We are very happy to feature another doctor on our blog. Dr. Olga Lyashevska is originally from Crimea but currently lives in the Netherlands. She has been training judo and jiu-jitsu since 2005 and has earned her black belt in both martial arts. Olga works full-time in a very brainy field, competes actively and is also one of the instructors at Carlson Gracie Amsterdam. Everyone please meet Dr. Lyashevska!
What do you do in real life besides training jiu-jitsu?
In real life I spend my days in the office behind my computer. I am working as a postdoctoral (someone after PhD) in statistical ecology. My daily activities include code writing to run statistical models, analysis of relationship between variables and making predictions or simulations.
How did you find jiu-jitsu and where have you been training?
Finding jiu-jitsu was pure luck for me and I do not know how my life would be otherwise. About 11 years ago as a master student at the Dutch University I had a self-study week. This means no classes, just preparation for your exams and more time for sports. Out of curiosity I picked a random activity at the university sport centre and decided to give it a try. When I arrived there, I saw a few black belts coming in and I got so intimidated that I was about to leave. Fortunately it was too late. The teacher noticed me and I was told to join. I remember his words ”No, you cannot watch, you need to do.” I was told to grab a gi and a belt. I was terrible. After a few minutes of the class, he asked me, ”Have you done it before?” I said, ”No.” ‘Why are you wearing a colored belt then then?”, he asked. I did not know either. All I knew was that I was so excited that I picked a random belt out of the box.
The first class was fun and since then I have never stopped training. My home gym is Carlson Gracie Amsterdam and my instructor who promoted me to black belt in 2015 is Marcos Flexa who is a 4th degree black belt under the legendary Carlson Gracie Sr.
Now being an instuctor myself I have learned two things: 1) you do not know whether you like jiu-jitsu until you actually do it yourself 2) first class can be very intimidating.
How did you end up living in the Netherlands?
I came to the Netherlands to study for my Master of Science degree. After graduating I lived in a few different places including the UK and Ireland but the Netherlands was always my home.
Do you like to compete? What are your biggest accomplishments so far?
Yes I do. But my liking has changed over the years. Up to the purple belt I competed a lot, sometimes as often as twice a month. Back then there were few girls competing so I competed against guys and had some success. Now I like doing big competitions a few times a year to stay sharp and to evaluate myself. It’s also a great opportunity to meet other tough girls. At the same time I also enjoy off-season because I can invest time into developing my game, training new things, confusing your body, making mistakes and improving overall. For me jiu-jitsu is for life. So I believe you should train smart and train different things to become a true martial artist. My biggest accomplishment so far I guess would be Europeans 2016. I got third place in the adult black belt open class. Now I am looking forward to the World Masters Championship in Las Vegas at the end of August.
What was your most challenging belt level and why?
Purple I guess. Because back then purple, brown, and black were still one category in competitions. Fighting much more experienced girls was by no means easy but it was invaluable experience. After several years when the moment was right black belt came naturally to me. I felt well prepared. In my very first competition as a black belt I made it to the podium.
You are teaching a women’s jiu-jitsu seminar in Seattle on July 2nd. How did the seminar in the USA come about?
The seminar in the USA was a coincidence. I am going to a conference to present a paper on gradient boosting regression trees at the University of Washington. Whenever I travel for work no matter where I go or for how long I always bring a gi or two with me. And the first thing I do I check where I can train. I checked and found a club of my team, Carlson Gracie, in Seattle. The rest was a matter of planning. I am very excited to go there and meet new people who share your passion. Thanks to jiu-jitsu I have made friends in many countries such as Canada, France, Germany and Russia. After Seattle I have another ladies only seminar lined up at my home gym on July 10th.
From time to time I teach seminars but I think I prefer teaching regular classes. You build connection with your students; you can see their progress and help them to get better. Recently I have started teaching regular women’s jiu-jitsu classes. There is a really good vibe in the class. I see that women are enjoying it and so do I. It is very exciting to share my passion and to see how others get passionate as well.
What is happening in women’s BJJ in the Netherlands? Are there any regular open mats and camps being organized?
Yes, there have been big changes in the past few years. Women’s BJJ is growing fast. At Carlson Gracie Amsterdam alone there are at least 6-8 girls training together on a regular night. Once a month we meet with girls from other teams for an open mat somewhere in the country. It is a different place each time so everyone can participate. A couple of times a year there are international trainings camps where girls from all over Europe come together.
Do you have any other talents or hobbies? Anything interesting you want our readers to know about you?
I love learning languages. My jiu-jitsu teacher says that is because I like talking… a lot. So I can talk to everyone. But seriously, I like a challenge; I like the sound of languages. I like to see the amazing capacity of your brain to accumulate knowledge and its response to all the learning. I do it daily. You probably ask how many languages I speak? Regularly I speak only four: Russian, Dutch, English and Portuguese. Sometimes Ukrainian. And I am still learning German and Arabic. There is a long list to do. 😉