Hi Erin, to start things off could you please introduce yourself and your grappling history to those readers who don’t know you.
I’m a purple belt under Rubens Cobrinha Charles in Los Angeles, CA and I’ve been training for about four years. I’m also a writer for GRACIEMAG and a full time college student.
You write a lot of articles and cover events for different magazines and blogs. If BJJ is your passion, what is writing for you?
Writing is more like my therapy. From my personal blog to the articles I write for GRACIEMAG, it’s all about the releasing of info and also how it’s perceived to others. It becomes a job or a chore when I’m writing about topics that require pure research and not much creativity but I always find ways to make it my own so it ends up being more enjoyable.
You cover Events for Gracie Mag, interview all the interesting people on the mats and live life to the fullest. Please share the most memorable and the funniest story you encountered in your BJJ life!
My most memorable time in terms of my journalistic life so far has to be my trip to Abu Dhabi. I was really lucky to be chosen by my boss Luca to head over there and cover the Abu Dhabi World Pro tournament. I’ll remember that long trip because the plane rides were entirely too long with no access to wifi and to anyone who knows me, having no connection to my world is hard to deal with. But being there in such a different world yet so comfortable because I’m surrounded by Jiu-Jitsu faces is an interesting experience. I felt more assimilated there than I did in Texas!
As far as funniest I’d have to say my interview with Keenan Cornelius in Abu Dhabi not because it was ironic or fun to do but because it was live on our Google Hangout platform and I was so scared I was getting fired and had no idea how to control the conversation. It’s one of those moments I can look back on and just think, “wow I totally handled that wrong and looked like an idiot.” At one point I was just staring at my coworker off camera with this uneasy look on my face like, “hey, help me out here!” I let Keenan just ramble angrily and say some very blunt things because he was angry in the moment after his double DQ. The interview was taken down later that night since we thought it was going to get him into trouble or something. I’m pretty sure every time I interview someone on camera, I look like an idiot, though. I’m learning.
You make your living with your passion, what would be your advice for someone who wants to make a living with BJJ, but maybe is just a whitebelt or simply lacks the skills to get some serious sponsorings?
Well you’re talking about a few different things. I don’t make my living because I’m good at Jiu-Jitsu, I make my living because I was able to use my talents to help the Jiu-Jitsu world.
This will be a long one.
Writing is something I always did but never appreciated or revered because I never had an avenue for it to be valued by others. The only writings I felt had some great content were either my school essays or rambling blog posts on myspace where my audiences were my teachers or people who had time to read my epiphanies. Generally, my audiences were severely limited. It wasn’t until I made my blog and started interviewing people in Jiu-Jitsu that I earned feedback. No one cares about what you think until you’ve done something that tickles their fancy. You essentially have to prove yourself so initial blog posts as a white belt weren’t read much but once I was asking these world champion black belts questions and sharing their answers with others, I was gaining readership.
The best advice is knowing yourself, what you’re good at and what you want to be doing later on. If you want to simply be good at Jiu-Jitsu, then do that. Train a lot, go to the best schools, compete a lot, have great results and you’ll get noticed. Once you’re an athlete that people know or you’re out there enough to represent a company then you’ll get sponsored. Ask for them and brand yourself through youtube and social media. Just don’t make yourself a Facebook fan page if you’re a blue belt who hasn’t accomplished anything yet because you don’t need one and you don’t have any “fans.” You can use your personal Facebook for that.
If you want to make a living with Jiu-Jitsu, simply being good at it is a tough route. You need to be the absolute best black belt and/or a really frickin’ good brown belt. Sponsorships rarely give money and if they do, it won’t be enough to pay your rent. Learn how to teach. Start by teaching privates at lower belts, see if you can help at your academy. Try a teaching gig at an affiliate academy or mixed martial arts academy. Go to college and get a degree because it will help you in the long run.
