My friends always joke that I am like an angry Chihuahua—maybe because
I’m a 5’2” girl with a slight Napoleon complex. I’ve always been aggressive, so I
wonder why I had to find Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by accident. I just so happened to walk
past the MMA table at my college activity fair, see these two super adorable, super
huge and super scary guys and think “man, why not?” The first Brown GAMMA
(Grappling and Mixed Martial Arts) meeting, I was scared as anything- there were
these huge guys pummeling one another, and like 3 girls. But we quickly realized
how addicting it was to fight and keep learning and getting better. The girls in that
club became my best friends here at college, and I keep thinking how different my
life would be without GAMMA.
That’s the back-story. My time at NJMA began over winter break, when I
realized that I didn’t want to go a whole month without fighting. I decided to focus
on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and really try to zero in on learning the basics at a high level.
The first thing I noticed was how much Mr. Marco “Professor” Perazzo cared about
just making good students. Because of my unique situation with college and only
being in Jersey for a few weeks, Mr. Perazzo let me get a customized membership.
He gave me a chance to train without worrying about financial semantics and for
that I am grateful.
When I started, I noticed how few females there were, which initially
intimidated me quite a bit. At my first open mat, I happened to be the only girl that
day, and I was terrified that the people there would look at me and think, “What is
she doing here?” I couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone was extremely open to
my being there. They all took time to teach me new things and make me a better
fighter. I was trying to prepare for the New England NAGA (a grappling
tournament), and so many people took me aside and taught me how to best go about
fighting from the feet. As for my inexperience, one member told me that rolling with
me was actually helpful to him, because I reacted in ways that more experienced
grapplers would not.
Practices then, were rigorous and demanding. At practice, I met two other
girls who were total beasts, and completely assuaged any fears I had about being a
girl in a predominantly male class. After every single practice, I felt so happy with
myself. I thought, “If I can get through a practice like that, I can do anything.” Mr.
Perazzo would tell us to do, like, 30 pushups. He’d say, “Do all 30. Don’t cheat
yourself, don’t cheat your life.” That attitude is something I noticed in fighters. Do
what is difficult, because it is the most satisfying thing in the world. Becoming
stronger. Successfully trying a new submission. Helping someone become better.
These are things that genuinely bring joy to fighters.
Even though I only trained at NJMA for a month (I cannot wait to go back in
the summer), I feel like it has changed the way I see fighting. I don’t feel out of place
in a “guy’s” art. I can be great, and things like being a girl, or being little are not
hindrances- they are unique qualities that I can work to my advantage. I came in
third place in my division at the NAGA, and know that I couldn’t have imagined
doing that without the knowledge I gained training at NJMA. I met amazing people
who just loved to fight, and I hope to share their passion as I move through life.