TXMMA – Texas Mixed Martial Arts

That’s What She Said: “Girls Really Do Just Want To Have Fun”





Girls in Gis - Austin Gracie Barra with Fabiana Borges | Photo: Mean Streak Photography

 

By: Shama Ko

AUSTIN, TX, March 15, 2012 – Often in life,we take ourselves too seriously. That is why it is important to never stop playing and having fun. Not all of us are the wired the same and the concept of fun is subjective. We don’t find amusement in the same pass times or activities. What is fun to someone, maybe a chore to others. However, laughter is one of the most universal forms of communication. Through laughter, generation gaps can be filled and language barriers can be crossed. Laughter is an expression of happiness and the result of delight.

One of the most common and oldest forms of recreation is playing or watching a sport or game. For centuries cultures around the globe have celebrated the athletic expositions and triumphs of others. The modern day gladiator isn’t faced with the possibility of being eaten or mutilated for public amusement however that doesn’t mean athletes of today have it easy.

There is no doubt that the popularity of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is on the rise. More and more women and girls are surfacing in the community and the retention rate is higher than ever. No matter why someone started training or what motivated them, the passion for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu commonly stems from a sense of enjoyment that that person experiences when training. Of course we want to be good at what we enjoy doing and that requires hard work, sacrifices and commitment. Yet at what point does the line between recreation and work get blurred? Should winning be the only objective in competition? How do other female BJJ athletes keep a balance between work and play on the mats?

I spoke with four dynamic BJJ women.  Black belt Fabiana Borges from Gracie Barra N. Austin, brown belt Tessa Simpson from South Austin Gym, purple belt Erikka Flom of Genesis Jiu-Jitsu, and purple belt Lana Hunter from Carlson Gracie.

This is what these Texas BJJ women had to say:

 

Interview – Fabiana Borges (Gracie Barra N. Austin)


How long have you been training and what team are you on?

I have been training for 13 years.  I belong to the Gracie  Barra Team. 

What is the most “fun” aspect of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for you? 

I enjoy teaching the kids class a lot , because they are innocent and fun to teach.  Training for competitions is really fun and you can get to know yourself. 

Is it important to you to have fun on the mats or are you “all work and no play” during training?

It is really important to have fun in anything you do.  I am really happy to work in a field that I love and enjoy.

Would you say winning is as important, more or less important than having fun in competition?  Or does it all go hand in hand?

The taste of winning is really good, but you have to have fun with it.  You have to enjoy and learn even when you lose. The best part about competitions is get ready for it!

Has Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training ever feel like a job?  How have you coped with not getting burnt out?

Back in Brazil it did and then I took some time off.  I missed it a lot and started to really see that was what I wanted to do for living. When I finish a tournament I always take some days off to eat whatever I want and sleep late.  It’s not long before I start to miss training hard and come back to the mats as fast as I can.

As a competitor, how do you find a balance of having fun and pushing yourself to work hard?

I like to challenge myself and working hard is fun to me.  That is the best part is when you push yourself to the limits, train when you are tired and don’t eat that chocolate when you are craving it.

What is the funniest experience you’ve had in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the mats or somehow related to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

It is funny when I teach women’s class.  I can see how different we are and it takes me a little time to get everyone to quite down before I can explain a technique.  But I love it, I love teaching the girls.

It’s also fun to me when I submit a stronger guy and they really can see how Jiu-Jitsu works.  They can see the Gentle Art.  Also now-a-days my best friend is the girl that I competed with the most. Treat your opponents well…. hahaha!

 

Interview – Tessa Simpson (South Austin Gym)

 

How long have you been training and what team are you on?  

I have been training for 8 years. I am with the South Austin Gym.

What is the most “fun” part of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for you?  

I would say that the most fun part of training is learning new techniques then being able to apply them successfully. That is always a great feeling.

Is it important to you to have fun on the mats or are you “all work and no play” during training?

I’m pretty serious in training, but joking and messing around occurs sometimes. Drills that are structured like games are a great way to combine both.

Would you say winning is as important, more or less important than having fun in competition?  Or does it all go hand in hand?

Winning is important, but what’s more important to me is doing the best I can, which includes preparation and everything leading up to competition. I think having fun comes with the territory, especially when you win.

Has Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training ever feel like a job?  How have you coped with not getting burnt out?

Yes, it can feel like a requirement sometimes, but usually taking a break, whether it be a day or a week, will do you good. I also train in other things to keep up conditioning so that I don’t come back completely rusty.

As a competitor, how do you find a balance of having fun and pushing yourself to work hard?

The rewarding feeling after a hard training session makes up for what it takes to push yourself constantly. I think that feeling of accomplishment is part of what makes BJJ so fun and keeps people coming back even through those crappy days.

What is the funniest experience you’ve had in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the mats or somehow related to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? 

It’s hard to think of a funny experience worth mentioning, but what stands out to me are recent parodies created by a couple BJJ experts Ken Primola (Going Light Parody) and Renato Laranja (Fruits and Vegetables). Look those up for a quick laugh.

 

Interview – Erikka Flom (Genesis Jiu-Jitsu)

 

How long have you been training and what team are you on?

I have been training 4 years, since Jan 2008.

I have been training with Genesis Jiu-Jitsu and Ironside MMA for the past two years.

What’s the most “fun” part of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for you? 

Laughing. You can get into some of the weirdest positions when you roll. And people make the funniest faces. It is not a normal training session if I am not cracking up or laughing about something several times during a training session. Visitors and new people usually don’t know what to do with the girl on the other side of the room who cannot stop laughing. It’s great. I tell them it’s all about having fun and if you’re not having fun, there’s no point in being here.

