How I Got from White to Purple Belt in Under 4 Years

From left to right: My husband and Professor, Carlos Gomez, Professor Gerson Sanginitto, myself.

The short answer is I trained a lot. I mean, A LOT, putting in 14-16 hours a week not even including teaching kid’s classes. Training 6 sometimes even 7 days a week multiple times a day, and actively sharpening up my technique.

I was awarded my purple belt this weekend. It came as a total shock to me and yes, I did cry. My husband called my name and I couldn’t believe what was happening. He pulls out a worn over-sized looking purple belt hiding inside of his gi and ties it around my waist. He then explains that the reason it looks the way it does is because it was his purple belt (He’s currently a blackbelt.) He has had some of his most important fights in this belt so it is very special to him and now to me. What an honor. My eyes just welled up, guys. We exchanged a loving kiss and embrace. It was then that I thought I am so lucky to share this journey with my husband.

He is my best friend and mentor, and as my Professor – he is my biggest source of knowledge and motivation. He knows what I’m capable of and has seen my growth. He encourages me to let go of my fears, be confident, and take risks. I’ve never had anyone do that for me.

My journey in jiu-jitsu started January 12th of 2015. I came in as the only woman in the class and a little intimidated, which is why I initially wanted to try a class. I was on this mission of self-love and learning to face things alone. Over 3 and a half years later, I am still relentlessly training and feel so much more confident than I was pre-BJJ.

When I first started jiu-jitsu. Right top corner you will see my long braid.

I don’t know much about what it takes to be a good purple belt yet, but I’m excited to share once I learn. I can, however, tell you how I went from white to blue to purple belt in under 4 years and hopefully you’ll leave with the slightest piece of information or inspiration.

White to Blue

Time spent: 1.5 years

Stay consistent:
I had a really good support system when I started training as a white belt. The first day, a couple of guys adopted me. I learned etiquette such as bowing when walking on and off the mat and scooting over as a courtesy if a higher belt is having a close roll next to you. I continued training jiu-jitsu because of the community. I met some really nice people the first couple of months and that kept me coming back to class. Even when I had to move back home over an hour away from my gym, I would drive every weekend to train. So once you find a reason to stay, go to class, stay consistent, show commitment.

Stay loyal to one academy:
I switched schools only a couple of months into my jiu-jitsu journey. I have now been with Gomez Jiu-jitsu learning under Professor Carlos Gomez for the majority of it. Once I changed schools, I dropped my anchor. I’m not saying don’t train anywhere else ever. I’m saying that if you stick to training at one academy, your instructor or Professor will be able to track your progress from the very beginning. If you bounce around schools, not only will you have to prove yourself over and over again, but you will have to put in the time and learn the different systems and requirements of each school.

Be coachable:
As a white belt, think of yourself as a blank canvas. You will be fed so much knowledge in this part of your journey and it is your job to just be open to learning. Respect your Instructor’s knowledge, they have been in your shoes before. Take constructive criticism. Ask questions. Observe all angles when the technique is being demonstrated. Have a good attitude. Don’t be afraid to get tapped out. Ditch the ego.

Ask your Professor how you can improve: It’s no secret. Your Professor or Instructor will tell you EXACTLY what you need to do to get better. It’s easy to fall under the radar if you train at a big school. Stay present on the mat and communicate with your Instructor. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Drill your fundamentals:
Until you can do them with your eyes closed! I’m serious. Being mounted sucks. So don’t be there in the first place and if you are there, get out quick! Get really good at escaping mount and side control, bridging, shrimping, gripping, movements, controlling your breathing.

Use your technique:
Often times people get caught up using explosive power or being “spazzy,” using strength or athleticism. What happens when you’ve gassed out and aren’t the pumped athletic individual from the beginning of your roll? If you are this way, there is a good chance that you may be skipping details from your technique and forcing your way into positions instead. You may have success in this with other white belts, but it may come back to bite you when rolling with higher belts. You have to assure that you have a solid foundation of the fundamentals and are not skipping steps and building off of bad habits or athleticism from the very beginning. There’s a reason why jiu-jitsu is the most effective martial art, it can be done when you’re 8 or 80 years old. Don’t forget all those little details that your Professor focused on. They matter, and they’ll save your ass when you’re exhausted.

Blue to purple

Time spent: 2 years, 1.5 months

The best thing about blue belt was my increase in confidence;  something I struggled with as a young girl.

Train with all body sizes:
You will have to modify your techniques with each body type. Don’t get lazy thinking that it will work the same on everyone. Train with different training partners and experiment. This will allow you to have an answer for every situation.

