It takes passion to spark change, it takes masses to bring change, it takes solidarity to make a movement. Together we can be the change we want to see in the world. There is no one “Girl in Gis”, we are all the Girls in Gis. Every girl that trains is Girls in Gis. We are all a part of this movement and continue to inspire each other.
As we celebrate our sixth anniversary we wanted to highlight some of the girls that have made this organization what it is, girls who have propelled the movement and are true inspirations. First up we wanted to introduce Jennifer Gray, our Girls in Gis Midwest Chapter Captain. Jennifer has been leading the charge in the Oklahoma and Kansas are for just over a year. You will find Jennifer at each and every one of our events welcoming you with a smile and always offering a helping hand. Having found Girls in Gis on Facebook several years ago, she know that she wanted to be a part of the movement. She has been a huge asset to the organization and to the girls of the Midwest.
Jennifer began her Jiu-Jitsu journey 7 years ago. She had no prior martial arts experience . It wasn’t until her her now fiancé, Gracie Black Belt, Ty Gay invited her to take a class at his school that she experienced Jiu-Jitsu for the first time and immediately she was hooked. According to Jennifer, ” You couldn’t get me off the mat.”
She considers herself very fortunate to teach jiu-jitsu for a living, She is also an aspiring yoga teacher and she works from home running three businesses. “I run three businesses that take up most of my time all related to jiu-jitsu. I teach, train, and run redlinbjj.com of Edmond, Oklahoma, so there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not on my mat whether it’s practicing jiu-jitsu or yoga.” says Jennifer.
Jennifer’s baby is shejitsu.com, a jiu-jitsu & yoga clothing company. She-jitsu stands for She Who Trains Jiu-jitsu & she dedicated She-jitsu to helping trauma survivors reach their full potential by funding charities that provide technology, education, and leadership worldwide. She started this company a few years ago and she just made her first donation to this years DreamFest Music Festival that is committed to it’s support of The Burned Children Recovery Foundation. Her next project we will be working with vday.org, A global movement to end violence against women and girls. She will be raising funds & awareness for 1 Billion Rising, the biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history.
Her newest creation is lifeanddeathkimonos.com. “With jiu-jitsu we have the power of putting someone in a choke hold, and that gives us power of life and death which is a great responsibility. So, with jiu-jitsu we also have the power to help others and our main goal with this company is to bring awareness to those that are living their daily lives in a life or death situations. Our first project we are focusing on is BuyLifeStraw.com. Life Straw makes water contaminated with bacteria safe to drink. For every product you buy, one child in a developing country receives safe water for entire school year. We just started this company less than a year ago and our first kimono is designed by Ty. It’s called “Life.” Our second series “Death” will be black & available next year.” says Jennifer.
She doesn’t consider what she does work, but when she is not working on those things you’ll find her meditating, listening to music, playing in my yoga hammock, riding my bike, listening to audio books, or watching YouTube & documentaries.
Why do you think it’s important for females to train? And train with each other?
I think it’s important for women to train jiu-jitsu because it breaks down the illusion that we are the weaker sex. It breaks down the illusion that we can not defend ourself during a sexual assault, and once that illusion is gone it builds confidence that bleeds into all areas of our life.
Jiu-jitsu is problem solving & when practiced over a long period of time, you become a better problem solver which is important in our daily lives; when we are feeling powerless or find ourselves in a situation we feel we can’t get out of. Jiu-jitsu teaches you how to escape that.
I think jiu-jitsu is especially important for sexual assault survivors because in jiu-jitsu being on your back with someone in between your legs is a very powerful position. Once that is learned, the fear of something like that happening to you again starts to fade. You have answers to the subliminal fear of what if I get attacked again? What do I do? Jiu-jitsu answers those questions.
Women should be training with each other because we need each other, more than anything. We are women! We have everything in common. We need to have that connection with each other to build strong relationships because it only helps us all. We need to learn how to get along and break down the barriers that separate us.
We are so much stronger together & if you are on the mat, it’s your responsibility to get other women comfortable being on the mat because in reality, we are the ones that need it the most. That’s why I started the campaign “Real Women Empower Women.” There is a lot of competition in jiu-jitsu and in life in general. I read updates on social media all the time that state “We are better than you because we compete more, we are higher rank, we train more, we win.” I think that mentality keeps a lot of women off the mat and separates us all because that can make a person feel inadequate. I truly believe we should just be training & not be separated by always trying to be the best. I don’t believe that is the true essence of jiu-jitsu. I believe it is to help others find a better path in life and if we separate ourselves by competition, in the end you are only helping yourself.
When did you attend your first event? What was your impression?