Is it important to you to have fun on the mats or are you “all work and no play” during training?

It is very important for me to have fun while training. The moment that I come to the realization that I am no longer having fun I take a break. This can be as short as sitting out a round on the timer or taking a week off to just go and play something else. When there is a tournament to train for there is a much stronger focus on work, but having fun and keeping that the focus is always in the back of my mind.

Would you say winning is as important, more or less important than having fun in competition?  Or does it all go hand in hand?

I think winning is important but it does all go hand in hand. No one likes to lose and always losing is not fun. I personally use competitions to gauge how I feel I am personally improving as a Jiu-Jitsu player. You can get comfortable training at home and forget to push yourself out of your comfort zone. You train with the same people and learn their game making it easy. At a tournament you have competitors your size and skill level; this is where I look to see what I am good at and where I have room for improvement. When I go home with a win, it is both a boost of confidence as well as confirmation that I am on the right track with my training. When I lose, it’s time to refocus and hit the mats with a little more work emphasis.

Has Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training ever felt like a job?  How have you coped with not getting burnt out?

When I first started training, I caught on to things so quickly that my coach started pushing me to train twice a week.  I very quickly got burnt out. This is where I adopted my fun motto on the mat. If I am not having fun, there is no reason to be here. I trained when I wanted to, and because it was so much fun, I trained a lot! The difference was where my focus was. If it is all work, push push push, I very quickly get burnt out. As long as I focus on having fun, I can train as much,  even more, and excel much faster.

As a competitor, how do you find a balance of having fun and pushing yourself to work hard?

There is always something new that I can learn, from myself, my coaches, teammates and competitors. That is what pushes me to work harder. I love learning new things and getting to apply those 5 minutes later. That is fun, that is what drives me to work harder.

What is the funniest experience you’ve had in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the mats or somehow related to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

One of my favorite memories of training is when Tony Tipton, Genesis coach, allowed me to take his back, he said I got there on my own. He then proceeded to go into a handstand and walk on his hands across the mat with me clinging on for dear life. All I could do was laugh.

 

Interview – Lana Hunter (Carlson Gracie Team)

 

How long have you been training and what team are you on?

I have been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for 3.5 years and I am with the Carlson Gracie/BJJ Revolution team.

What is the most “fun” part of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for you?

Definitely the most fun part of Jiu-Jitsu is the friendships and camaraderie that develops with your training partners!  Of course learning Jiu-Jitsu is fun already, but it is the relationships that develop on the mats that really makes it a rich experience. I also enjoy the roles I’ve taken on during my  Jiu-Jitsu journey. I am first a student student and humbly learning from others and also have been in a mentorship role showing new training partners tips and techniques.

Is it important to you to have fun on the mats or are you “all work and no play” during training?

It is very important to have fun and enjoy your time on the mats! Without having any fun, I think it would be very difficult and boring to continue training for a long time. I think everyone who has been been training for years does find some fun on the mats and that’s probably what has helped them to find even greater pleasure and in their Jiu-Jitsu journey!

Would you say winning is as important, more or less important than having fun in competition?  Or does it all go hand in hand?

Winning is nice, but at the end of the day, it is what you take from the competition experience that is more important.

Competition tests you in many different ways, one being your way of handling stress and pressure. Competition is not the ultimate test of your Jiu-Jitsu skills nor is it a complete showcase of your abilities. I think keeping this mindset has helped me enjoy my competition experiences a whole lot more than before.

Has Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training ever feel like a job?  How have you coped with not getting burnt out?

There have been times when I am training too much for competition and become too focused on it that Jiu-JItsu did start to feel like a job. There have also been times when it seems like none of my techniques are working for me and going to class felt like a chore! During these times, I allow myself to take some breaks and not train as often. I then try to do something not related to Jiu-Jitsu and to bring some balance back into my life.

As a competitor, how do you find a balance of having fun and pushing yourself to work hard?

The balance is in not competing all year round! I love competition because it makes me step my Jiu-Jitsu up a notch and motivates me to push harder than usual. I also enjoy my time off from the big competitions such as the Pans and the World, to learn new techniques and work on incorporating them into my game. Usually, I have a little more fun when I am not training hard for a tournament. I am able to slow down my rolling pace and soak in new techniques.

What is the funniest experience you’ve had in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the mats or somehow related to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

When I started training Jiu-Jitsu I also worked with juveniles in probation and their slang for having sex was “smashing.” So one day, I came to the probation office and was complaining to my boss about how much my ribs hurt and how hard it was to breathe, so he asked me what happened. I told him, “It was from all these guys smashing me!” He looks at me and replies, “You might want to re-phrase that!” I made the connection and cracked up. Luckily there were no juveniles in the office at the moment!

Even in competitive sports, all we can ever be is our best possible self and no-one else, and these ladies are doing a great job of it. They are among some of Texas’ toughest female competitors with over 28 years of experience combined between the four of them.  Although most of them have experienced being “burnt out” from time to time, taking a break has worked for all of them to continue to move forward and pursue their passion in BJJ.  Over all the general consensus was that; win or lose, these “girls really just want to have fun.”

 

About the Author

Shama Ko has actively been a part of and contributed to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community in Texas for close to a decade. She is a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu purple belt at Gracie Humaitá Austin, a champion competitor, a photographer/owner of Mean Streak Photography, a community/event organizer for Girls in Gis and Austin Women’s Open Mat, and most recently a contributing writer to TXMMA. Follow Shama’s endeavors online through any of the links above or through any of these sites: Twitter, FacebookThe Adventures of Shama KoShamaKo.com, and SKOphoto.com.






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