Train as much as you can:
Two times a week isn’t going to cut it if you are serious about excelling in BJJ. Make the time and most importantly be consistent. I train at least 14-16 hours of jiu-jitsu per week. I have been training pretty much every single day for the past 3.5 years. Yes, there was a point during my blue belt where I didn’t enjoy jiu-jitsu, but I just kept going anyway. Professor implemented an attendance/curriculum card that would allow us to actually see our progress. I wanted my credit and I had a tangible way to track my progression so I just kept coming to class until eventually I fell back in love with it.

Train all aspects of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu:
BJJ is more than just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. If you are only training one aspect of BJJ, you are depriving yourself of imperative life skills. BJJ consists of four phases: Self defense (defending against an attacker/strikes), BJJ with the gi, no-gi, and weapon defense. There is no better way to truly test your BJJ and control than when you are put under stressful situations such as in our Tuesday night self defense class where someone is coming at you with strikes, a gun or a knife. We learn how to neutralize that aggressive opponent, disengage from the situation or finish him. If you aren’t learning everything, you better get started, pronto.

Learn how to flow roll:
Choose your partners to flow roll with. You can control the pace. If the person you’re rolling with is too spazzy, you can bring the pace down to your level using your control. Not every roll has to be to the death. Flow roll with higher belts. You can learn so much while flow rolling.

After a year and a half into my bluebelt, I started to realize that although I was technical, a lot of my training partners were also technical but stronger than me. It was time to add a little aggression and grit into my game.

Be aggressive:
After competing and losing, a fire lit up in me. I had the technique why couldn’t I win?! I had to work 10 times harder on my technique and also learn how to be AGGRESSIVE. That meant no more Mrs. Nice Girl playing off of my back, getting my guard passed and getting smashed. Instead I would work to be on top. I also had to work on my strength and cardio. You know who to roll light with and who needs some tough lovin’.

Work on your control:
If you control your opponent, you will break them mentally. Half the battle is done. Sometimes it’s not all about submissions, instead work on controlling positions. Tire your opponent out by controlling them then capitalize when they make a mistake or get distracted.

Finish what you started:
It’s easy to get a submission when you’re drilling but when the person is defending, it becomes more difficult so after you shoot that triangle, don’t switch to full guard if they defend a little, be aggressive. Break their posture, get the right angle, lock it up and don’t let go until you get the tap.

Teaching:
You know how they say when you teach something it allows you to understand the concept even better? It’s true. If you don’t already know, my husband and I own our own academy: Gomez Jiu-jitsu in Downtown Los Angeles. I began teaching there at blue belt and it has benefited my game in many ways. Firstly, it required me to grow. Teaching requires confidence. Confidence has only made me a better grappler in the worst situations. You must know how and why a technique will work and what to do when it is defended against. It made me understand techniques from a student perspective and also from an instructor perspective. What are some questions student’s might ask about this move or when trying it? If you are thinking about all of those things, you are learning a technique in an in-depth way even more so than if you were just drilling it solely from a student perspective.

Review what you have learned:
Do you ever find yourself in a familiar position for a technique but can’t quite remember how to execute it? It happens all the time. At the beginning of each class, we take 5-10 mins to review any techniques we want. Fundamentals, something we learned a long time ago, or something we’ve been dying to try. We grab a partner and work together to figure it out. It has helped me so much to revisit past techniques through videos as well. Ask your instructor if it is okay to record techniques. This will help you to stay sharp with all of the steps.

Create your own mantra:
Do you have any self-talk or affirmations? If not, it wouldn’t hurt to create some. Before I roll I ask myself if I want to be the hammer or the nail. Obviously, I choose the hammer. It puts me in a confident and dominant mindset and I find the most success in that headspace. Even if I get smashed, I know that I gave the roll my best and it fires me up for next time.

I now get to call myself a Gomez Jiu-jitsu purple belt!

The best way to level up is to continue working on your jiu-jitsu and enjoy the journey because it’s different for everyone! What did you learn from white to blue?Blue to purple? Brown to black? Let me know in the comments. Don’t forget to say hi on Instagram! Thanks for reading. Oss!

