BJJ Girl: Just One Jiu Jitsu Journey
Many say that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a journey, and that we start walking its path when we put on our White Belts and make strides towards our goals, one day hoping to wear a Black Belt. In truth, I feel that my Jiu-Jitsu Journey started long before I actually took my first BJJ class.
I first stepped onto the mat in the winter of 2010, at a small school in Temecula, California. The school was a rarity, because it had women’s classes with a handful of regular students. I felt spoiled, because I heard that it was hard to find many women interested in grappling. My first month in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a short story: on my third class, I was paired with another girl that also didn’t know what she was doing, and we drilled to an incident that involved me grasping my leg in pain. I had torn two ligaments in my ankle, which led to having trouble walking, standing, sitting and sleeping, and a feeling of frustration I had never known… That I wanted to go farther with the thing that just temporarily crippled me. I went on though…laying down a lot, and bemoaning the training I wasn’t participating in. Oh, and I am in pain to this day when I wear heels…Anyway…
Down, But Never Out
As anyone knows that trains, the thoughts of techniques and situational hypotheticals come to you at the strangest of times. I would lay in bed, mourning my ankle, but would drift into daydreams of how I should have been positioned, or how I could have prevented myself from getting hurt. These led to continued thoughts about technique, and, let’s be honest here, choking anybody that happened to annoy me when the pain in my foot would get to me. After nine months had passed by, I finally decided that it was time I would begin, again, my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training.
The next stage of my grind brought me to a number of schools, and to a number of situations that I didn’t feel very comfortable in. I met great people and found good training partners, but I really felt passionate about this sport, and I wanted the people around me to just vibe with that. It’s not that the academies I visited weren’t passionate, but maybe that we were just on a different path from me of the same journey.
BJJ Girl, Meet the Carlson Gracie Team
The day that I walked into the Carlson Gracie school in Murrieta, California, I was optimistic. I had heard rumors of a community style school with a big mat, and a reputation for friendliness, and I wanted to find out for myself if what ‘they’ said was true. I overheard someone mention the school’s website, so I followed up and went for an introductory class. It was a big school, with a lot of students, and a lot of classes.
At first it felt difficult to feel the community with so many different times to come, being that they had several classes a day, 6 days a week, with a 2 hour open mat on Sundays. There were lots of new faces at every class I went to, but the fact that everybody was so cool, no matter what, made me try extra hard to make it to every class. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that the Carlson Gracie team was a diverse group of people that truly loved their art and their training, and becoming part of their community was comfortable, easy and natural… even if it took a few months to really learn everybody’s names, haha ;).
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And so began my falling in love with Jiu-Jitsu. We had flirted initially, and even went out on a few dates, but after I got burned, I needed some alone time… I came back though, and I’m happy I did. Besides my children, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been one of the most important things in my life, and has done every kind of good for me, my family, my health and my sanity. It’s cleared my mind and let me focus, while expanding my horizons to help me open my eyes. I’ve met incredible people, seen incredible things, and pushed myself to succeed in ways that I never before believed I could. With so much of what’s good in that part of my life, I felt that it was not only important, but quest-inspiring and mission-worthy that I tell people about how awesome this BJJ thing was!
So what did I do? I tried to tell the world! However, instead of fanfare and enthusiasm, I just got disappointment. Either I wasn’t very motivating or persuasive, or Jiu-Jitsu really wasn’t for everybody…
I kept at it though. Again, the grief came in plenty, but this time it was about my Facebook. Those that weren’t interested in hearing about me wanting to become a BJJ Girl had no problem letting me hear their complaining about it. I have to admit, it was frustrating and a little off-putting to read negativity in response to what I felt so positively about. You know what though? Eff that noise.
The Beginning of BJJ Girl
A good friend of mine suggested that I investigate making websites, and that I could build one to write about my experiences, and capture my own Jiu-Jitsu Journey. This seemed like the answer, and completely giftwrapped! I could blog, and make my own way in the world of Jiu-Jitsu, in hopes of making a real impact of getting what I wanted to say past the haters, and in front of people that I might be able to make a positive influence on. This was going to be awesome! And easy!
While totally awesome, working on websites, and putting myself out there on social media as ‘BJJ Girl’, was, and continues to be, extremely difficult. I’ve always been independent, and excited to take on tasks by myself, but this was a mountain to climb that I figured no bigger than a hill. When I first started BJJ Girl as a real project, my approach could have been likened to a White Belt thinking that a couple of YouTube videos would help defeat a Black Belt. How wrong I was…
I am not easily defeated though. Slowly, steadily, begrudgingly…tiredly….confusedly…I watched videos, read tutorials, and researched the best ways to try and make a difference through nothing more than a website and a Facebook page. As of writing this update at the end of 2014, I’ve finally come to a point where I feel like I, at least, have a spot and understand the game… I still have no idea what I’m doing, so I guess you can say that I’m right about at Blue Belt for my side-quest from my Jiu-Jitsu Journey to the BJJ Girl World of Websites and Media.
Here I stand, ready for anything (I think), looking forward to competition wins (I hope), striving to one day get my Black Belt (I pray!), and bringing as many women as possible to the sport and incredible lifestyle of Jiu-Jitsu (I believe in all of you!!).
And There You Have It…
My name is Emma Valdez, and I call myself BJJ Girl because it makes me feel like I get to be my own super hero when I get on the mat. That’s not my own secret identity to horde away and not share though. Each and every woman out there has the heart and soul to get on the mat and throw down her societal bonds to fight for nothing more than a hard sweat and a good night’s sleep. Every woman that’s had a hard day, or a hard week, or a hard life, already has a BJJ Girl inside of her, and the BJJ Girl is the woman that knows that even though she went through Hell and has nothing to show for it, the mat will be there to let her ‘roll it out’. The physical challenge that is just hard enough, and the mental stimulation that strikes that same perfect nerve as a favorite movie or great conversation with an old friend, makes me wish the whole world could be as happy as I am every time I get to train. When I change out of my stinky, sweaty gi, I go home to grin myself to sleep as my sore body sinks into the most amazing slumber I’ve had since…well, whenever the last day I trained was.
Email me at at EmmaV@bjjgirl.net, and be sure to follow on my Social Network pages!
Talk to you soon,
BJJ Girl Emma
P.S. If you want to hear the rest of the story of why my BJJ Journey started the way it did, check out this post