The Hardest Part of BJJ Is Not Giving Up On Yourself ~ Melissa's Story

Do you know anyone that is interested in training BJJ but is afraid or unsure of themselves? Many jiu jitsu practitioners have found amazing benefits from this martial art and if you are anything like me, you’d enjoy promoting it for its life-changing effects. By the end of this Brazilian jiu-jitsu interview with Melissa Smith, you will discover interesting reasons why your anxiety and fear may be stopping you from finding a new passion and becoming a part of a loving community. You will also learn how to train safely if you’ve experienced injuries and prior trauma.

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Full Name: Melissa Smith

Age: 37

Belt Colour: blue 

Lead Instructor: Jason Bebber

Professor: Derrick Smith. 

Short Term Goals: Let my MCL heal, drill, and hopefully spar/roll again before 2020 ends

Melissa Getting Her Blue Belt in BJJ

The Hardest Part of BJJ Is Not Giving Up On Yourself

Melissa Smith, a Jiu-Jitsu Blue Belt Explains:

How long have you been training jiu-jitsu for? 

I have trained for about a year and a half with a few of those months just watching because of injuries. 

Where do you train out of? 

Fenix BJJ Training

Fenix Jiu-Jitsu in Hickory, NC

Do you prefer training in the BJJ gi or no-gi?

No-gi 

Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu?

Yes. In teaching my husband and me how to drill together, Jason taught us how to communicate better and in turn fixed/saved my marriage. 

Husband and Melissa BJJ

What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that apply to everyday life?

Staying calm and breathing can make a rather large difference in many circumstances. Don't give up, when the first attempt is thwarted, try the second, third, or try something completely different! Just keep trying!

Flow State Chart

Try to flow with it breathe and relax, instead of forcing it. 

How often do you train?

  • 14 - 16 hours a week on jiu-Jitsu a week
  • 1 hour of strength training a week
  • 2-3 hours of cardio a week

What made you want to start training?

A friend suggested my husband, Matt, a veteran would benefit from jiu-Jitsu and that he should give it another shot. Fenix Jiu-Jitsu was suggested. We started personal training with Daniel, trainer and assistant instructor. Matt started first. After some time, I started going and watching. With Jason's approval, I recorded the classes to help Matt be able to study the techniques. A couple of classes passed and Jason asked why did I not just join them. 

I froze and went to show him a picture. I have had four back surgeries and have a nice collection of hardware. I also suffer from PTSD and anxiety. In the nicest way possible, he pointed out I was scared. He was right. I went out on the mats that day and fell in love with jiu-Jitsu.

Do you plan on training your whole life?

Yes! I am addicted! 

What’s it about jiu jitsu that makes it so addicting?

The never-ending mental and physical challenge. Every roll is different and provides a new challenge and a feeling of accomplishment. 

Melissa at Fenix BJJ

The bond of family and friendship with the amazing people at Fenix also makes it addicting. The teammates that I look forward to seeing every day.

What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?

I am more flexible, mobile, and stronger. I have less pain. I have cages in my spine from S1-L4 and my right SI joint has been fused together with two screws. Waking up with limited stiffness and able to walk upright has been one of the greatest physical benefits.

Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?

The frequency and severity of my panic attacks have decreased significantly. I am able to handle being around groups. Going to the store is no longer a fear and anxiety-inducing task. 

 

If you could restart your jiu jitsu journey, would you do anything differently?

I would avoid a couple of injuries😂

What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?

Have fun, take your time and breath. keep showing up. Some days you will be the hammer, some you will be the nail. Either way, you learn and grow.

Don't rush your journey. Don't compare yourself to others. Your journey and pace are completely different than anyone else's.

Do you have any aspirations in jiu-jitsu?

I eventually want to earn my black belt.

What’s your favourite BJJ move?

Recently, I have been enjoying using the kimura from everywhere as a form of control and as a submission; but the rear triangle is my go-to position and submission.

If you didn’t discover BJJ, where do you think you’d be now?

I would be a depressed single mom.

Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?

Yes. being more mainstream would open doors for more people to find out if it is for them. 

Have any of your training partners pushed you to reach your full potential? 

Yes! I have several amazing men and women who push me to reach my full potential, then Go Beyond. 

Fenix BJJ Team

"We get better together! If I don't push you, you can't push me!" 

When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?

How to breathe or maybe remembering to stay calm enough to breathe 🤔. 

If you could roll with any practitioner, dead or alive, who would it be?

Master Renzio Gracie, after I completely fan-girl out. 

If you had to describe Jiu Jitsu to someone that's never heard of it before in under 5 words, what would those words be?

Stress-relieving snuggle struggles

What has been the most memorable moment you've had on the mats so far?

The first time, I legit passed my coaches guard. I knew I was making progress. 

What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?

I have been low, depressed, scared, lonely, abused, and lost. I found my path out with help from others who motivated me. I want to do the same. I want others to remember the hardest part of the journey (jiu-Jitsu or life) is not giving up on yourself. We all have to be reminded of that sometimes. 

Was there a difficult moment in your life where jiu jitsu helped you get through it? If so, please explain.

Jiu-Jitsu made lockdown less terrible. Matt and I had each other to drill and roll with at home.  

Do you have any advice for someone that is afraid of training due to past injuries but wants to start?

Be upfront with the school let them know your injuries( physical or mental.)  Most will work with you, help adapt jiu-Jitsu to you. Do not go hard at first. Give your body time to adjust to the new movements and demands on it. Once you are comfortable and know the limits of your body, start turning up the pace or intensity slowly.

What's it about the jiu jitsu community that you love?

Jiu Jitsu Meme

The support the community gives each other. The memes, too.

Why do you believe BJJ is commonly referred to as 'the gentle art?

Because you can most often train and roll daily

What would you like to say to everyone that has supported you on your journey?

Thank you! I appreciate every moment each has spent helping!

When the journey is over, how would you like to be remembered?

Journey's End BJJ

Dedicated to sharing the positives of Jiu-Jitsu and a great training partner.

Enjoying these Jiu Jitsu Articles?

Melissa shared some helpful ways to train BJJ safely and some insightful reasons why you might want to give this martial art a try. If you are a newcomer to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, here are a few resources that will help you get started on your journey, view the BJJ for beginners section and jiu jitsu gear reviews for more information.

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Consider upgrading your BJJ gear and shopping for your next jiu jitsu apparel here at Submission Shark. Your support helps keep these interviews and articles coming. Interested in other jiu-jitsu blogs? Check out the BJJ recovery tips and injury prevention section for more ideas on how to train safely or view the articles below for similar BJJ blogs.

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