-Jules

You Win Some You Learn Some – Reflection of my Jiu-jitsu Competition

Competing is such an intense experience. If you’ve ever participated in competitive sports, you know the feeling I’m talking about. Now, multiply that intensity by 100. I’m not kidding. You’ve got to be a special kind of crazy to compete in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Picture this. Your opponent is trying to take you to the ground, control you, break any moving joint in your body, and choke you unconscious. How’s that for some friendly competition? Despite the million miles per hour movement, heart rate, and aggression – when all is said and done, you shake hands, hug it out, and show deference, because win or learn, Jiu-jitsu works. We respect the technique and especially our training partners whom without we can’t learn and improve.

Yesterday I competed in my second Jiu-jitsu competition ever. I competed at white belt in 2016 and this was my first competition at blue belt now in 2018. Here’s the catch – I fought the same woman in both tournaments. Not just any woman; my own teammate. A tough, fast moving, strong and technical grappler. This woman is determined. When she sets her goal, she is determined to get it. I admire the hell out of her for it. We received our blue belts together and I am proud to say she is one of my greatest friends and best training partner. So when we realized we were going to fight each other again at an In-House tournament due to lack of female blue belt competitors, we knew we would put on a good show.

I didn’t do anything special to prepare for this fight. I train BJJ every day, a couple of times a day so I didn’t feel like I was lacking training. I didn’t cut weight. I ate whatever I wanted. I didn’t work out any different. I know that I will need to change this when I start competing in bigger tournaments such as the IBJJF.

THE DAY OF THE FIGHT

My match wasn’t scheduled until about 1 PM so I had plenty of time to eat breakfast, get hydrated, and relax. I ate a half of a Mexican style sandwich with turkey, cotija cheese, bean paste, red onions, tomato, and avocado and a side of fruit. I felt satisfied which was a difference from my first tournament in 2016 where I ate just a bowl of oatmeal and was starving before my fight. I also had some pre-workout and lots of water so I had to pee like 10 times before 1pm LOL. TMI, but I know the lady practitioners will appreciate the honesty. I wasn’t nervous. I was actually just really excited to experience competing again. I’ve never been a really competitive person so I knew that if I’d win or lose, I’d be okay.

The fight went down like this: She shot for a double leg, I hit a reversal and ended up on top with an advantage then while trying to pass her guard, I got caught in an arm bar to which I tapped.

And that post fight feeling I had completely forgotten! Out of breath, hands cramped up, heart racing, exhilarating feeling… I want to do it again.

I made silly mistakes in my match and did things I wouldn’t normally do. Why? Probably due to the overwhelmingly fast-paced intensity. How does one think at such a rate? I guess it will come with more competition experience, learning from my mistakes, and muscle memory.

Although I didn’t get the win, I am proud of myself for going out there and competing. It takes courage to put your pride aside, step on the mat in front of a crowd, and give it all you’ve got. As for now, I will 1) nurse my elbow injury which could have been a lot worse, but I am grateful that it will heal in a couple weeks. I’ll have to observe it carefully and update you all on the status. I will 2) continue to train daily, most likely tie one arm up and not use it when rolling. I will 3) watch my video and address my mistakes. Isn’t that always hard the first couple of days after a loss? Watching what you did wrong or could/should have done – or is it just me? Lol. It’s painful, but it sure does make you hungry. Hungry to get back out there and do better next time. I will also 4) mentally and physically prepare better for my next competition.

Not only did I take valuable information from my own match, but from those of others as well. That’s the beauty of the game – you’re constantly learning. Here is what I managed to take in that I hope will be useful to anyone who wants to compete.

*“You’ve got to want it bad enough. If you didn’t win, you didn’t really want it.” That’s some powerful, eye-opening, tough love, band-aid ripping off, realization type of motivation from my Professor. It makes you want to get to work.

*Be aggressive. Don’t take no for an answer. I once asked my Professor what a good dialogue to have with myself in my head during rolling and he gave me this: “Just think. Do you want to be the hammer or the nail? This motherfucker is trying to make me the nail right now, but I’m the fucking hammer.” –Professor Carlos Gomez. Save the friendly rolls for training, turn it up in competition.

*Tap early if you need to. Your ego is not worth the injury that will follow the stubbornness to tap. I hyper-extended my elbow from not tapping early enough to the arm bar thinking I could still escape so that will cost me flexibility and range of motion in my arm for a couple weeks. Not being 100% is really annoying.

*Control the pant legs. I always do this in training so I am especially peeved at the fact that I didn’t try harder at doing this in the comp. One of the silly mistakes that cost me the match. I need to recite that to myself during the entire match. *annoyed face*

*Don’t talk back to your Coach or Professor if they give you feedback while you’re fighting. They’ve been there before, know more than you, and are only trying to help you win. Despite all that it’s also disre-fucking-spectful.

