Something not a lot of people know about me is that I studied martial arts for over a decade. I started with a pretty standard strip mall variety, but I didn’t feel that it was useful for real life self defense. I moved on to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Krav Maga. BJJ taught me a lot: what are my strengths and how to use them, what are my weaknesses and how to work around them, and how to work through pain and not quit.
Having been a fan of the UFC since about 1998, Royce Gracie is a hero to me. The “Mixed” in Mixed Martial Arts is due to the the importance of ground fighting and dominance of Brazilian Jiu Jistu in the octagon and other similar arenas.
I found BJJ very uncomfortable, but I mean that in a good way. For a while I was the only woman. I was generally smaller and lighter than the people I was wrestling. I do not like close contact with people, and I felt an emotional drain from fighting. It got worse as I got more skilled; my peers were also advancing, and I felt there was some stigma against losing to a girl that made some folks fight a little bit dirty.
The first time I met Royce (2003), he helped me to understand the advantages I had; the most useful being that I was very flexible in specific useful places. He taught me moves that were not possible for someone without knee and shoulder flexibility, to use my ankles as bait and how to take advantage of their position in trying for an ankle lock. I still lost more fights than I won, but I was giving my opponents a hard fight, and I was doing it with some extra Gracie-style flair.
The third time I worked out with Royce (2005), he granted me my blue belt and it was one of the proudest moments in my life.