The road toward excellence and proficiency in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) isn’t paved. There is no clear cut path that you must follow. The path zigs and zags. Sometimes you may feel lost and want to give up. Then there are times you can’t imagine life before BJJ. Sometimes it is easy, most times it is not. There are valleys to cross and mountains to conquer. No two individuals paths are the same. Perhaps what keeps us all going is that you never stop learning even after a black belt. Although the teacher may teach, they are also the student.
Monica Champagne, a purple belt of Gracie Lafayette Team Hopkins, started BJJ in 2009. She found BJJ through her husband who had been doing BJJ for awhile. She says she started BJJ because she couldn’t let the guys have all the fun. After taking her first step on the mats she was hooked.
Her and her husband own Gracie Lafayette Team Hopkins in Lafayette Louisiana. When she is not running the academy, teaching classes or training she says she enjoys running, yoga and spending time with her family. She says that thus far in her journey the biggest challenge she has had to over come are injuries on the mats. She says she has had to learn to listen to her body more and train smarter the older she gets.
Monica regularly instructs a women’s only class. She says her favorite thing about instructing is being able to inspire women to do martial arts especially BJJ. Her favorite aspect of BJJ is the self defense because it uses leverage, strategy and technique over brute strength. She says as a female, she has to rely on technique. When asked how we can get more females on the mats Monica says that through events like Girls in Gis and offering Women’s only classes this will make Jiu Jitsu more appealing to women. They will be more inclined to try it out if they see other women on the mat. Causing them to think, if she can do it, so can I.
“The benefits of a brand new women training with other women is it shows them that Jiu Jitsu is for women also and not just the guys. It helps having other females who can relate with you through the Jiu Jitsu journey. We develop friendships that go beyond the mat.”
According to Monica teaching makes her a better practitioner because she has to give more thought to her technique. She has to dissect the technique step by step in order to make it easier for her students to learn and understand. Thus enhancing Monica’s understanding and enriching her BJJ journey.
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.