*If you’re thinking about doing something in your head, just DO IT! A couple of times I thought to myself of going for the takedown or kicking off the spider hook and I actually remember saying no. It was too late. While I’m having this deliberation in my head, my opponent just advanced their position. Shit.

*Don’t be afraid to take risks. This guy pulled off a flying arm bar. I spoke to him after, and he said he’d never done that before. I was afraid to get guillotined while going for a takedown, but I should’ve just taken the risk. Who knows. It could have turned out in my favor.

All in all, competing was a great experience! Definitely one I want to continue and improve upon. Thank you to all of my training partners at Gomez Jiu-jitsu, Gerson Sanginitto of Delta BJJ, and especially my Professor & husband, Carlos Gomez, who teaches me everything I need and more to succeed and believes in me whole-heartedly. I love you.

“A minor setback paves the way for a major comeback.”
–Saiyidah Aisyah Mohamed Rafa’ee, Singapore Olympic Rower

What was your competition experience like? What are some of the things you have learned while competing? Let’s converse in the comments! Thanks for reading.
-Jules

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25 Things I’ve Learned in 25 Years

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I just celebrated my 25th birthday a couple of days ago! What an accomplishment. It feels oddly good to be 25, but totally weird that I’m in my MID-twenties (oh my goodness). I woke up this morning feeling like binge-watching The Bachelor on Hulu and not getting out of bed, but then I started to get hungry so I scrambled to the kitchen to make some oatmeal and drink my terrible-tasting yet healthy apple cider vinegar tonic. Blehhhhh. In an instant I felt energized. I thought ‘there is so much I can do today before work but if I sit in bed all day, today will be like all the other unproductive days, and I’m left grasping for time to do the things I love like read or write or craft! Immediately I began to put away the clean dishes, wash the ones in the sink, make some green tea, even meal prep some salmon and sweet potato in the oven. As I huddled back to my warm bed to eat my oatmeal, I felt refreshed and productive. So I am feeling really good about this whole 25 thing, and I just know that this will be one of the best years of my life.

It’s odd how things change. One minute you’re leaving the nest, and the next you’ve got all these experiences under your belt! There is so much I have learned in 25 years and so much I’ve yet to learn. Here are some lessons I think would be beneficial for anyone at any age. Enjoy!

  1. Communication really is important. We could avoid so many quarrels and misunderstandings if we just took the time to communicate and listen correctly.
  2. Reading is the best way to keep your brain working. Surely you have time to read one page a day. Use sticky notes to create notes of what you learn and apply it. Self improvement books are great!
  3. Chicken tikka masala is LIFE. If you’re not a fan of spicy foods, try mild. It’s delish!
  4. Let go of people who put you down, don’t see your value, or don’t dedicate time to you.
  5. Don’t shake a bottle of Kombucha (especially not in the car).
  6. Quit that job you hate, and follow your passion.
  7. Your past does not define you.
  8. Learn to be alone and be okay with it.
  9. Know how to defend yourself. Learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
  10. Not really digging the outfit you’re wearing or feeling totally blah? + Red lipstick.
  11. Your parents really do want the best for you. Call them often. (P.S. Your Mom was right)
  12. Forgiveness frees you. Forgive that person. More importantly, forgive yourself.
  13. Exercise. It’s therapeutic, and it releases endorphins which make you happy.
  14. Laughter is the best medicine.
  15. Take the tea bag out of your tea after seeping it if you want it to NOT taste like a dirty sock (not that I’d know what one tastes like or anything).
  16. Don’t wait to be “in shape” to do or start something. (i.e. wear a swim suit, go to the beach, start a fitness class etc.)
  17. Failure is a step closer to success. So fail; fail miserably.
  18. Try sour beer. Trust me.
  19. Pray and thank God every day.
  20. Everyone you meet knows something you don’t. If you have trouble networking or making conversation – think positively – this person has something to teach me; now go and find out what it is.
  21. You are allowed to put yourself first. When you take care of your health, your energy and enthusiasm will radiate towards everyone around you. You’ll have a better outlook on life, improve your work performance, strengthen your relationships and actually start to live your life in the present moment.
  22. There’s no use in crying over spilt milk.
  23. Know a little somethin’ somethin’ about geography.
  24. If you have a question about something or are asked a question you don’t know, google it. It will come up again in conversations with people. How awesome that you’ll know the answer?
  25. Set alarms and timers for EVERYTHING because you will forget.

Did I miss something? What lessons have you learned thus far? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading.
-Jules

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