Monthly Archives: May 2019

Karma and BJJ Tournaments

Talking about competing in the previous post reminded me of something that happened at a tournament years ago, and how karma sometimes can have more immediate results than we expect.

It was one of the Pans tournaments and I had placed (I don’t remember what place- again, they all just kind of run together at this point). I was intent on doing the absolute weight division (also known as the open, in case I switch terminology at some point) and as one does at these tournaments, I started to make my way down to the area in order to sign up for that part of the tournament.

As I got in line, from what I recall there was a girl behind me who had a friend ahead of me, and I offered to switch spots with the one behind so the two friends could chat. Then, as we’re waiting in line to sign up there was also one of the more popular competitors who also got in line, and they decided to jump in line ahead of me in a very intentional fashion. The girl that I had previously had the interaction with kept looking back in a sort of “wtf?” look on her face. I told her “it’s fine”- it wasn’t really fine, but we’re all headed to the same place and I’m not the type of person to cause a ruckus over a spot in a line. Risk is definitely not worth any reward in this situation.

So we’re moving up in the line and the first girl gets to the table, turns around and motions to me to come up with her, acting like we’ve been friends for years. She chats in Portuguese to the coordinator, they’re laughing, I’m standing their awkwardly because I just jumped past the line jumper – which they didn’t say anything at this point, and I’m not entirely sure what they thought about the whole situation. It was a bit of a surreal experience, to be honest, and one of those few moments where karma has a more direct cause and effect than usual.

Just wanted to share that little story with you all: the moral of the story being be kind and courteous to those around you- not only because it’s the nice thing to do and we need a little more kindness in the world, but also because of the fringe benefit that karma is a thing and will reward you at some point in some fashion.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Motivation to Get You Through This Thursday

So it’s taking a little longer than I anticipated to pull my thoughts together for my next post… In the meantime, here’s something I found online yesterday, for anyone who needs a little motivation to get through today:


Punch that bastard right in the face if you have to. I believe in you.

Have a great day everyone!

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You Can Compete Against Someone and Still be Friends with Them

I think this is something we all know, but not really something we talk about in jiu jitsu. I’ve had conversations with other jiu jitsu women where this is sometimes the elephant in the room that’s danced around, and I think that it’s time we explicitly state it.

You can compete against someone and still not only have the upmost respect for that person, but you can in fact be friends with them.


There are plenty of other women in the jiu jitsu community that I have competed against, and regardless of winning or losing I am always thrilled to see them at the next tournament. And they seem pretty happy to see me as well! We chat, talk about how things are going, so on and so forth.

While the sport is growing in popularity, it is still relatively a small sport. Particularly as you gain more rank, you’ll see more and more of the same faces at tournaments, the same people standing across from you to shake your hand to start a match, the same smiles on the podium as you sit there and wait for that one guy to get out of the photographer’s way so you can just take the damn picture… It seems kind of silly to see someone a bajillion times (granted, at one specific function, but still), and not at the very least exchange a few pleasantries.

Anyway, my point being that there are times where it seems to be a bit awkward: you’re not sure if someone is willing to extend their hand in friendship after a match. And some won’t, if we’re being totally honest. But more often than not they will, and to me that’s also part of what competing is all about: of course the main purpose is to step on the mat and do your best with the intent of winning, but win or lose it’s also about meeting new people and having a chance to connect with other people in the sport.

Just some thoughts for today: have a great day everyone!


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Count Your Blessings, Stupid

This really is not so much about jiu jitsu but in relation to Memorial Day: for anyone who may not be aware, it’s a day to reflect on those who served in the military and have passed on, typically while serving. My post is not quite about those who passed while serving in the military- several of my step and biological grandfathers served in WWII. One of them was a Merchant Marine: the story goes that he wanted to see the world and so he became a radio operator for ships.

During his time with the Merchant Marines they went on a number of dangerous missions, including two trips on the Murmansk Run- it was an Artic convoy where according to one article, at one point there was roughly a 30% chance you were going to make it out alive.

During one of their trips (I’m not sure if it was one of the Murmansk Runs, but there’s a good chance it was), the ship he was on blew up- I believe from a torpedo from a German U boat. He tread water for some time before being picked up by another ship. I remember him talking about how he occasionally had dreams about being in the water and seeing that large ship looming in front of him.

After the war and much, much later in life he was diagnosed with dementia. I would visit him from time to time with my father, to chat and spend time with him. Funny enough (I don’t think he knew about this blog) I came to visit him one day when he was starting to lose some of his ability to speak, but after greeting him, he turned and jokingly asked my dad “Who’s the broad?”

Oh, just that classy broad, Grandpop.

Anyway, I don’t recall exactly why but I was in his bathroom for some reason, and the medicine cabinet door was open. On the inside there was a computer print out of an illustration depicting a boat in the water at some dark hour, the middle of the ship obviously being hit and in the midst of an explosion. There were letters written in sharpie at the bottom of the page:


He passed away three years ago today, but I still remember that piece of paper stuck in that medicine cabinet door and probably will for a very long time.

I think it’s a reminder we all need once in a while. We get tied up in all the little things, get stuck in the weeds, don’t see the forest for the trees, whatever you would like to call it. We get mad because a training session didn’t go the way we wanted, we lost a match at a tournament, that number on the scale didn’t go down as quickly as we wanted or the number on the weights we have been using hasn’t gone up as quickly as we were hoping.

Sometimes we need someone to tap us on the shoulder and remind us to count our blessings, stupid.

