As someone who grew up scared of basically everything, heights, riding a bike, fireworks, people over 6 ft tall, (seriously...I used to hide behind my parent’s legs when someone was too tall) I have made it a practice in my life to do things that I find intimidating and scary...yet aligned with my interests. This is how I climbed many mountains, performed on many stages, even was part of the crew of a tall ship in the Mediterranean during a storm with 40 foot swells and waves...it is how I’ve learned to trust myself and trust that there is more to me than my fear, insecurity, and uncertainty knows.
This is how I ended up at a 3 day all women’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu camp, taught by 5 legendary world champions and instructors, with 50 other truly badass women, top competitors, mostly purple, brown, and black belts (which if you know, you know), a few of us blue belts and white belts, all ready to learn and train. The energy in a room like this is hard to describe...something like electricity. I have not competed, I have done bjj mainly as a meditation, a way to keep my body moving, and my brain creating new pathways, while having a blast with great training partners. So to say I felt out of place would be correct...but (raise your hand if you’re with me), as someone with social anxiety, I tend to feel out of place most places.
So I’ve learned to sit with these moments...just allowing the feelings to be there but focus on the task at hand...let myself be awkward and get stuff wrong and get stuff right and just see what develops. This takes practice but it is so worth it. Growing up I would have retreated early and often, and sometimes I still do. But learning to just sit in the moment has shown me new things about myself and about others. As an adult, I know that at least a handful of other people in whatever room I’m in is probably having a similar experience...so I now know I’m not alone. This is a big reason I talk about these things, just in case whoever you are reading this relates...YOU are not alone either.
I cannot fully describe the feeling of respect I have for the women in this group. All have made a commitment to growth by way of discomfort, ‘failure’, sweat (so much sweat), and a tenacity to allow themselves to evolve over thousands of repetitions. This kind of commitment on the mat is demonstrated throughout their lives, as mothers, as spouses, friends, and in their careers. It is not an easy thing to do, to show up on the mat consistently, on good days and especially on the bad days...this is a group of women who have a tremendous amount of grit, strength, heart, and also know how to hold space as a community for one another. I cannot think of a better example of the warrior goddess spirit than these women.
I put my phone down for the weekend for the most part so that I could be fully present, so these are the only pictures I have. We learned a ton of technique (I just wrote it all down and it was a full page and a half of shorthand notes) and we also had very cool (or ice cold) introduction to The Wim Hof Method...doing breathing exercises for about an hour, followed by a 2 minute ice bath...yes...you read that right. It literally took my breath away. As a kundalini practitioner, I am a huge fan of any breathwork...I’ll definitely keep playing with the Wim Hoff foundational breath...and I might take some cold showers moving forward.
Thank you to Emily and Groundswell Grappling, for putting this event together, plus a tremendous thanks to the legendary fighters and instructors Emily, Felicia, Hannett, Dom, & Ge. Thank you, also to all of those who were at camp...you all inspire me deeply and made me feel so welcome when I was super intimidated by your collective awesomeness. Grateful to be able to train side by side with you.
Until next time xo
If you are interested in learning more about these phenomenal women and/or are interested in learning BJJ or other self defense, please take a look below to find more information.
I highly encourage all of the women I am connected to to get involved with some kind of self defense. I spent many years training in Krav Maga, which is a great system for those who want to be able to learn some self defense skills fast but maybe do not necessarily have the desire to build a lifelong practice. That being said, please do yourself a favor and spend some time learning BJJ in addition to any striking art (Muay Thai, Boxing, Krav Maga, etc) as well so that you have the ability to understand the context of what it means to be in combat with another human being. What’s so incredibly valuable about training BJJ is that, when you find the right people to train with, you are able to go much deeper with your training, in a safe environment, and having fun with a great community. If you are interested in learning some self defense, please consider both a grappling and striking art. Feel free to contact me so that I can offer suggestions of where to train. Most of all, allow your practice to grow your beautiful mind, body, & soul.
Meet the Instructors:
Emily Kwok is a multiple time IBJJF World Champion, MMA Veteran, co-owner and co-head instructor of Princeton Braziiian Jiu Jitsu, co-founder of Groundswell Grappling Concepts, featured instructor on the classic, “How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent” series with Stephan Kesting, peak performance consultant and freelance writer. She is widely regarded as an early pioneer of the BJJ scene in North America, being one of the first females to rise to prominence as the sport expanded around the world.
