1. You will be friends with everyone in your gym like a big happy family.
There are so many different personalities on the mat so there is a good chance someone will not like you, just like you don’t like certain people for whatever reason. It is normal that you develop stronger bonds with some people and others get a nod and a mumble of a hi, how are you. Same hobby will not guarantee immediate and lasting friendships. You will avoid training with people who have hurt you, give you creepy vibes, don’t click with you or are generally terrible training partners. It is possible that you are the annoying person to someone and they avoid you. There is no need to worry too much about it and go out of your way to make someone like you. If it happens naturally, great. If it does not, don’t force it. Gym, like workplace, will have some conflict and some camaraderie. Some people simply dislike you. You cannot change your personality to please someone, but you can always try to be a good training partner and not roll like a bonehead.
2. People outside of the gym want to hear about your training all the time.
No! Please, no! Not every birthday party, wedding, baby shower or family dinner night wants to hear about your awesome, incredible, amazing omoplata. Yes, we know you train. It’s your hobby. Don’t be that person who has nothing else to talk about at a social event. What was the last interesting article you read? Tried out a new recipe you saw on Instagram? Won a BBQ competition? Please spare other people from your constant BJJ euphoria, we see it daily on your FB page.
3. Everyone will be great at jiu-jitsu.
That’s a tough one. It is a struggle for anyone to admit that they are average or a slow learner. Training can be fun even if you are not a world champion caliber athlete. It’s a hobby, enjoy it. Learn and accept that you are getting better at your own pace. Some people compete, never win anything and it’s fine. Some people never compete and are happy if they can finally do a backward roll. Comparing yourself to someone else on the mat and having unrealistic goals is a guaranteed path to negative thoughts, resentment, frustration, and general dissatisfaction.
4. When you start training you must only wear BJJ related clothing and accessories. Everywhere.
Remember before you started training jiu-jitsu? You had clothing that didn’t have BJJ, jits, jitz printed on them and they weren’t white-blue-purple-brown-black-belt design? Yes, find that clothing again. It is great to wear them every now and then.
5. Black belts in BJJ are also black belts in life, and they are qualified to give advice about everything and anything.
Some BJJ black belts are great motivational speakers with a huge social media following. Some. A lot of black belts are not that great at teaching, finances, relationships or time management. Be careful what advice you are seeking. Again, BJJ black belt does not mean they are black belts in all aspects of life.
6. Expensive gis are the best.
No gi brand that has their gis made in Pakistan or China owns a textile factory or a manufacturing facility. All men’s and women’s gis come from the same source of fabric. All brands have their gis made in a factory that someone else owns. If only we could tell you how many brands are made in the same facility, by the same workers, using the same fabric… but we can’t. If you like the design and the fit of the gi, buy it, but don’t assume automatically that it is better because of the price.
7. You must train a lot, even when injured and observe class by taking notes when not training.
Oh dear, how many times have you seen this? Someone posting online: I broke my wrist last week, and the doctor said to stay off the mat until it heals. Majority of advice given is total opposite to the doctor’s: Oh no, just tape your hand to your chest and roll. I had 5 broken ribs and a dislocated jaw and still went to class 8 days a week. Why would you not listen to your doctor who has spent years in medical school and instead follow a group of strangers’ advice? What’s the rush anyway? Heal the damn injuries. It’s your body, the one and only you have. They are not giving out medals for bravery. Taking notes while injured? Well, if you must. If you have nothing else to do, then by all means, go sit and take notes. You won’t remember any of it later anyway.
8. Every black belt is a great instructor.
Some black belts are great competitors, some are great instructors, some are both and some are none. It doesn’t take much to open a gym these days. As long as you have a small space, mats and sign on the door, you are in business. No teaching experience or certification is required. Warning signs of a not so great instructor: holds back information, punishes students by holding back belt promotions if student has asked about a belt promotion, ridicules students, makes crude jokes, intimidates students who want to leave, is vague or lies about his own black belt lineage, doesn’t allow cross training or going to open mats. You are not married to the gym you start at, you can always change and find an instructor you really enjoy learning from.
9. You must take private lessons.
If your instructor tells you that he has some secret techniques he only reserves for private lessons, stop and think. Wait a minute, I pay my monthly dues to learn, why is the instructor holding back information, and why is he making me pay extra to learn those special secret techniques? Does it make sense? Not at all. If you want to take private lessons to work out some snags in your game and have one-on-one time with the instructor, that’s fine. But don’t ever be coerced into taking private lessons with the promise of a quicker promotion or a special secret technique. It is shady and fueled by greed.