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Happy Friday! Women’s Open Mat Photos

Last weekend I had a chance to visit Princeton BJJ and participate in a Women’s Open Mat- it was a lot of fun and I am really happy to have had the chance to attend!



It was a great chance to roll with a lot of different ladies ranging in size and skill level, and a great opportunity to meet some new people- including Laurie, who has been reading this blog for years(!)


It was also a chance to help out some ladies with some common issues they were having with their game, and so there were fun little opportunities to teach and help, which I always enjoy.


And finally, there was one photo taken during the event that is sheer gold, and I have to share with you all… Apparently I was talking to someone at this event, and the photographer caught this shot of me… I’m assuming mid sentence?



Have a great weekend everyone!


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Jiu Jiu Jitsu & Learning a Foreign Language: Leaning on What You Know

A bit weird I know, but this was brought up a while ago while talking with some jiu jitsu friends and teammates- we were talking about lower ranks insisting on going one or two submissions or sweeps, whatever, even when it’s not exactly the right time to go after that particular move.

Of course the lower rank means well, but it’s a bit like when you are learning a new language: even if you only know a few phrases or words, you will try to use them whenever possible, even if the situation may call for something slightly different or more complex.

Jiu jitsu- and learning a language- are both processes that take a good deal of time: preaching to the choir, I know. But this is just something to keep in mind next time rolling with a lower rank and you start to wonder why they keep going after the same submission time and time again. It may be more that there is a lot of information being thrown at them, and they are using that one technique as their anchor point, to get their bearings as they eventually attempt to venture out and try new things.

That’s all I’ve got for now- have a great day everyone!

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Extra Drilling in BJJ: a Little Bit is Better Than Nothing at All

Knowing that it takes a bajillion repetitions to master a technique, it might seem a little silly to do a few reps here, a few reps there of a technique. I fully believe there is validity to even practicing a move even just 15, 20 times after class- or even killing time before class.

A lot of jiu jitsu, in addition to physics and body mechanics is a lot about muscle memory- and we all know the more time we can dedicate to building that muscle memory, the better we should become at certain techniques and allow us more mental bandwidth to keep an eye out for the opportunities to use said techniques.

The nice thing about building this muscle memory is that it is not necessarily something you need to dedicate large blocks of time towards creating. It really is something you can take small “bites” with: a few reps here, a few reps there- it’s all with the intent of building a good habit essentially. We all know good habits don’t suddenly appear, that it takes time and consistency, and that same approach should be taken with jiu jitsu.

While we should still take larger pieces of time to drill specific things in order to get really in depth and work out the kinks (so to speak), I still feel there is definite validity to taking advantage of some time and doing a little extra drilling of some techniques.

Just my thought on the matter. Have a great day everyone!


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Hillary VanOrnum & Gabi Garcia to Compete at Fight to Win Portland

I mentioned how Hillary was opening a new gym, and fairly recently it was announced that she’s going to be competing against Gabi Garcia on June 7th. Pretty exciting!


While most of us can’t make it to the event in person due to silly things like taking time off for traveling and responsibilities, Fight to Win usually streams the event through and I would say this is probably one to sign up to watch. Just my opinion though.

That’s all for now: have a great day everyone!



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Your Belt is Earned, Not Just Given to You

I’m not entirely sure if anyone else gets this same speech before or during belt promotions. People will receive stripes or belt changes, and every so often there is a reminder that belts are earned, not just given to you. Yes, it is a coach/professor/instructor who is in the middle of the act of giving something to you,  but you in fact earned that belt.

It was not gifted to you, regardless of how you feel about your skill level at that time. Your blood, your sweat, your tears, your time spent on the mat are all why you earned that belt. Your growth in technical skills, and sometimes even growth in your emotional maturity have gotten you to this point.

That being said, you would think I would be someone who would promote letting your instructors know when you think you are ready to go to the next level, but I’m not. I am someone who believes that your instructor will be the one to promote you when it is time: it sounds contradictory, I know, but there is a method to the madness. While instructors are invested in your progress, they aren’t as “in the weeds” as you are. It’s sort of like the person that weighs themselves ever day or even multiple times a day, versus say reporting to a personal trainer once a week. You will see all kinds of fluctuations in your weight throughout the day or week: you drank more liquids one day, you had a super light meal another…the list could go on and on. There are all kinds of reasons that would lead to all kinds of changes in a relatively short period of time. The personal trainer on the other hand, may see some fluctuation but overall (in a perfect world) would see a somewhat steady progression towards the end result.

The same thing with jiu jitsu: there are classes and training sessions where we feel like we’re on top of the world, and then possibly in the same week we all feel like we’re training like garbage. Most coach or instructors- while they are invested in your progress- they are not keeping a scorecard for all the times you rolled. By and large a coach will be looking for overall progress as a way to determine if you are ready for the next belt. Granted, I’m speaking about the majority and there will always be unusual outliers- also progress can mean different things to different people, both in terms of the student and the instructor, which admittedly can occasionally lead you to scratching your head in wondering why one person was promoted while another wasn’t.

Ultimately, I would just wrap this up by saying that when it is time for you to receive your promotion, whether it’s a stripe or a belt change, that it is something that you have certainly earned.

Have a great day everyone!

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Happy Friday! Jamming into the Weekend…

Happy Friday everyone! I’m 99% sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve been listening to music with lyrics in French, in order to increase my exposure to the language as I’m learning it- and also, it’s just fun.

Anyway, here’s some music to get you into a groove for Saturday and Sunday- have a great weekend everyone!

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