Training and competing since 2000 in BJJ, she has won numerous BJJ titles throughout Canada, Japan and the United States. She is also an early veteran of women’s MMA, having fought amateur and pro in the legendary all female promotion, SMACKGIRL. Emily has extensive experience directing small to large martial arts schools in addition to strategizing and organizing seminars and camps throughout the USA. She also previously worked in sales and support for GracieMag and was a Project Manager for MGinAction.
Currently, Emily works closely with Josh Waitzkin in his Peak Performance consulting business. Additionally, she is an independent coach and consultant, co-owner, teacher and mentor at Princeton BJJ, tours the world conducting seminars and has increasingly been devoting more time to creative writing.
Emily has a BFA from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (now Emily Carr University) and lives in NJ with her husband, 3 spirited children, bulldog and bossy cat. (www.emilykwok.com/about-1)
Felicia began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in November 2000 after being introduced to the art by her friend’s husband at the age of 33. Shortly thereafter she enrolled at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Jean Jacques Machado’s school in Tarzana, California. She quickly excelled in the art and after only 4.5 years of training under Machado was promoted to black belt in June 2005. In addition to training under Jean Jacques Machado, Felicia also trains under fellow Machado black belt and 10th planet jiu-jitsu founder Eddie Bravo.
Felicia has won many championships including winning the ADCC North American Trials securing her spot to represent the USA at the ADCC World Submission Wrestling Championship (ADCC) where she had convincing victories over a multi-time BJJ World Champion and a Japanese superstar putting her in the finals of the most prestigious grappling event in the world. She was also one of the first to win the IBJJF Pan American Jiu-Jitsu Championship in both the black belt Gi and No-Gi divisions in 2007. Felicia is #6 of the Female Dirty Dozen of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In addition to training and teaching seminars, her most recent endeavour is designing and producing BJJ inspired art and accessories. FLAU - for love, art utility™ (www.forartloveutility.com).
Hannette Quadros Staack, born February 07, 1979 in Sao Luis, MA, Brazil, is Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt 3x Brazilian National Champion (2x Absolute), 8x World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Champion, World Champion (No-gi World Championship), 3x ADCC Champion (2x weight division, 1x absolute).
In 2012 Hannette Staack was inducted to the IBJJF Hall of Fame. She has a total of 7 world titles in the gi competitions and is on the top of the list of the year of 2012. In the same year, she was unable to compete at the Worlds due to an injury.
She is currently living in the United States, Chicago, Illinois. Is associated with the Brazil-021 BJJ Academy in Chicago and Rio de Janeiro.
Dominyka was born in Kaunas, Lithuania and first moved to the United States when she was 6 years old. She began training at the ripe age of 9 years old in a Gracie Humaita Affiliate in New Jersey. Though her introduction to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was rocky, she eventually found her way. She transitioned to training with Team Lloyd Irvin a few years after she began, so she could experience training with challenging female competitors that were around her size.
Dominyka eventually discovered that World Champion Black Belt Emily Kwok was teaching near her neighborhood and began taking classes with her, noticing an immediate improvement in her technique and mental fortitude within the sport. It was Emily who first brought Dominyka to the Marcelo Garcia Academy in New York. She began competing seriously under MGA, and became a consecutive Worlds gold medalist, winning blue belt adult Worlds at 14, purple belt Absolute at 15, and two brown belt medals at ages 17 and 18.
It was at Marcelo's Academy that Dominyka earned her belts from blue all the way to black. She was promoted to black belt in January of 2015 at the age of 19, becoming one of the few people to receive such a high rank at such an early age. That following Summer, Dominyka went on to win her weight and absolute in the IBJJF World Championships, becoming the first rookie black belt to double gold, as well as the first and only European.
Dominyka is also a Visual Artist, you can see her beautiful artwork at www.dominyka-art.com.
Gezary Matuda is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt under the legendary Ricardo Libório and one of the top competitors of her generation. Known for having what many have called “the most exciting style in BJJ” Gezary has also collected the accolades to go with, these include wins at the IBJJF World and Pans Championships at the black belt level.
Groundswell Grappling Concepts is a group of Brazilian jiu jitsu and submission grappling practitioners with the goal of using our experiences and expertise to make a positive difference in the lives of our fellow practitioners and their families and friends.
The principal members of GGC are dedicated to self-improvement through BJJ, and we aspire to pay forward the lessons we have learned about leadership, personal responsibility, and integrity by offering camps and other training opportunities, publications, merchandise, and consulting services.