We always like to update you guys about what's going on in the athletic lives of our trainers. Recently Jessica achieved the rank of purple belt in Jiu Jitsu, a major accomplishment in one of the toughest fighting sports around. We asked her about the process and what it takes to really "dig your heals in" to accomplish something like this.
Q: So Jessica, you practice Jiu Jistu...what exactly is it for those who don't already know?
Jiu Jitsu is a marriage between judo and submission grappling (wrestling). So very basically - two people stand facing one another, each tries to throw the other to the ground while maintaining control of both bodies in order to then submit their opponent via choke, joint manipulation, submissive pressure, etc.
Q: Why Jiu Jitsu as opposed to other martial arts?
I chose Jiu Jitsu because I like to wrestle and rough-house for fun. On a more serious note, I chose Jiu Jitsu because it is a martial art/combat sport that equips a smaller person with the tools to defend themselves against a larger person by utilizing leverage and technique. I'm a huge advocate for women learning Jiu Jitsu. Its a tough world out there, and learning Jiu Jitsu gives me strength and the techniques to defend myself in circumstances that would otherwise be considered a 'game over' scenario.
Q: What was (or is) the physically hardest aspect? What about mentally/emotionally?
For me, the hardest part physically is keeping up, or keeping pace, with my instructors commands. He doesn't have patience for mistakes or lollygagging. When he says move, you move. I've reached a point emotionally and mentally in Jiu Jitsu, that when I'm being really pounded into the ground and I can't breathe I think to myself - 'sometimes you're the hammer, sometimes you're the nail'. This fact calms me down and gives me the patience to keep moving. When I first started practicing, it was hard for me to get crushed into the ground by a man and not take it a little personally. Now, I like it when I'm stuck in a tough spot that I have to work myself out of. I view it as making me stronger. Whether I'm the hammer or whether I'm the nail, I'm learning something.
Q: What are you working on currently to take your game to the next level?
Outside of what the instructor teaches during class, when we're free rolling/sparring (aka. 'fighting') I like to focus on one specific position or submission at a time. I will take months to hone that specific position or submission before moving on to another basic thing. My philosophy is that you have to know the basics through and through, literally perfecting them, before you can 'break the rules'. You can't land a flying armbar if you can't lock in a regular armbar 100% of the time.
Also continuing to train and participate in triathlons is really taking my jiu jitsu game up a notch.I can see and feel a boost in muscle endurance, cardio health/ability to keep my breath in check, and mental ability to keep going.
Q: How long have you done it? How many hours a week or classes do you attend?
I have been practicing Jiu Jitsu for about 3 years at about 5-7 hrs per week. So that breaks down to 4-5 classes (before triathlons 6 classes); 1 hr for no-gi and 1.5 hrs for gi. I only take off holidays when the school forces them on me by closing :)
Q: What is a typical workout like?
Class has a relatively consistent structure in which the specifics change daily. The warm up consists of a variety of calisthenics and agility techniques. This is followed by throwing techniques/Judo drills or 'fit-ins'. After fit-ins the instructor demonstrates a technique or two, which we then practice for a period of time. Class is rounded out with free rolling/feet to floor for at least a half hour. At any point during the class, and this happens often, our instructor will have us perform more calisthenics in order to get our heart rate back up and to make sure we are paying attention. Again, when he says jump... we jump. There is no room on the mat for procrastinating or not paying attention because we all are in the class together. I'm taking away from my classmates instruction if I don't keep up or if I'm not paying attention. This really creates a huge community because we are all pushing each other to perform our best and we all show up wanting to give our best.
Q: How scarred of you should we all be?
AHAHA! Very funny. I get asked this a lot and it always makes me laugh. I'm a very peaceful person. The most peaceful people I know are people who practice in intense Jiu Jitsu/Judo/Muay Thai. I think its because we work out so much on the mat that we know what aggression can lead to and we don't need to prove anything to anyone.
Besides, everyone knows I can't make it 5 minutes without joking about something.