Women’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is spreading like wild-fire. All of the world, there are open mats, seminars and regular classes popping up as women organize and find their place. The recent 2nd Anniversary Girls in Gis in Houston was evidence that Women’s BJJ has come a long way. As an early supporter of the event, we remember showing up and being completely blown away with 10-15 participants. These days events pull in over 40 participants!
What makes events like this successful is the daily dedication of women in each local school. Sure, there’s a lot of promotional and logistical work required, but the effort to create an inviting environment for new women to start training (and stick around) is where the real impact is made. Women like Suay Al-Aziz of North Carolina’s Combat Club are creating lasting impact.
When we found out that Suay was teaching an ongoing women’s class at her home academy, well… we just had to share her story.
World meet Suay.
Hi Suay! Tell us about yourself and your Jiu-Jitsu Life.
Hello, my name is Suay and I AM a jits addict! I’m a 30 something Navy wife and mom. My kids range from 18 years to 4 years old. I joined the Army right out of high school as a Combat Medic. I was working Managed Care at a Naval Hospital when I met my husband, Saad. I started my training in San Antonio after checking out Relson Gracie giving a seminar in Feb 2010. I had never even heard of the Gracies or BJJ before this seminar ( I know–how is that possible! Just consider me a late bloomer.). I only knew my husband was really into it and he always was driving across town to train. One afternoon, he said he was going to a seminar and curiousness got to me. I didn’t participate, but after about ten minutes I really wanted to jump on the mats. If I had seen this dude on the street, I would have never thought twice about him. It was insane how motivating he was to me. He really showed how anyone could dominate and size didn’t matter. For my birthday I got a gi and and a year’s worth of BJJ lessons at Relson Gracie San Antonio. Since we are military, we were transferred to Jacksonville, NC where I currently train at Combat Club Martial Arts and Fitness, a Saulo Ribeiro affiliate school. Currently I’m a 2nd degree blue belt. I wish my husband had hooked me on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu earlier…I’m kind of mad he’s got 2 years on me!
What do you do besides train bjj? Work? School?
I never thought that I would ever step away from nursing, but military moves make it hard maintain. Currently, I train BJJ six days a week with my husband and 4 year old daughter. I really enjoy being able to share my enthusiasm with them. It’s awesome to be able to around other jits nerds. The best part is that I can take my daughter to work with me. I actively work for a charity called In The Cage 4 Kids that assists children with cancer. The owner of Combat Club, Chico Santiago, started the charity after his 6 year old son died of a rare cancer a few years ago. It’s great cause and I’m always looking for a way to help them expand and progress. I also manage the fight team at Combat Club.
Do you do participate in other sports activities?
I’ve already got my college degree and I’m pretty lucky that training and work is one in the same for me now. I do train in Arnis, a Filipino style martial arts that involves eskrima fighting sticks. It’s pretty awesome when we do the 3 man synchronized kata. It’s a work in progress. Is there anything better than BJJ out there?
You’ve managed to start quite a successful women’s class in your town. Tell us more about it. Why did you decide to start women’s only class at your school? What were the obstacles and how easy/difficult has it been to keep the ladies coming back week after week.
It all started with a self defense seminar called Ladies Fight Back that the gym hosted. The stipulation was bring a friend and it’s free. It was a huge turnout of ladies. We had girls from the community college, military wives whose husbands were deployed, prior victims of assault and just women who wanted to know how to handle possible situations. That one time event lead to a monthly Saturday class, which turned into my ladies BJJ class. They started me off with one class during lunch on their slowest day to test the waters. Now I teach four classes a week. My class started with 4 ladies and now I have 14. It’s quite a blessing to have so many training partners. I never expected so many women to have a interest in BJJ. Some of them attend the evening co-ed classes, but most of them are strictly daytime. I focus on the basic fundamentals with the ladies. We drill a lot and do timed rounds of rolling to prep them for tourneys. I do incorporate the things I learn at seminars and some Ginastica Natural. I encourage the women to attend the seminars with me and to compete to keep their skills fresh. It also helps that we have a kid’s room to make it easier for moms to get a workout in. There was a great response with having a place for kids to play while we trained. We are very family oriented and it shows. I try my best to emulate Josh Lauber and his teaching style. He has most definitely left a lasting impression on me. When they first approached me about teaching a class, I was worried that no one would want to learn from a baby blue. I was wrong. I never had so many female training partners than I do now. I’m still learning, but teaching has made me really focus on having my fundamentals down. We get to grow together and it is really good to see the progress. A few of my girls have placed at NAGA and will test for blue belt this month. I’m just happy to share the knowledge that others have passed to me. We need more female BJJ players! These ladies mean business, they are serious about training and some take the advanced classes with our brown belt, Philip Wyman.
Do you compete? Do you push your women to compete? How much of the teaching is focused on self-defense and how much on sports Jiu-Jitsu?
Honestly, I spend most of my time going to seminars all over so I can keep my game evolving. I do encourage the girls to try competing once or twice just to say they tried it. I competed at my first tourney in Houston, TX and I was super nervous. But you just can’t get any better coaches in your corner than Josh Lauber and Daniel Moraes. I took home the gold and I had only been training about four months. We do cover self defense a lot, but mostly it has been sport BJJ per the request of the ladies. I do plan on competing more with the girls as a group. Our academy is planning to attend the NAGA in Atlanta, GA and give it a go.
What do you see yourself in 5-10 years? Still teaching? Training?
I definitely see myself training and hopefully still teaching in the future. It’s a great lifestyle to have. Since I’ve started training, I have dropped almost 40 pounds. I have learned to make easy, healthy adjustments to become more fit. Everything we do revolves around BJJ. It truly is a way of life. I can’t imagine ever stopping, not even if i lost a limb.
It’s like therapy to get out on the mats to unwind. I’ve made some great friends since I’ve started jits and have had the honor of training with some of the best players out there. It’s one big happy family for me. And I love that the sport just keeps on evolving. It’s our ultimate goal to open our own academy when he retires from the Navy. I can’t wait!
Hi Saad (Suay’s husband)! Please tell us a few interesting things about Suay that we don’t know.
Suay is a talented auto mechanic who learned the skill from her father and brother while growing up. She has helped restore my 1966 Ford Mustang and is the primary mechanic for the vehicle. One day my neighbor came over while Suay was under the car fixing the transmission line and started a conversation assuming that he was talking to me and to his great surprise Suay came out from under the car and said, “I am not Saad.” LOL!
Thanks for sharing your life with us and keep up the great work Suay!