Girls In Gis brings its community-oriented Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training to Denver
Well, I was not really into martial arts and I was awkward in sports - though I played all through my childhood. My sister was the jock, and I was the goofy, dorky kid that was uncoordinated. But I started Jiu Jitsu because a good friend of mine, her boyfriend was an instructor. She started teaching women's classes and asked me to come support her. But I just wasn't sure.
I've been around Jiu Jitsu for over half of my life but I just kind of filed it away as sort of a "guy's thing." I didn't want to go roll around on the floor with a bunch of guys, you know? So when my friend started teaching women's classes and I began supporting her and really being in the environment where it was just the girls, it changed. I didn't have to be embarrassed because I didn't know what I was doing and I got comfortable. I thought, who cares? It's just a bunch of girls.
From there, I fell in love with it. Before long, I was in coed classes and then I got really competitive with it. I think it's important to compete because it pushes you and gives you a goal and purpose for your training. You can accomplish things you wouldn't think you could and I did. I went out there and started winning big championships and I never, in a million years thought I would be athletic. It's given me a purpose in life.
(In the beginning) I was so much geared toward being a competitor and I really wasn't friends with these girls - and there weren't that many of us to begin with. Sometimes I would show up at a tournament and I'd be lucky if a girl showed up for me to compete against. But it's grown so much now; there are actual divisions. You can actually fight someone who's your belt and your size now.
When I started competing eight years ago, that wasn't the case. So I realized how important it was for women to be a part of this sport. You need to have something that drives you, something you're passionate about. Like I said, Jiu Jitsu is a male-dominated sport, so we're still the underdogs.
How did Girls In Gis get started?
Girls In Gis was started by Ashley Nguyen - she's our founder, though she's kind of stepped back a bit. I pretty much run the show with her blessing. But Ashley is the one who designed the program, and it was created as a leadership opportunity for women; I started going to Girls In Gis and I started noticing that it had so much potential.
Coincidentally, I injured my knee and was unable to compete and train anymore. So, my focus went from my own personal goals of being a champion competitor to really pushing women into the sport and being a support system. When they are really frustrated and they want to quit because these guys are smashing them, they need to know they're not alone.
Even though they might be the only girl on the mat at their academy, they're not alone in all of this. That's really what Girls In Gis is about.
Girls In Gis' first-ever event in Colorado goes down at the Easton Training Center, 1304 South Santa Fe Drive this Sunday, February 24, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free, with donations being accepted on behalf of SafeHouse Denver. Girls and women of all ages and skill levels are invited. For more information, visit the Girls In Gis website.