As a white belt, I was in quite a different position to many others on their BJJ journey. I asked my coach at the time if there were any plans to bring jiu jitsu to closer to where I lived at the time? I was currently travelling 36 miles round trip to get to the class twice per week. I was fully immersed in jiu jitsu, loved it and wanted more.
There were no plans, but he suggested that I set something up. As a business woman, I was up for the challenge.
I found space in a Fitness First studio, bought 30 metre square mats and promoted the hell out of the classes. The first class saw 10 people on the mats, the second, just two and it pretty much went on like that for a little while until my friend told me that he was opening a purpose built gym that would home different martial arts clubs to stop them from using school halls and community centres. It was a blessing!
After running the classes for 2 and a half years, my then coach wanted to bring someone else in to the frame, but I wasn’t keen. They made it difficult for me to keep running it, so I just handed it all over to them. I carried on training there, but there was an atmosphere. Maybe because I made things look easy? Maybe because I didn’t do what they wanted me to do? After watching them malnourish my baby, my then coach told me to leave the team. I was upset, but it wasn’t a surprise. I felt the negative energy for quite sometime. I had competed at high level competitions abroad and didn’t even get a good luck wish. I was the first team member to win the world masters, and they didn't even congratulate me.
I’m quite stubborn, but I’m a very good business woman. The club sponsored one of the instructors to compete at high level competitions that was all funded through the club. The club did make a little money once I had handed it over, and worked out to be £65 per month and I got free training for 2.5 years. Not the most for all of the effort and promotion I put in for setting it up, but it never made a loss.
They went on to rent a huge industrial unit in the heart of the city and 2 years later my old coach was kicked out from the guy who took over running it.
I, on the other hand, went on to train temporary with a little team that was 45 miles away, but just for a few months. The travelling took its toll on me and I wasn’t able to train enough for the competitions I wanted to be part of. I had been topping up my training once a week at a closer gym. They were a good bunch of guys, but the gym they trained at was used by boxers and other fighters who didn’t respect the ‘No shoes on the mat’, rule.
I met someone and dated them for a brief period, so I went to train with him and his team. We later just became good friends and still are.
I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do as I’ve never been a fan of the ‘school uniform’ look, but the amount of classes on the timetable attracted me and I knew a lot of the MMA fighters who went there too.
It was a ‘Franchise gym’, but very relaxed about not having to wear the ‘school uniform’. That was another reason why I liked it. It felt right for that time in my life, so I just went for it.
After training there for 4 months, I was asked if I could start a women’s only class. I jumped at the chance. I left work early every Tuesday and went to teach the few women who turned up week after week. It was a slow burner, but I went and taught and often at the beginning it was just one woman.
Moving on two years, I was contacted out of the blue by the guy who took over my little jiu jitsu baby. We met up and the first thing he said was an apology for treating me so bad.
He was in trouble, health wise and financially. The lease on his gym still had 3 more years left and he was obliged to pay it after kicking out the old coach.
My new coach had mentioned to me in a conversation that he wanted a gym in the area of this one, so I suggesting that I connect them so that they could work something it. It seemed like the perfect set up. An MMA coach got involved and the gym was saved. Not only that, I had somewhere else to train.
Move forward another year and things started to change. I was dealing with depression and anxiety from a domestically violet relationship that finished a few months earlier. I wasn’t in a good place. I was having therapy weekly and really working hard on myself to bring Jolie back.
My coach asked me to wear the ‘school uniform’ to teach the ladies in. I froze. I got upset. I cried for a few days. I thought about the trauma of the controlling relationship I had.
Jiu Jitsu had been my rock and kept my life stable. It’s a place where I go to forget about my bad day, depressive feelings and thoughts. I felt safe there, but this was all about to change.
I didn’t want to be told what to wear, or be controlled. I taught for fun. I trained for fun.
I admitted that I threw my toys out of the pram about the uniform, but when you go through a relationship where someone is controlling you and you’re finally getting away from it, you don’t want to be controlled again. I hated school as a kid, and this felt like it was becoming a school to me.
As an individual in a team sport, I felt my identity was being taken away from me.
Vibrating this energy was something that was picked up on by my coach. I was training for a big submission only competition and whilst in a class, I burst in to tears while sparring. I’m sensitive to energy and I pick up easily what people project towards me. This energy was intense. After sparring, I got dressed quickly and went to leave. My coach wanted to chat, but I told him I had to be somewhere.
I knew this energy I felt wasn’t what I needed before my up coming match, so I purposely stayed away from the gym and trained elsewhere.
The next evening of training after my match, my coach asked to speak. He told me about a complaint he had from one of the students about a blog post I had written about using my rank to get sparring partners. You can read for yourself here.
He found it disrespectful to the club.
The more he talked to me about it, the more I got upset. I was never going to get my point across and I was always going to be the bad one in this one way conversation. So I walked away, and when I got home I saw an email to say my membership had been cancelled.
I posted that blog on a facebook group and 146 women didn’t think that it was disrespectful. Many thought it was well written, insightful and helpful.
If you have negative feelings towards someone, no matter what they do, you will always find the bad in them, no matter what good they have done or brought to you.
Things happen for a reason. I’ve always known this. So called bad things happen, but they’re guiding you on another path, the right path…..
I’m a thinker and often have the thought ‘what if?’
What if I didn’t start jiu jitsu?
My friend told me that I was the one who got him back in to jiu jitsu. He even mentioned me in his black belt speech which was lovely of him to do, and I’m so glad that it’s brought happiness back I his life.
So I like to think that I have sprinkled a lot of Jolie dust around to enhance people’s jiu jitsu journey so they can enjoy it as much as me.
As for me? The little club that shared the mats with the boxers I trained at, ended up getting their own space in a clean, bright unit that has super soft mats to train on, and now I’m part of their team. I've always admired their lineage and respected everyone a great deal on it, so makes me proud to be part of it.
Jiu jitsu is fun again. Not teaching or running a gym, just training and having so much fun learning some incredible jiu jitsu to take forward in competitions with me.