We finish the 2012 Fenomenal Woman series with Jill Baker from Bakersfield, CA. She is a mom of 3, a world champion, a teacher, a coach, and the driving force behind SoCal Women’s BJJ. She does a lot and does it well. Everyone meet Jill Baker!
You have been in jiu-jitsu for a long time. How did it all started?
I’ve actually been training jiu-jitsu for 6 years although I have been involved and watched my husband for about 16 years! I started training after he opened his gym in Bakersfield in 2002. He was teaching every night and I was working days. We barely saw each other and I decided to start training. I took may-be two classes and found out I was pregnant with my second child Roman, so I had to put it on the back burner. After my third child was born, I was determined to get back on the mat and stick with it and I have been completely hooked ever since.
Your husband is a black belt, you’re a brown belt, do you both work at the academy? Do your kids train as well?
Kylie, our oldest, is 13 and an orange belt. She is also my favorite training partner. Roman, 9, is a yellow belt and Kieran, 5, trains sometimes when he is not busy being a superhero. Matt, my husband, teaches all the classes at Bakersfield BJJ, I help with the kids classes and run our women’s program. It is a family affair, we all work there. I also have a day job, I’m a second grade teacher at Horace Mann Elementary School in Bakersfield.
Is it hard to train and work with your husband?
My husband is amazing, he is my coach, my mentor, and my best friend. We are both easy-going, so working together goes pretty smoothly. We don’t fight until about a week before a tournament. Stress levels go up especially when we are both hungry! Immediately after the competition and some pasta and dessert, everything is good again. We are at the point now that we have become used to the competition cycle and the mood swings it brings.
How did the Riveters ladies BJJ group start?
The Riveters was actually my way of introducing women to the awesome sport of jiu-jitsu. Many times I had witnessed women walk into the academy wanting to learn self-defense or sport jiu-jitsu but the number of women who stuck around was very small because of the overwhelmingly large male population. Many women were intimidated to roll with men especially when they had no idea what they were doing.
We try to make women feel comfortable and gain exposure to jiu-jitsu techniques and practice. After a few months, many of the women who started in the women only program, switch over and train with men and do quite well. When they know what to do, it is not quite so scary! Rosie the Riveter seemed the perfect icon for this type of group, one that empowers women to do something that is traditionally male dominated.
How often do you compete?
At the blue and purple belt level I tried to compete once a month. I got promoted in October and just did my first tournament as a brown belt. I will continue to compete as often as possible. Competing makes me stretch my limits and makes me stronger emotionally and physically. It’s not about winning necessarily but about challenging myself. I want to improve as a competitor and a coach. Each time I compete I gain a new experience I can share with others. I learn lessons about jiu-jitsu but more about life, about committing to something, about reaching for goals, and about preserving through seemingly impossible situations.
I am many times torn between being a mom and a competitor. I’ve had to listen to my baby screaming for me while it was my turn to walk onto the mat, which was heartbreaking. But I’ve also gotten to see the looks on the faces of my kids after winning. They are there with me through this all and I’m hoping to teach them to follow their dreams and jump in with both feet.
Any tips for busy moms who say there is not enough time for training or working out?
There is always time! The time we take for ourselves, even if it’s only an hour a day, helps us to be better parents, better spouses and better employees. Working out is not an option for a busy mom, it’s a necessity. Work out at home after the kids are in bed, get up 30 minutes early, whatever you need to do but do it, so that you are capable of giving to the others. The hardest part is the first five minutes and
You are also the organizer of SoCal women open mats that have grown tremendously in the past year. How did you get into it and how do you come up with all the fun names for each event?
About 2 years ago I met an amazing girl named Cecily Garcia Fischmann at a tournament. We competed together and then a mutual friend got us talking. Cecily had a plan to organize open mats in southern California because she wanted more female training partners. She explained her idea and I was excited to start working with her in making the open mats a reality. Word got out and women were eager to come and train in a non-threatening environment. We started with about 20 ladies at the first open mat in June 2011, and this year we’ve had over 50 participants at several of our events. It is an amazing sight to see such a number of women rolling under one roof!
Cecily has moved back to the East coast now leaving SoCal WOM in my hands. Each open mat brings its own flavor and experience, but never fails to provide good training opportunities for women who love to roll, whether they are a brand new white belt or a black belt. The open mats are always fun, always free, and sure to provide meaningful relationships in the world of women’s jiu-jitsu. The funny monthly names are a group effort. Sometimes the hosting school gives me ideas, sometimes my thirteen year old daughter or my husband share their brilliance, and other times I just think of a move that I have been working and put it with the month: Darcember, Septarmbar!
You won Masters 2012 purple belt double gold this year. What are your plans as a brown belt in 2013? What are the plans for Riveters and SoCal open mat for 2013?
2012 was an amazing competition year for me! I never dreamed that it would be possible for me to win PANs and Masters Worlds in the same year. Both of these experiences were once in a lifetime gifts from God and I was so lucky to have been able to share them with my family. This year I’m going to continue to train, and compete, and see what happens. This is a sport, it is not life. It is what allows me to be the best person I can be and manage my many responsibilities. I like to keep things in perspective. If I win, but sacrifice too much, then it’s not really winning. If I lose, and my family is still healthy, then who cares? It is all a balance game.
SoCal Women’s BJJ will continue to host open mats for females of all ages and experience levels. We are always looking for new academies to host in the pursuit of keeping SoCal WBJJ open and welcoming to girls from any school or team.
The Riveters will continue to build a solid foundation of knowledge in jiu-jitsu. We will use the sport to gain confidence in life and to better play the roles we have inherited. Whether we are doctors, teachers, secretaries, stay at home moms, or teenage girls, jiu-jitsu and our involvement in the sport will help us give our best to those whom we spend our time with.
Thanks Jill and Happy New Year!