I think we can all relate to that nervous, sweat-inducing feeling which can form in a knot at the pit of your stomach when you walk into a new gym, exercise class or sports group.
I took up Jiu Jitsu when I was seven and found that I was the only girl in the class. I couldn’t help but feel intimidated – not only was I a total beginner, but I also found that boys didn’t want to hit me because I was a girl. My sister Londrita, who’s a year older than me, joined the class a few years later and after getting to know everyone, she realised that what I’d been telling her was true – that she really did have lots in common with the boys and they liked the same things. We’ve even developed a solution to the initial awkwardness of boys who are nervous to use the moves on us - we just make sure we go for the first hit.
Even now after ten years there can be times when walking into our Jiu Jitsu class can feel intimidating. We’re all different and because of that, there’s not a magic number of classes when you start feeling totally comfortable. For us, one of the most effective techniques is to ‘fake it until you make it’ – sometimes the anticipation is worse than actually walking in and doing your thing! By pretending to be confident and comfortable, it’s reflected in our body language – and after a while, we start to forget what we were nervous about.
From talking to each other about how we find the class, we were surprised at first to find that we both felt intimidated by being the only girls in the class. I think it goes to show that if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable, the chances are that somebody else feels exactly the same way. Having each other is great for boosting our confidence as we walk into the class, and so we’d always recommend taking a friend or relative as a great way of managing any pre-class nerves, especially if it’s something you’re new to.
When we first started, we were completely new to Jiu Jitsu and worried that we wouldn’t be very good. For us, the key was remembering that everybody has to start somewhere and you’ll never know unless you try. Even if you don’t turn out to be very good, it doesn’t matter anyway if you’re having a go! It’s great to be involved in the This Girl Can campaign because we get to spread the message we don’t hear enough, which is that anybody can get involved in sport, whatever your shape, size, age, ability… we could go on forever. There might be a whole range of reasons which get you to try out a sport and which don’t have to centre around being very good – whether it’s to have some ‘me’ time and take your mind off work or school, as part of a fitness routine, or simply because it’s fun.
For us, it’s having made friends in the class and getting to practice training that makes us feel strong which keeps us coming back – we can even get our dad down on the mat now with the moves we’ve learnt. Proving the boys wrong and seeing the look on their faces when we surprise them with our strength is one of our favourite things about the classes. Girls can be strong too! People often think that Jiu Jitsu is about being powerful, and while that’s true, it also requires us to be soft and feminine, like practising dance. We’ve also found that going to the classes has been useful while studying, because it gives us time to de-stress and focus on something other than our school work.
The reason we go to Jiu Jitsu hasn’t stayed the same throughout the whole time we’ve practised the sport – it might be to distract us from school pressures, or because we get to see our friends. Sometimes it’s just for the fun of it or because we feel good afterwards. Focusing on these reasons when we’re tired or can’t be bothered – because everybody has those days – really helps motivate ourselves to keep going. Whatever your reason for getting active – and it doesn’t just need to be one reason, it can be several reasons which change as life goes on – it’s worth focusing on that when you’re having a pre-workout wobble. We’re all different so try a couple of different sports and work out what motivates you.
We’ve gone from being the only girls in the class, to not holding back when it comes to making the first move on the mat. Being involved in the This Girl Can campaign has taught us that it’s worth having a go, even if you’re not sure, to prove that girls can be strong too.
To read the stories of other girls involved with the This Girl Can campaign, visit: http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/meet-the-girls/
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