My Journey to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

First, let me say that writing about why I actually started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has always, until now, been something that I wanted to keep private. I first stepped on the mat in January of 2010 in Temecula, California. I tried an all women’s nogi class which I loved, however, two weeks into the sport I tore two ligaments in my ankle due to an unfortunate injury. After 9 months of recovery I started training in gi on and off for 2 years.  I had been off the mats for several months when I really wanted to find my Jiu Jitsu home. I had trained at a few schools, but finally found my family at Carlson Gracie Temecula.

So here’s the question I get asked constantly, “What made you start training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?” While I have always given the standard “Oh, it was because of an ex that used to train and he made me curious about the sport”, or “I just wanted to learn something new.” Here is the real reason, I started training because I was in a physically abusive relationship. There I said it, just writing that was harder than I thought it would be. Other than those select few close to me, nobody knew the real reason I started. Until now, I have been very hesitant to speak about it or even write about it for many reasons. However, as I sit here and write this blog post, I can’t help but think that I am not alone. As statistics say in the U.S in one year, 10 million men and women are victims. After getting out of this relationship I knew it was time to do some healing. One of the things on my list was to take some sort of self-defense class. I did a little research and came across Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  I hadn’t taken any classes, but I had met up with a black belt instructor. I remember the first time he tried showing me some basic moves with light rolling I started to get anxiety and cry. At the time I didn’t know why I reacted that way and I apologized as I must have freaked him out. I explained that I was a domestic violence survivor and that grappling had taken me back to a dark place.

My first class was an experience I will never forget. I was anxious, nervous and intimidated, but I fell in love. I have been very fortunate to have had such awesome experiences in this sport.  Male dominated or not, it can give women such a feeling of empowerment that nobody can take away. You see, while Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has given me the confidence and skills I know I can use if I ever need to, this sport is more of a journey, a way of life. I have met some amazing people, and I have made some great friends along the way, and this is just the beginning. For me, this started as a way to build the confidence I once had that was destroyed by someone else. I wanted to know that if I ever came in contact with that person and he took a shot at me I could at the very least defend myself.  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become my passion, I used it to get over my domestic violence issues, I used it to get over my divorce, and now I use it to become a better friend, teammate and yes even a better mother. Not one single person in this world is perfect, while I have changed my attitude about myself, I am grateful to have come this far, to continue to grow as a person every day. To look back and say NEVER AGAIN……


28 thoughts on “My Journey to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu”

  1. Thanks Emma (a.ka. BJJGirl).. 🙂

    It takes courage to share your thoughts, especially when they are this raw. I myself never knew, but now understand why you’re so feisty.. 😉

    In all seriousness, I love reading people’s history with the sport – the why, the what, the how.. it still wow’s me every time.

    You’re a monster on the mat these days, poor guy that ever tries something like this again.



  2. Lots of respect emma, your a strong woman with big heart, I knew you were going through alot, I can see it in your eyes, but never knew what. I’m glad you found passion in jiu jitsu, it is the best medicine. Lots of respect here for your encouragement, i agree it is hard to express stuff like that, you just paid it foward to inspire others to do so. OSS all the ways

  3. BJJ is amazing as a therapeutic remedy for previous physical and mental trauma. Speaking personally, I have benefited immensely from training jiu-jitsu.

    BJJ will grow stronger as more women train, and inspirational stories like yours will help raise women’s profiles in the sport. Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. Such an inspirational story, Emma! It is so true that Jiu Jitsu is much more than just another workout. It literally transforms your mind, soul, and body. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  5. Jonathan Bertram

    It must have been hard to come out with something that private, it’s so great to be part of a sport (and the associated lifestyle) that has helped so many people to change their lives for the better – it’s the best thing I’ve ever started and I love that others feel the same way.

    1. Jonathan, It was harder than I thought. I honestly was very apprehensive when I had the idea to share my story. But I wanted to share it because I know I am not alone.

  6. Darrell/ Jiushido Kimono Co

    A truely inspirational story of both strength and courage. Your story will inspire others who are experiencing the same struggle. Thanks for sharing. God bless you and your family.

  7. Such an inspirational post! I also started jiu jitsu because I was in an abusive relationship and I often do not answer honestly when asked why I started. I have recently started trying to change that hoping that it could encourage other women to try the sport! Thanks for speaking out 🙂

    1. I was like you for about 4 years, It wasn’t until my blog post that my teammates found out about why I started. I never wanted anyone to know because I was ashamed. I am actually glad that I have freed myself of such thoughts. As difficult as it was, writing and sharing my story was therapeutic for me.