10. You must roll with everyone.
This is troublesome especially for brand new students who think they have no voice, and must accept any rolling partner no matter what size or shape. They believe they are not allowed to say no. Always remember, it is your training, your body, and you will be paying the medical bills (not the gym, not the person who injures you) when you get hurt. You can and should choose your training partners. A great instructor will never let brand white belts roll with each other anyway. They do more harm to each other than anything else. Be vocal and if you are being forced to roll with people who are reckless, you may want to reconsider if this place really is for you. Lots of injuries, few familiar faces, and a huge turnover of new white belts is a sign of a gym that does not take good care of its students.
11. Women must always be paired up with another woman when there are even number of women on the mat.
Just because you two are both females, doesn’t mean you should be training together. A 120 lb and a 190 lb woman paired up is not a good match. You are better off pairing up with a male of a similar size. You don’t see a rooster and super heavy males paired up for drilling so you should not either. Find someone who benefits your training the most. Training with women is great but don’t let yourself become the “female white belt sitter”. It sucks being paired up with new females all the time while guys are improving their game by rolling with higher belts. Speak up!
12. Quitting is never an option.
This has to be the crown jewel of all BJJ myths. If you promote the slogan that there is no quitting in BJJ, why do so many people quit? Why do we not see a waiting list on the door of each gym because they are at max capacity? Try to remember the names of the people who started training at the same time with you. Look at the gym group pictures from years ago. Ah, there is this dude, I remember him. He always wore a gi one size too small. I wonder what happened to him. Oh, and this girl, she was so good. Right when she got her blue belt, she got married, had a baby and we never saw her again.
Lots and lots of people quit for all sorts of reasons. Quitting is always an option, you can do whatever you want in your life. It is your time, your money, and your body. Jiu-jitsu is for everyone but not everyone will like it. If BJJ no longer interests you, choose something else to do. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad or inferior because you decide to move onto something different.
We are kicking off a new Brag and Win series. Every month one lucky lady will win a Fenom gi of her choice. All you need to do is tell us something good you have done in the past month, no matter how big or small, or something good that happened to you. Let’s hear it!
Queens of the Mat is a women’s jiu-jitsu group that was started by Keri Wittekind in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a three stripe purple belt at Club MMA, and recently began teaching women’s jiu-jitsu classes at NKY Martial Arts Academy. Keri kindly agreed to answer a few questions about her life and her Queens of the Mat project.
1. How did the Queens of the Mat get started, and how did you come up with name?
It all started with a casual conversation with my coach Jeff Robison about three and a half years ago. I mentioned that I had gone to an all women’s open mat at a particular gym he was asking about. He told me that if I ever wanted to do something like that I could but he said I had to name it.
From that conversation Queens of the Mat was born. I think jiu-jitsu is a game of chess, and the most important piece of the chess board is the queen. As women, we are queens of our own domain, and my selfish take is that Cincinnati is known as the Queen City.
Queens of the Mat was founded on three pillars. First is the open mat, a free non-competitive environment for girls and women to train together. Second is that we always benefit a charity by collecting goods as a way to give back. Third is that we go out to eat after open mats as a way to just do life together off the mat.
2. What do you do in real life?
Right after high school I went to college. I did two years of school but ran out of money, and I decided to enlist in the Army. A recruiter told me I could get paid to jump out of a plane so I said yes! For two years I packed parachutes, followed by two years of admin work. At the end of my four years I came back home to Cincinnati, and joined the Ohio Army National Guard driving a dump truck, and went back to school. I stayed three years in the National Guard before getting out for medical reasons. I miss the community of the Army. The jiu-jitsu community has been the closest to the military community I have ever experienced: a melting pot of people. For the last few years I’ve worked in various roles within the pharmaceutical industry.
3. What has been the hardest part of your training? Which belt level has been the most challenging?
The hardest part of training is finding a balance between training, and the rest of my life. It took me a long time to realize that it is okay to miss class sometimes but also that it is okay if not everyone agrees with my involvement in jiu-jitsu. It is not my responsibility to make sure they like what I do.
I think each belt level has had its own challenges. Blue belt was particularly rough because of crazy life events like a bad break up, an injury that required surgery, job loss but also having to find a new gym. Purple belt is rough right now because I’ve hit my first big plateau in a long time but teaching has really helped.
4. Do you ever feel like quitting? What can you tell women who are struggling and can’t find the desire to train any more?
