that men still don’t understand in women when it comes to our bodies reacting to our monthly cycle.
In the UK we are so lucky to have a facebook group that bonds the female Jiu Jitsu community together to create a lot of support. I asked the question in the group, ‘In what way, if at all, does having your period affect your training or competitions? How is your energy and strength?’
The response was brilliant and it was great to see that women around the UK responding to something we cannot get away from.
A trend was the emotions that surround it. Jiu jitsu can be very emotional and frustrating at times, so double that up when you have a period, it can make you feel like you want to walk off the mats, go home and cry yourself to sleep.
Being the only woman on the mat one night at our academy, training with your boyfriend in the same club, I turned to him in the hope to be his training partner, but he went with another brown belt. I looked around and everyone had partnered up in to pairs and I was the odd one out in the uneven numbered class. I went in a three with a white and a blue belt, but I wasn’t getting the training I needed, I was feeling over emotional and insecure and wanted to leave. All sorts of rubbish went through my head, that my boyfriend didn’t like me anymore, so I was going to leave right after the class and not stay for sparring. I never leave the academy without sparring!!
I was sad and down, then our professor must have seen that I wasn’t getting the training I needed, so he partnered me up with two other purple belts to give me more of a chance to drill faster and get more out of the training. Then I looked over to my boyfriend and he gave me a lovely reassuring smile. Of course he still likes me! My insecurities left, I sparred loads that night before leaving, then the next day it all became clear when the painters arrived.
Lack of energy was also on top of the list of women in jiu jitsu. So some just didn’t attend their classes that week, or stayed out of sparring or training too hard. What was interesting was that some women found they did well in competitions as their strength was up and they won fights.
In 2014 I competed in the British Open at blue belt. My period came on that day that I won my first fight and lost my second. I walked away with a bronze for my effort. I had a lot of strength in my first fight, but my energy lacked for my second. I’ve also done strength and conditioning sessions when I’ve had my period and felt strong and reached PB’s. So I can relate to their strength increase stories too.
Wearing the right Gi was a huge part of the topic and being dark coloured was favoured. One lady mentioned when she had her period, her professor stopped the class one evening and said ‘Who’s bleeding on the mat?’. Where everyone else would check their hands or feet, she would look down to her vagina in the hope it wasn’t her!
Someone once told me that exercise helps stomach pains brought on by periods, so I make sure that it never affects my training as I know it’s doing me good. I appreciate that everyone is different and we are all affected in different ways, but I love training and it’s my therapy. It’s the time on the mat that I don’t need to think about anything else, but learning and having fun.
Keep rolling ladies, even when the going gets rough.