If you want to go the entrepreneurial route, know your skills and offer them. If you enjoy writing, start now. Make a blog on blogspot, share it with friends. Contact people you want to interview through Facebook because the Jiu-Jitsu world is small enough to be able to do that. Be consistent and don’t expect to be recognized for your efforts right away. If you’re good at editing video, then find creative ways to expose knowledge to others via youtube, vimeo, technique videos, etc. As long as you can figure out what you’re good at, you can find a way to use it to benefit others. Eventually you can sell your own products and/or services and even get hired by the biggest companies and brands in the business. If you can find a way to help people, you’ll create opportunities instead of waiting for them, which won’t happen.
You got your own bjj related company called “Jiu-Jitsu Journals”. What is it all about and how did you come up with the idea?
Well, it never really took off since I haven’t put the time and effort into it. I took my own advice of starting but I have yet to really kick it off. Jiu-Jitsu Journals came about when I wanted to create a gift for my now boyfriend Gianni Grippo. I had been getting to know him before taking off on an east coast adventure and knew I’d be seeing him and wanted to get him a belated Christmas gift. I’m all about giving someone something that is useful and clever so I thought I’d help him organize his schedule a little easier. I created a planner that has sections for weekly to-do lists, calendar views, drilling reps and other things. I printed the design and made enough copies to cover a year, added a few pages for him to write down his goals, designed a cover that included his picture and the year and spiraled it all together. I ended up making one for myself and decided that it would be easily customizable for academies and individuals to not only have a normal weekly planner but one that’s targeted towards the Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle. A place to write down techniques they’ve learned, amount they’ve drilled, and ideally a place for diets and workout routines. I had everything in place but couldn’t decide on a cover but will eventually get it together to produce them as the market is clearly open for something like it.
How important is it to keep track of your training and having a specific plan?
I’m horrible at keeping track of my training. Sometimes I can’t even remember what I’ve learned and would benefit greatly from some self-assessment now and then. But it is important. As far as my life in general, I need to have a plan. My goals come in the form of travel, school assignments and competitions. Generally, I know what I want and how to do it but for those who are just starting out in Jiu-Jitsu it’s important to figure out what you like about it and then plan for that.
As an active competitor and writer, how do you manage to keep a healthy balance in all aspects of your life?
I wouldn’t really call it healthy haha. I am everywhere all the time but for me, staying busy is good. I go crazy like a hyper puppy if I don’t have a job to do so I fill my agenda with multiple roles. I know what I owe to Graciemag and then I keep track with school assignments via my planner that I spoke about and then I fit in training as much as I can. Most people think rest is the time that you’re not doing anything but I actually schedule my relaxing times. I never go out or like to party or anything so getting a bite to eat with someone or hanging out at home with my mom is noted ahead of time. It really differs for people but knowing what you need and what you’re capable of is important to balancing your life. You can’t train like a madman if it doesn’t make you happy or fulfilled and you can’t do things that someone else expects of you. So creating your own routine and schedule and sticking to it is the most healthy thing you can do mentally, physically and emotionally.
In June you visited the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Summercamp in Denmark and taught your first class (women only). Elaborate a bit on the experience! How did you end up at the camp as a coach? How did you prepare? How did it all work out?
I was aware of Christian Graugart and his book/blog but had never really met him. He contacted Gianni to come out and be a part of the camp to teach and offered to have me come along as well. I wouldn’t have been invited if I wasn’t associated with Gianni so I’m super grateful for the opportunity. I was really nervous about how I would handle being in the spotlight and teaching the girls, especially going to a different country and not knowing how many girls would even be there. I’m sure if it was just one other girl it would have been fine but I was super afraid I wouldn’t have anyone. I had eight girls in my class and it was more than I could have asked for.
When I chose what I could teach I knew I wanted to show a concept rather than just some move because they’d hopefully be able to apply it in multiple or common scenarios rather than pertain to a very specific situation. I have the best teachers and mentors, Cobrinha and Fabbio Passos who break down every imaginable aspect of a move. They always include the why, the philosophy and the when. I was prepared and although it was my first class, it felt natural and really rewarding to be able to share the helpful things that I’ve been taught and have found useful myself.