My first Girls in Gi’s event was in 2010. I drove all the way to Texas because back then we did not have Girls in Gis in Oklahoma. I did that a few times a year, every year until we started the division in Oklahoma last year. I was the only female training at Redline for the first year of my journey & to see so many women on the mat training together was like being in a different world… in jiu-jitsu heaven. Hearing other women’s stories & struggles that were just like mine gave me so much motivation to keep going. I got to see what was possible. I got to see it was possible to have more women training & that is why it is my greatest passion to bring women & girls to the mat.
Why did you want to get involved in the organization?
Like I said, I got to see what was possible. For me, jiu-jitsu has given me so much. It gave me a better quality of life. It gave me an outlet. It helps me with my anxiety. It helps me with my depression. It builds my confidence. This list goes on, so to help others find that & to see and hear other women’s journeys on the mat is one of my greatest pleasures in life.
My greatest passion is to get women on the mat because of what the mat has given to me. I feel like this is my calling. It is my responsibility, & as soon as I was asked to start the division here in Oklahoma, the overwhelming sense of happiness filled me like a balloon! To have what the girls in Texas have had for so many years & I get to be a part of that??! Unbelievable. I will be forever grateful to be a part of such an amazing organization of women that does nothing, but work diligently to empower women to find their way to the mat and continue their journey once they get there.
What kind of an impact have you seen GIG have on the Oklahoma community?
We started the division in Oklahoma a little over a year ago, and I’m starting to see repeat offenders! Familiar faces at every event, and every time we see each other our bond gets a little stronger, and that’s what we need to build the female jiu-jitsu community everywhere. I’m starting to see the bridge that separates us slowly bring us together where we belong. Most of the participants of our events are very new to jiu-jitsu and you can tell it does something for them when they see the impact it has on others. I’ve seen these events jump start a lot of journeys in a very short amount of time. The unity is growing with our division, and it will only get bigger in time.
What contribution do you want to make to the community? What kind of an impact do you want to make?
I know what it’s like to have nothing, so my main goal in life is to help others. That’s why I created She-jitsu. I want to use my jiu-jitsu, my philosophy, my yoga, and everything I have been taught that has helped me & give that to others around me in order to create a better world.
I want my efforts & my journey to encourage & inspire others to get to the mat. We all have so much in common, our love for jiu-jitsu. I want to show others how to be more cooperative on and off the mat. I want my time on the mat to contribute to bringing more people together, more compassion, & more women into the world of jiu-jitsu because we make a huge impact on the world around us.
I want my time spent on the mat to be the catalyst for helping other women find what I have found in jiu-jitsu. We have to realize that everything is hard until it becomes easy. If you want to do something all you have to do is practice. You can’t jump to the top of the mountain, you have to take one step at a time. I want to show others that if you keep finding your way to the mat no matter how much you train, if you never give up, it will get easier, you will get better. It’s not a race, we all start our journey at different places, so I want to show people that jiu-jitsu is for everybody no matter what walk of life you come from or what level of you may be.
Where do you see the future of female BJJ going? What would you like see happen?
I see the future of female BJJ liberating many women in many ways. I see it slowly changing our society as a whole by empowering women & girls to train, but we have to come together in order to do this. I believe that cooperation and not division is the key to empowering women & I want to see more encouragers, less critics.
I’d like to see more humbleness in jiu-jitsu. I’d like to see more emphasis on just getting people to the mat & encouraging them once they get there.
I feel like the ones that separate themselves by stating they are better than others because they train harder or claim to be better than everyone because of the affiliation they are in are making it harder for women to see the true beauty of jiu-jitsu & what jiu-jitsu can do for them. To me that is not what jiu-jitsu is about. Just train & help each other.
That’s why I love girls in gis so much because our purpose is to bring strength in solidarity, not by separation. When you come to girls in gis it doesn’t matter who’s flag you fly. We are all in this together. We are all on separate journey’s and everyone’s journey is different.
Some people just want to train, learn, and grow. I am that person & I feel like people take credit away from the time, blood, sweat, and tears I’ve put on the mat because I don’t compete regularly & my aim is not to be a world champion.
There are way more people in the world not training than you see on the mats. We are a small community. There are plenty of potential students to go around for everyone. If everyone in your town decided they wanted to train jiu-jitsu, we wouldn’t have enough instructors. There is no need to always be better than this affiliation or that affiliation.
I also don’t feel like you should take your victories or losses to your head. Go to war with yourself, not with each other. I think competition should be an individual learning experience, not a way to become better than others around you. Give credit where credit is due. Be happy for people when they win, learn from your losses, & grow.
I think those that compete are amazing athletes & are true inspirations to many, but to me winning jiu-jitsu tournaments or trying to be the best is not why I train. I train because I truly love the art of jiu-jitsu.