A lot more than I care to admit! But I know it’s not a real, lasting feeling. When I start feeling that level of frustration, I’ll take a couple of days off training, and refocus by doing something random like an aerial yoga class, and go back fresh. I would tell women to take a step back, take a day off or a week off, and get back in the gym. Don’t give up. Work thru it. If you are hitting a plateau, quit focusing on what is not working, and instead focus on another part of your game. But also training with other women is incredibly helpful whether that is in your own gym, an open mat or seminar.
5. Do you go to any other women’s jiu-jitsu camps and open mats?
Absolutely! I love going to camps, seminars and, open mats. It is always good to learn from, and work with women. For me it is also nice to just be a participant sometimes.
6. Who is your BJJ idol?
I look up to a lot of people in jiu-jitsu, especially the women who have paved the way. I had a chance to train with Emily Kwok shortly after getting my blue belt in 2014 at Groundswell Grappling Concepts. I was in the midst of a huge plateau, and had not figured out how to get thru it. Those of us attending the camp went out to dinner as a group at the end of the day. It was an informal Q&A, and I asked Emily how she overcame plateaus as a lower belt. She shared a story about baking cookies that completely changed how I looked at my plateaus. Her openness and vulnerability to share that with me has been one of the biggest lessons in my journey.
7. How many events have you held so far and what plans do you have for the Queens for 2019?
We have had 14 Queens of the Mat events, of those three were on the road. We average about 25 women but have up to 40. The best part is when a new jiu-jitsu lady comes to a Queens of the Mat event. I love that she gets to see so many women on the mat together, and our amazing community so early in her journey.
It is hard to pick a favorite event but two have special places for me. The winter open mat is special because it benefits Shriners Hospital for Children, and it also represents our anniversary. The other open mat that is special to me is our fall open mat which benefits the Fisher House at the Cincinnati VA. As a veteran myself, I wanted a chance to give back to the other community that I love.
I’m working on 2019 as we speak. We will definitely be at Ohio Combat Sports Academy in Columbus, Ohio on March 30th. We have been invited to Indianapolis but no date has been set. Of course we will have open mats in Cincinnati as well. I also want to start looking into new merchandise if the women want it. I know I do.
8. Tell us something interesting about yourself that not many people know.
I’m a big fan of Broadway musicals, and their soundtracks. I even have a “Wicked” Pandora station, and the soundtrack to “The Greatest Showman” is currently in my car cd player. And yes, I sing along quite loudly!
Jiu-Jitsu Gypsies, a women’s BJJ group in South Florida, is celebrating its four-year anniversary next month at Carlson Gracie Miami gym. The event is hosted by Cathy Jones, Carlson Gracie Miami first female black belt. Between 80 and 100 participants are expected, and the organizers are encouraging everyone to bring women’s products which will be donated to a local women’s shelter for victims of domestic abuse. The anniversary event will have food from Healthy Chef, gi raffles from several gi brands, games, technique instruction, and plenty of friendly rolls. This is the third year in a row that Fenom Kimonos donates a gi to the raffle. The lucky winner can pick whichever color, design, and size she likes from Fenom’s product line.
Jiu-Jitsu Gypsies was created in 2015 by Teresia Carreon, and with the help of Heather Raftery, the Gypsies started regular open mats with 10-20 women in attendance. After a while life took Heather to California where she earned her black belt under Andre Galvao; Teresia moved to Texas to be closer to her family, and Olivia Aleida took over as the main organizer. With her consistent hard work, 30-50 women and girls have met up monthly in as many different gyms in the South Florida area as possible. Jiu-Jitsu Gypsies is not just a women’s training group; they give back to the community by collecting school supplies, non-perishable items for food pantries, toys for local Toys for Tots campaign, and women’s items for local shelters.
Jiu-Jitsu Gypsies have built a fantastic women’s BJJ community where women who train at different gyms, and compete against each other at tournaments can come together at open mat events, and hang out as friends. Happy birthday Gypsies!
Women’s jiu-jitsu open mat Girls in Gis got started in Houston, and the first DFW area event was held in December of 2009 at Alvarez BJJ. On November 11th, women and girls once again are gathering at the same place to celebrate the 9-year anniversary of Girls in Gis. The highest ranked women in 2009 event were purple belts; this year there are five black belt instructors leading the open mat. The first open mat at Alvarez BJJ attracted 25 women and girls which was unheard of at the time. It was so unusual to see a group of women training that even men stayed and watched.
The instructors are Fabiana Borges (Gracie Barra), Danielle Alvarez (Alvarez BJJ), Chelsah’ Lyons (MG Dallas), Karen Lingle (Genesis) and Nathiely de Jesus (Rodrigo Pinheiro BJJ). In 2009 Nathiely and Danielle were white belts, Chelsah’ and Karen had not found jiu-jitsu yet; they started training in 2010 and 2012 respectively. All these ladies are now black belts and high-level, decorated competitors with world champion titles in gi and no-gi. At that time Fabiana was a multiple time Brazilian National Champion in different belt levels, had been a black belt for two years, and was on the move to the US to join Gracie Barra American Team.
