Jiu–Jitsu, the Key to Empowerment?

“There is no losing in jiu jitsu. You either win or you learn.” Carlson Gracie Sr.

The road of life is long and filled with obstacles and we all have our own unique roadblocks we must learn to navigate around. In 2012, I found myself far away from home navigating my own roadblocks. I was in a country with a culture that was vastly different than I was accustomed. I went from the humid heat of Lebanon to walking through the freezing temperatures of Montréal. Why would I be out in subzero temperatures, you might ask? I was doing what no one believed I could or should do. I was training to beat the odds, to find personal growth, better health, and ultimately, true happiness.

This is the story of how I defied the naysayers and found my own happiness through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

My Journey started training under Firas Zahabi, at the world-renowned Tristar gym, where I trained besides the likes of aspiring mixed martial arts fighters and UFC veterans. When I started out, I had two simple goals: lose weight and get into shape. I had no idea how drastically those goals would change along the way.

I had already been teaching yoga and my initial thoughts were that martial arts were a bit too aggressive. But, I had tried so many diets before and lacked the discipline to make the changes. What did I have to lose? So, I started with kickboxing added some boxing, and later Muay Thai. After three years of training, something was still missing for me and then I was introduced to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. That’s when my life changed drastically.

Lets start with a small definition about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: “ BJJ is a grappling-based martial art whose central theme is the skill of controlling a resisting opponent in ways that force him to submit. To control and overcome greater size, strength and aggression with lesser size and strength is the keynote of the sport. This is done by utilizing superior leverage, grip and position upon your opponent.” Renzo Gracie

The first week, none of the techniques made sense to me, I felt lost, almost like I didn’t belong. To make things worse, a guy in the gym told me I couldn’t do anything and lacked the flexibility to improve. I had already been dealing with naysayers in my personal life. At the time I was 35 years old and I can’t count the times I’ve been told “aren’t you too old for this?” So that guy’s comment was a huge blow to confidence. I decided to seek advice from my coach and find out if I should quit. His advice, “give me six months, and then you can decide.” Six months later I received a third stripe to white belt and a year later, I earned my blue belt.

You see, I’m not too old and you are not too old, out of shape, girly, or whatever any of your naysayers tell you that you are. The only restrictions for being “in shape” and to do what you love are the restrictions you put on yourself! There is always a work around, always a way to achieve what you want. You need to believe in yourself and just BE!

Fast forward to today, I’m back in Lebanon, my first love, my home. I’m currently at Atos training where I’m continuing my journey under Daniel Hilal. Every training session I’m reminded that Jiu-Jitsu is not just a sport; it’s a therapy, a type of meditation. When I am on the mat I am ”me.”

This sport will give you a voice when you have none. Weakness is not an option you have to be strong. If you aren’t yet strong, you will become strong! Every women needs to defend herself from any type of abuse; physical or emotional. I know from personal experience that Jiu –Jitsu will build you to have the confidence and skills to defend yourself from both types of abuse. Jiu-Jitsu boosts your self-confidence. You will learn to defend yourself, and use people’s power against them. It’s an entire physical and mental workout. You will not only lose those extra pounds, more importantly, you will train your brain to be calm and find solutions for the toughest roadblocks in your journey.

Brazilian Jiu jitsu is not just sport; it’s a life style. It teaches ideas like respect, commitment, humbleness, persistency and care. All of which, are tools needed for a productive and purposeful life! Parents, enroll your daughters in those amazing martial arts classes, teach them to be strong and confident. Allow them to break the norms and let them know they can be self-sufficient. They will learn that they can stand up for themselves and navigate through the roadblocks of their lives.

For all the times I’ve heard: ”oh you are so strong! I wish I could be like you!”

Of course you can! You just have to believe in your capabilities! Be patient and never give up.

It is not an easy path. There were so many times I was frustrated and wanted to just give up. Instead I found myself on the mat doing those drills again and again and again, until I owned them!

Your Jiu-Jitsu community is supportive and empowering, you will have friends from all over the world and you are never alone. The Numbers are growing and the community is getting bigger and more and more women are enrolling. Why not you? Why not your daughters!?!

I’m in my late 30s, I’m a blue belt. I train 4 times a week and compete as often as possible. I know that if I can, you can too! There’s a saying in Jiu-Jitsu, “There is no losing in Jiu-Jitsu, you either win or you learn.” So, let’ start learning and we can navigate those roadblocks together!

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