The feedback was great and I think the girls had a good time. Hopefully they’re using the knee-on-belly control I taught as well as defending those double-under passes.
Do you have a woman class at your current gym? What are your thoughts on women only classes? What is the difference between a mixed class and a class for women only?
At Cobrinha’s we don’t have a women’s only class but we have more girls than most gyms in the world. I think the tally is up to around twenty from yellow to brown. A lot of girls compete, a lot of girls don”t. We have middle aged women to teens to full-time athletes to women who only train after their long work days. This shows that we’ve been able to create an environment where most any girl/woman feels comfortable enough to learn and train. My first academy had no women and although I learned a lot, I did pretty well in competition, and I got tough, I wasn’t super comfortable and I was always feeling left out.
I think women-only classes are great and can really help to gain a solid base of female students. It’s intimidating for a lot of females so if you’re working on getting more women in the door, it’s a great way. You can target towards self-defense and weight-loss if necessary. But I think if your goal is to be good at Jiu-Jitsu for self-defense or competition, you need to train with men. If you’re in a good place your instructor will match women with men who aren’t likely to be stupid or spazzy. If you want to know how to fend off a larger, stronger attacker then you should put it to the test. So I think women can start in women-only classes but should move to a class where they can train with men as well.
What is your Tipp for people with long hair!
The only tip I have is put your hair in a bun. Even in a ponytail your opponent can still bear weight on your hair and in turn make you bald. I once bought a du-rag to wear since it was cheap and could be effective but was too embarrassed to wear it to class since I looked like a man.
Mr. Miyagi or Cobra Kai? MIYAGI!
Ice-cream or chocolate? Chocolate ice-cream
If you could change one thing in your BJJ past, what would it be? Drilling more right from the beginning so that I could have better habits in the future.
Pulling Guard or going for the Takedown? Pull guard for life!
What’s your favorite Submission & Position? Triangle from spider guard.
Is there a question that we should have asked you? And what would be the answer?
Since becoming part of the Jiu-Jitsu media do you feel that your training and competition goals have taken a backseat? What Jiu-Jitsu accomplishments of your own are you proud of?
Being part of media has been rather easy because I was already an avid competitor and networker when I really got into the realm. If I didn’t know who these top guys were or what they looked like my job covering events and whatnot would be ten times harder. Getting quotes and contacting for interviews becomes a breeze when you can send a text to a fellow competitor and/or previous instructor instead of tracking down an email or waiting for a Facebook friend request to be accepted. My training takes a backseat and the more serious I get about Graciemag and my writing, the harder it is for people to believe that I want to win competitions. My motivation is tested a lot more than others because people think it may be easy to have a job in the Jiu-Jitsu world but it takes me away more than an unrelated job. I compete at events but rarely do I get to be the competitor only. I am always covering the events as well. Before Pan-Ams and Worlds I struggled a lot of not only be consistent with my training but also gaining the focus necessary to drill and want the title. In the end, it showed and I wasn’t able to pull it off.
I’m proud of my accomplishments: 2nd at the 2012 Worlds as a blue belt, Closing out the 2012 Pan Americans with a teammate at blue belt, 2nd at 2012 No-Gi Worlds as a purple belt, 2013 Boston Open weight and absolute as a purple belt.
How many places have you traveled for Jiu-Jitsu purposes whether it be for Graciemag, training or competitions?
Las Vegas, NV
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA
New York, NY
Abu Dhabi, UAE
What are your plans/goals for the future?
My most concrete goal right now is to finish school by next year. I have been in college since 2007 and it’s been the hardest thing to finish the work necessary and earn my degree but I am at senior status now and if I can take on a large load of credits, I can graduate by next Spring. I intend to keep working for Graciemag covering events and updating the online site every day and as of right now I’m reconsidering my goals as a competitor. I know I want to compete but I can’t tell if I enjoy training as much as I have to be training in order to be champion and I’m an all-or-nothing person. I won’t try to compete if I don’t intend to win at the highest level.