From 2009-2015 Girls in Gis event flyers were exclusively designed by Fenom. The font on the first flyers was abandoned in the middle of 2010 and replaced by the swirly font that is used by GIG until this day. The flyers were provided free of charge to help the women’s BJJ organization that had yet to produce income. Years later when GIG started earning profit from t-shirts, patches, gis and participation fees, it was time to hand the flyer design work back to the organization.
Lots has changed over the years. During first years of GIG, all events were free of charge, less formal, and organized in Texas. In recent years GIG chapters have opened up in a dozen states, and most events require a suggested donation in addition to online registration. Brand ambassadors help schedule, oversee and run events. Thousands of women and girls have participated, some have quit training, some are on break but many more are still training and rising in the ranks. The goal the get more women into jiu-jitsu has been achieved, the number of female black belts have sky-rocketed, and tons of other women’s open mats all around the country have sprung up. We wish Girls in Gis a very happy birthday and can’t wait to see what happens next!
How do you remove makeup stains from a gi is a frequent question in a women’s BJJ Facebook forum. When this question is asked, very few helpful answers are posted, instead the topic gets steered to an ugly lane of shaming women who wear makeup in training. An angry back and forth between makeup wearers and non-wearers leads nowhere because both sides seem to have valid points. Gis are expensive and the possibility of a permanent stain is unpleasant enough to make some women refuse training with a woman who wears makeup. Women who wear makeup do so because it makes them feel better about themselves and/or have no time to remove it as they come straight from the office to the gym.
Are gis really stained forever if you rub foundation and mascara on it. Can you remove the stain and what is the most efficient way? We wanted to find out the answer and put an end to the subject.
TEST #1 Dawn dishwashing liquid, cold water and washing by hand
First, our tester put on a good amount of concealer, foundation, powder, bronzer, contouring product, illuminator and some mascara. The gi got a good rub on the tester’s face like you would in training, in sidecontrol. We diluted about 2 tablespoons of Dawn in a cup of cold water and washed the stain with the mixture by hand. The stain came out very easily.
TEST #2 ALL detergent, cold water and washing by hand
In the second test the tester was wearing the same amount of makeup as in test number 1 but this time we diluted 2-3 tablespoons of ALL laundry detergent in cold water. We did not go out of our way to buy this particular detergent; we used products that were already at home. The stain came out as fast as in test number 1, almost effortlessly.
TEST #3 Dawn dishwashing liquid plus ALL detergent, cold water and washing by hand
Since the first two tests were so easy, we added more makeup: heavier coating of foundation, extra contour product and black mascara. We used equal amounts (2 tablespoons) of Dawn and ALL detergent which we diluted in cold water and washed the spot by hand. It took a few minutes longer than the previous tests and we had to scrub the stain with a kitchen sponge and it did disappear.
TEST #4 ALL detergent, cold water and washing machine
We applied an extra heavy coat of makeup on the tester’s face, rubbed the gi on it hard and let it sit for a while. We also added more makeup directly onto the gi and then proceeded to wash the gi with ALL Stainlifters detergent, in cold water, normal cycle in the washing machine. We did not pre-treat the stain and the gi came out beautifully clean.
The conclusion: Every method removed stains equally well. No second round of washing or pre-treatment was required. No baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and no special GI detergents are needed. Makeup stains on a gi are not permanent and the stain removal process is nothing special. It’s actually harder to get blood stains out than makeup. So, next time someone complains about makeup, please show them this blog post. Happy training!
Check out Gi Care 101 for all other stain related questions.
We have started a project to map out female BJJ black belts in the U.S., state by state. This database is for the women’s jiu-jitsu community as a free resource for anyone who wants to find a gym with an active female black belt practicioner or an instructor.
So far we found about 160 ladies through friends, IBJJF rankings and social media. There are probably another 30-40 black belts whom we somehow missed.
If you can help us complete the project, we would greatly appreciate it. Check out the black belt list and if you see a name that is missing the year of promotion, instructor’s name or current location, and you can help us correct it, please do. If you know of a female black belt who is not mentioned, please comment and we can add her. Thank you and happy training!
Can you guess how many different women’s and girls’ gi designs we have made in the past nine years? Comment below for a chance to win a gi of your choice. First correct answer wins! One entry per person, please. Good luck!