I’m proud to say that I promoted my first belts.; Jackie and Gabi (Brawly) on April 20th.
When I rebooted the women’s BJJ program 2 years ago; Jackie was the only student and basically had a lot of private lessons as a result. On the one hand; she received a lot of instruction, on the other, the when you out are considerably bigger you have to get creative (185>110).
Don’t misunderstand, it does not mean that training gets easier for them, but when someone new is learning and there is a large weight and size difference you have to adjust so that they learn correct positions, movement and progressively build up to to dealing with with larger opponent.
We had few ladies come try the class. Some stayed longer than others and then Brawly (well earned nickname for her assertive style) showed up one day.
Being honest; at the time, when a new student started in the women’s class I’m always happy (since I truly believe that all women should do Jiu-Jitsu); however, I am always expecting them not to show up for the next class as the program has been difficult to get started.
Brawly not only kept coming, she joined Jackie and I prior to class for extra time as well as staying for the all levels class after. Having another student and closer in size was helpful. After months of being consistent and seeing their progress I thought it would be fun to set a personal goal of trying to get them to a solid Blue Belt level in a years time (I did not tell them about it though). However; as they improved and I gave them fair warning of when the intensity level would go up as they got better.
I made whatever time possible available to them; before classes and Saturday mornings, any seminars I taught or field trips to other gyms. Sometimes for my Saturday morning 7 am training session and the cool part is they would show up ready to go!
BJJ is an art that tests you in ways you don’t expect; both physical and mental. First Jackie broke her foot and was unable to train, so she came to watch so as to stay engaged and not miss out. As soon as she had a boot on and crutches; we worked around them and using them, when the crutches were gone and boot was left her training was adjusted to keep her working and drilling what she could. By the time she tested boot had been off for a while but it turns out it never fully healed and she had been training with a broken foot.
Gabi had been on a roll; lots of training and mat time. We had our first affiliation get together and when rolling with a purple belt from another gym, she had her hand jammed and severely sprained her fingers. So much so that had to work through physical therapy to get them going again and then months of rehab, tape and ibuprofen. All the while, she kept training. She adjusted what she could do and watched out for her hand ( and no Spider Guard).
Being able to stay involved when injured takes serious discipline and mental fortitude as it’s much easier to stay home and watch tv than to sit on the sidelines and watch class.
While I was on the training for my black belt and being on the injury list; everyone helped out, time drilling, rolling and being available on off times as well. It’s always great to see how an academy pulls together to help each other improve. we also had female BJJ guests come in to help train with that were closer in size to get a good feel for students closer to their weight.
Come test day, they were there about an hour and a half early; nervously drilling the techniques (it probably didn’t help that they didn’t know the format and I’d been purposely evasive on questions regarding the test.) As class started all the white belts were on lined up on one side of the mats and the colored belts on the other and they were center stage. As this was my first promotion for belt ranking I thought I’d try a different approach than static demonstrations and to chain techniques together that would involve bother partners, like guard passing to establish positions and submissions, then working the escapes or recovery of various positions. This not only help to show their technical skills, but that they could transition between them, knowing where to go and what options to use that worked best for them. That was the first part.
The second part of the test was live rolling; and it was a little more gauntlet style, and though I’m not a fan of big beat downs, I am a huge fan of hard work and determination. The live roll portion consisted of 10 3 minute rounds with only 30 seconds rest in between, just enough time for their sparring partners to leave and the fresh one to come in. The could only roll with blue belts and above and I brought in special blue belt BJJ girls from X2 Fitness and Next Level Combat. And they worked, hard. they were pushed, but were able to show how much they’ve learned and grown and that they deserved to step up to the next level in their Jiu-Jitsu Journey.
Proud Coach 🙂