Josie “The Sweet Heart” Nancarrow
I’m 23 years old and I train at BJJ TAS in
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia.
I started my BJJ journey somewhat reluctantly. I’ve never been a violent person or someone that’s into combat sports or martial arts, and the thought of being that close to another human freaked me out. I was finally convinced by my brother and his wife to give it a go.
The draw card: it was free for women and I knew it would be good to learn some self-defense. Not long after starting I realized I really don’t like losing. I don’t like being thrown, choked, sat on, or submitted. And I really don’t like accidentally taking an elbow to the nose, naturally.
I still don’t love those things but I have learned not to worry about it too much. Try an escape and if it doesn’t work, tap out and try again. It’s the lesson in humbleness everyone in the BJJ family learns. Review of my first month of BJJ: Learnt how to escape, how to get away when being grabbed, how to defend an arm bar. Only cried twice. Success. The thing I love most about BJJ is the community of my club. I came for the self-defense I stayed for the people.It makes me sad when I have to miss it. They are my family. No one gets better at BJJ on their own, we help, we match intensities, we respect training styles, we workshop moves, and we laugh. There is so much laughter on the mat.
Fast forward 2 months to my first grading. Hectic as nuts. There were like 50 people on the mat, everyone was going hell for leather. I had practiced my moves, I knew what I had to do but by the end I was so shaken up I didn’t care if I got a stripe or not, I just wanted to go home. But when we lined up in rank order and my name was called, I was so happy I nearly cried, and no one had even elbowed me in the nose!
I love that there is no ‘perfect body’ for BJJ. Before I started I was really into strength training, I had my role models that were all about ‘strong is the new skinny’ and they had amazing bodies that I aspired to look like. But I never could. I tried and I found I became really caught up in the way I looked and it wasn’t doing great things for my self-esteem. I tried to convince myself that I was getting strong for me, but I knew deep down that wasn’t the full reason.
Then along comes BJJ. Everyone is a different size, no one looks glamorous or cute when rolling, and the GI is so shapeless it really doesn’t matter what you look like anyway because it can’t be seen underneath all that fabric. There’s no social physique anxiety at all. I found that I became happier with myself after starting BJJ. I was learning, I was keeping my brain occupied in a productive manner and I was more impressed by what I was able to do with my body than by what it looked like.
I’ve been doing this BJJ thing for 10 months now. I have two stripes on my white belt. I have finally found something that I’m good at, and it makes me so happy. So I’m sticking this one out for the long run.
Art by Maristé