This Thanksgiving, I find myself grateful for driven people.
We all need inspiration. Some of us find it through prayer, others through a good book or a movie about redemption. I find myself inspired by many things, but if you’ve been following the blog, you know that I find myself most invigorated by humans who put their minds and bodies to the test and then share with us how they’ve enhanced their lives as a result.
Thank you, Genevieve, for providing fuel for us all on this Thanksgiving Day, 2014.
I’m a Mixed Martial Arts competitor, and I love it.
I was a three sport athlete in high school. I followed that up by playing 3rd base for Hofstra University, a nationally ranked D-1 school. Training hard day in and day out was a normal thing for me, something I had done since I was 13 years old. When I graduated at 21, I no longer had the structured gym time. I found myself a little lost.
Like many people, I set out on my own; searching to replace what was lacking my life. I tried my own workouts and various classes at the local gym. Cardio kickboxing was fun for a bit, but after 3 weeks of the same routine, I was bored. I had won a few private boxing lessons at MPR Endurance in Fairless Hills, PA and decided to give it a try. I was looking for a good workout, and there was a decent number of MMA fighters and boxers who trained at this gym. There was really no downside.
I found myself hooked. A few boxing lessons led to Muay Thai, then Jiu-Jitsu. I followed that up with Judo and Sambo. Eventually, I found myself locked in a cage, an MMA fighter ready for battle. What began as a few free lessons ended up with me being close achieving my blue belt in Jiu-Jitsu. I have competed in 4 competitive Jiu-Jitsu tournaments and am preparing for my first MMA fight in the new year.
The physical benefits of Jiu-Jitsu are clear. It is an amazing sport and an unbelievable work out. I am in better shape now and more conscious of how my body works training jiu-jitsu than I ever was as an athlete in college. It has been an intense process. Training for fights requires a rigorous 12+ week fight camp with multiple training sessions per day. I had to eat as healthy and clean as possible (alcohol is off limits; I will give a nice long pause for that one…).
All of that training culminates in three 6 minute rounds in a Jiu-Jitsu tournament or three 5-8 minute rounds in a cage fight. The physical training is critical, but the mental aspect may be more important. I would be lying if I said you don’t have any negative thoughts questioning your skills and strengths along the way. It happens, but being a fighter is all mental toughness. Who wants it more? It is all right there in your hands (pun intended).
Learning this sport gave me back that competitive edge I was searching for since graduating college. I remember being a bit nervous during the national anthem, but once I threw my first fielded ball across the diamond, it was game on. Being out there competing has always been inspiring to me. More importantly, I learned that the toughest part that it is you and only you competing. Softball was a team sport. If you make an error, there was someone right next to you to pick you up. In the cage, the only person you can rely on is yourself.
Most people might think negatively about the sport of fighting, but out of all the sports I have played, these athletes are the most respectful people I have ever met. You both agree to go in there and test your skills through strikes, kicks, take downs and submissions. People look at me and say I can’t fight or that I never would. That adds way more ammo to my arsenal. Fighting, and competing in these grappling tournaments, is the most competitive thing I could ever do as an athlete.
On a deeper level, as a female, it is extremely important to have an understanding of self-defense and the tools that you may need in the event you are faced with an attacker. Jiu-jitsu teaches you how to protect yourself, work off your back and use an opponent’s body weight for leverage.
Ultimately, this sport has given back the piece of my life I was missing. When I am getting my cardio in, weight lifting and doing agility drills, I remind myself that if I don’t give it my all, my opponent is in another gym working 10 times harder. Jiu-jitsu increases your flexibility, targets your core, enhances your grip and improves your overall reaction time. I encourage anyone who may be interested to try out a class and see what you think. I really encourage females to learn the basics so they can be prepared in the event they ever need to use it in real life. Jiu-jitsu has given me goals to strive for, the ability to compete again and has been a positive in my overall well-being and life.