Nathalia Azoff Amaral is no stranger to the world of Martial Arts, but it was Brazilian Jiu Jitsu where she found true happiness. Azoff Amaral is one of Massachusetts most accomplished female black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She has gone from grappling among the best of the best to grappling the roles of mother and wife. Much like her competitive career she is a champion at these roles too.
How long have you been training? How did you get started?
I started training in 2007, it will be 10 years in December. I have always been involved in martial arts and was looking for something different where I could learn what to do if I got taken to the ground. I hadn’t tried Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) before because the schools did not have any girls and I was intimidated. A friend brought me to the BJJ school where he was training and I was finally able to try out a class. After a few classes and getting to know my training partners a little bit, I was hooked.
Did you have any prior martial arts experience before you started? What attracted you to Jiu-Jitsu?
I have studied martial arts since I was a little girl. Specifically, one called Uechi Ryu. My father owns a karate school in Lexington, MA and I have always been very actively involved in teaching and training for about 20 years. I became attracted to BJJ because I had been learning stand up for such a long time, I wanted to also familiarize myself with what to do when I got to the ground. I have always been familiar with jiu-jitsu and when the opportunity came to try it out, I couldn’t say no.
How has Jiu Jitsu changed your life? How do you think it can benefit others?
Jiu-jitsu introduced me to a new world of living a healthy lifestyle, meeting new friends, and friendly competition. While I have been involved in the martial arts for a long time, this was much different. I have met wonderful people over the years, traveled to many countries for tournaments, and even met my husband who is a black belt as well. BJJ has had a tremendous impact on my life. I strongly believe that every person has different goals when it comes to BJJ. While some are die hard competitors, others are just looking for a hobby. I think it’s important to do what you love, have fun, and be ready for the ride. By default, we tend to live a healthy lifestyle because of BJJ because the better you take care of yourself, the better you will feel when training. Jiu-jitsu is a great way to get into shape, make new friends, and learn a martial art.
What are your Jiu Jitsu goals? How do you intend to accomplish them?
This is a great question ad 2 years ago my answer would have been totally different. That is the beauty of jiu-jitsu! Right now, my main goal is spending time with my family. I have 2 little girls that are the loves of my life and I can’t bear to not spend time with them when I get home from work in the evening. Due to work and family, I have had to put BJJ off to the side for a bit. This doesn’t mean that I don’t train or enjoy it anymore but the limited hours in the day have made it difficult to train as frequently as I did before. I miss training and competing as much as I used to, but I am also loving this new phase in my life. My jiu-jitsu goal is to have my kids train with my husband and I. I would love for this to be a family sport that we can all do together. My girls have come to the gym with us many times so my husband and I can train. While they are too little to know what is going on, I believe this is a great way to expose them from the beginning.
What is the greatest challenge you have faced on the mats? How did you overcome it?
Perseverance has always been the key for me in this sport. There were days I just wanted to throw my gi away and be done with it all. There is a laundry list of frustrations I have had over there years ranging from losing at a tournament, getting injured, or just not training well on a day. Sometimes all my body needed was some downtime to recover and I would be back to feeling good again. Other times, I needed to push myself and train harder. Listening to your body, taking advice from our professor, and taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture is how I have overcome these challenges. Patience and perseverance!
If you could change just one thing about your Jiu Jitsu journey what would it be and why?
While I had an amazing time traveling, training, and competing. In retrospect, I gave up a lot to do so. I was on the mats 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day. When I wasn’t training, I was in the gym lifting or doing other workouts to better my jiu-jitsu. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was at work. That was my life for many years. Family events, reunions, hanging out with non-BJJ friends, etc. all took a back seat. Looking back, I would have better managed my time. It’s extremely easy to let BJJ consume your life, it’s an amazing sport!!! But it is also important sometimes to take a step back and make sure you aren’t missing out on other stuff too.
How would you encourage a female to start training?
Jiu-jitsu is a sport that is not only addictive but also lots on fun. The beginning is tough when you come home with weird bruises and aches and pains you haven’t felt before. But be patient. We all have our “ah-ha” moments, and many of them over the years. And those moments are gratifying beyond belief. As a girl, it is empowering to be able to handle yourself against a male opponent. Event more satisfying when you know that you earned that pass or submission. Be patient with yourself, listen to your body, and most importantly have fun!
Girls in Gis staff writer
Shama Ko is a brown belt with Gracie Humaita out of Austin, TX. She has been a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner since November of 2003. She is a photographer, writer, community organizer and activist. She heads the Girls in Gis organization or as she calls it the “movement”. She describes herself as both a lover and a fighter. She loves to laugh and not take life too seriously.