Interview with Ashley Mann of JiuJitsuThoughts.com

    The JiuJitsuThoughts.com blog is one of the fastest growing BJJ websites providing high-quality information on the sport. Ashley Mann, (Founder of JiuJitsuThoughts) writes in depth BJJ articles on various topics from beginner guides to personal thoughts on this martial art. Here is our interview with Ashley Mann:

    Interview with Ashley Mann of JiuJitsuThoughts.com

    Submission Shark Community | Instagram: Instagram.com/ashleydoesjiujitsu

    Full Name: Ashley Mann

    Age: 39

    Belt Colour: Purple

    Professor: Steve Haydock

    Short Term Goals: I’m currently working on getting better at escaping from side control and getting more sweeps from guard.

     

    How long have you been doing jiu-jitsu for?

    Since January of 2019

    Where do you train out of?

    Kokoro Training Academy in Springfield, Missouri, USA

    Do you prefer gi or no-gi?

    I prefer gi because I find it much easier to control and submit someone when I have some cloth to grab, but lately I’ve developed more of an appreciation for no-gi because it challenges me to be more technical and not rely on grips.

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

    My instructor Steve and his wife Natosha have become close friends of mine and my husband.  I am grateful for their friendship and support as well as the community I have through what they’ve built.

    How often do you train?

    Typically 3-4 days per week.

    What made you want to start training?

    Years ago I took Judo classes with my husband. I wasn’t particularly interested in learning Judo, but the gym’s sensei was my husband’s brother, and the students were all members of my husband’s family, so I participated because that’s what the family was doing, and to show support.

    I didn’t really enjoy Judo for multiple reasons, except for the classes where we did groundwork.  Whenever we sparred starting from ground positions, for example practicing holding someone in our guard or in kesagatame, it lit a fire in me that I never felt with Judo.

    From then on I was interested i trying Jiu Jitsu at some point, but was intimidated by the gyms in my area, which were more intense and competitive than I was looking for as an unathletic 34-year-old woman. 

    My opportunity finally came when my professor, Steve Haydock, an English black belt of Rickson Gracie lineage, opened a small gym in his backyard which later grew into Kokoro Training Academy.  I liked his style of teaching and his laid-back vibe and have been hooked ever since.

    Ashley and Josiah at Renzo Austin

    Do you plan on training your whole life?

    I hope to!

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

    For me the addicting thing about Jiu Jitsu is the mental puzzle aspect of working out the timing and mechanics of a technique. For me there’s no feeling in the world that compares with hitting the right move at the right time against a larger and stronger opponent.

    What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?

    Jiu Jitsu is one of the only forms of physical exercise I’ve ever been able to stick with consistently that doesn’t feel like a chore.  It keeps me active and feeling energetic.

    Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?

    I would say that the biggest impact Jiu Jitsu has had on my mental health has been in building my self-confidence.  Having developed some level of skill has helped me prove to myself that I’m capable of more than I think, and that knowledge helps me approach new situations with confidence.

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

    The only thing I would do differently if I could start my Jiu Jitsu journey over would be to start at a younger age, so I could have enjoyed the benefits sooner.

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

    Something I would say to someone who’s new to Jiu Jitsu is that it’s a suprisingly intellectual sport.  It’s great for someone whose best attribute is their mind, because strategy often defeats muscle. 

    For the same reason, it can be frustrating for an athletic person who is used to being instantly successful at every sport they try when they discover that they can’t rely on physical strength alone.

     

    Things To Look For When Choosing A BJJ Gym

     

    Do you have any aspirations in jiu-jitsu?  

    Last year my husband and I started traveling to spend time training at other gyms in the U.S., and we want to do that more.  I would really like to attend some Jiu Jitsu retreats in other countries. 

    What’s your favourite move?

    Omaplata is my favorite submission. I just think it’s fun to do.

    If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?

    If I wasn’t involved in Jiu Jitsu, I would probably be doing more yoga.  I used to do Ashtanga yoga regularly before I started Jiu Jitsu, and sometimes I miss it, but there’s not an Ashtanga studio in the city where I live now, and I am not disciplined enough to maintain a home practice. I hope to one day do both it and Jiu Jitsu, but right now I just don’t have time for both.

    Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?

    I would definitely like to see more people know about and get involved with Jiu Jitsu.  However, I sometimes wonder if more people knowing Jiu Jitsu would reduce its effectiveness for self-defense.

    What happens if you get mugged and your attacker is bigger than you AND knows Jiu Jitsu?  Kind of scary to think about.  I think it puts a lot of responsibility on instructors to only accept students who are worthy of the knowledge.

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

    My husband has been my biggest supporter throughout my Jiu Jitsu journey.  He has always been athletically gifted, whereas I have not, but by sharing his hobbies and interests with me and being very encouraging and patient with my slower learning process, over time he’s helped me change my perception of myself from someone who is “unathletic” to someone who is capable of learning anything I want to.

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

    This was actually back when I did Judo, but I had the hardest time learning to do forward rolls / break falls. I have a fear of falling (which is a big part of why I didn’t stick with Judo), and I couldn’t make myself commit to rolling over on my head. 

    I couldn’t even do a somersault, and to this day I still can’t do a cartwheel.  There were always tears involved whenever I would have to try in front of a big group during line drills. 

    I finally learned by going to the gym with just my husband and practicing alone, starting with a regular somersault.  Finally, I realized that the thing I needed to do differently was to push off more with my feet to get more momentum.  Now I’m able to do forward rolls with no problem, and that’s something I’m proud of having pushed through and overcome.

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

    I’d love to meet and roll with Elaine Wynn, a.k.a. Jiu Jitsu Grandma. She inspires me because she makes me realize that age is just a number.

    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?

    Like chess with your body

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

    One of my favorite moments was when several guys from a local college wrestling team visited one of our Open Mats, and I submitted one of them with an armbar from guard. It was a good feeling because I would never have imagined that I could beat a guy like that.

    What inspired you to start the jiujitsuthoughts.com blog?

    There have been a lot more women joining the sport in the past couple of years, when you Google the kinds of questions beginners ask, most of the articles that come up are written from a male point of view and don’t necessarily represent the experience of women or address the unique challenges and concerns women may have. 

    JiuJitsuThoughts Logo

    Even though my blog isn’t specifically for women, I’m hoping that knowing my perspective is coming from a woman will encourage more women to try Jiu Jitsu.

    What are your goals for the blog and what can readers expect from you in the future?

    Right now a lot of the articles I’m publishing are aimed at people who are new to Jiu Jitsu, because that’s who is Googling BJJ-related questions.  Eventually I’d like to offer more to people who have been in the sport a while, but for now I have to focus on getting traffic and building an audience.

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

    Thank you for being patient with me, and see you on the mats!

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

    I’d like to be remembered as someone who was very good at Jiu Jitsu but was never in the spotlight.  I have no aspirations to win medals; I want to be the kind of Jiu Jitsu athlete who you would never know was good until you rolled with her.


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