  8. Thanks for writing that down, I can have no idea what you have been through and how it has impacted your life. A long time ago, I had a woman I respect coach me through an exercise in which she led me through how my perceptions, emotions, security, confidence and freedoms would change if I were physically weaker than more than 2/3 of the total population; which is where she put herself. She had no physical fighting skills to speak of.

    I am a bigger guy, not really a tough guy, but I have been an athlete for a long time and I am physically large. That discussion really changed the way I approach women. It was a gift.

    Years later when my wife (then fiance) and I were in an mma class and she had a similar breakdown to the one you describe, I was able to have compassion and not incredulity. She told me about a two experiences she’d had as a teenager and it opened up our relationship to an entirely new place.

    I am happy BJJ found you: I pray that my daughter, and sons, grow to have the strength you have shown.

    Jason in TX

  9. All I can say “WOW” you go girl that is an awesome share on the post thanks for sharing I too found being in martial arts has help me a lot in many ways I am glad u share your heart on this

  10. Thank you for sharing your journey. I too started bjj because of an abusive relationship that lasted for ten years. Like you, I used to feel the need to hide the real reason Why I started, but I’m beginning to try and come forward with my story. It is a struggle at times when overwhelming feelings come out of nowhere. But, bjj was the first thing I used when I left to define myself as a powerful woman, mentally and physically. It really did save my life and continues to do so every day. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  11. julian gregory

    Well I do salute you for pushing through your challenges , It takes a big paire to see through all that and still have a good out look in life . but allow me to lighten up the mood . I still won’t attempt to hug you never hug a jui jitsu practioner . May G*D bless you continued success in jui jitsu and life in general .maybe one we will run across each other and I will say hello from a safe distance.

  12. My friend, you have a lot of courage to share something so dark and so personal. Yet, I know, and would bet all my monies in the bank (it’s not that much, don’t worry lol), that this post will be read by someone or some people who truly needed to read this. This is something that could potentially change someone’s life. Nothing I have ever written has that much power, so I salute you. On behalf of kind souls, thank you Emma.

  13. I started BJJ for similar reason’s.. I love BJJ and the sense of empowerment it gave me! Unfortunately, I had a romantic relationship with my coach and he used that to his advantage when I didn’t do as I was told. I have since moved to an amazing new club but have lost motivation from the fear I have developed. EVERY girl needs to learn BJJ basics in my opinion.. It really could have come in handy for me. Thank you for sharing your story 🙂 it’s nice to know that there’s other girls like me out there.

  14. Thank you for being so courageous in sharing your story. I went through a similar journey when I first started BJJ three years ago, after ending an emotionally and physically abusive relations- – I’ve only shared it with a few trusted training partners. BJJ made a huge impact in helping me rebuild my shattered sense of emotional and physical safety. This sport continues to awe me in terms of its ability to create emotional and physical strength.

  15. Wow, so I have been following you for a little while and love your posts and inspiration. BUT I have put off reading your story, for no particular reason, just always, oh, I’ll read later. Today I read it and I am in tears, the timing was no coincidence, it can’t be.
    Thank you for being brave and sharing, one day I will share my story as well, but I’m not there yet.
    Thanks again!

    1. This was the hardest blog post I have written. It was really hard putting my story out there, but I am glad I did it. I have so many people come forward with their stories. Maybe, you aren’t ready to speak about yours. Just know you are not alone.

  16. I think a lot of women need to hear your story so they know there is hope and a way out for them. I do not train but I have a 12-year-old girl who has been training at Smith BJ J for almost 4 years now. Her father has congestive heart failure at 32 yrs old and him not knowing how long he might have, we wanted to make sure if something Was to happen, that our girls could defend themselves against bullies or just defend themselves in any situation. My oldest daughter really took to it, she is a thinker so this sport ended up being perfect for her. She trains under Phillip smith in McDonough, GA, a second degree black belt, who has been an amazing teacher! My husband and I couldn’t be more proud and confident that no matter where her life journey takes her, she will ALWAYS be able to defend herself and her little sister if need be, and you can’t put a price on that as a parent. We hope she continues on this journey as long as she enjoys doing it! Loved your story….keep sharing, people are listening!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Shopping Cart