PODCAST EPISODE 3: Who is Bolsonaro and why should we care? With BJJ Black Belt Robert Drysdale

Brazil has just finished what has been a politically charged and violent presidential election, with one man coming out on top: Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro’s campaign has sparked worldwide controversy, leaving many people concerned over the future of Brazil due to his inflammatory views on a variety of important issues.

And yet, there are numerous people in the BJJ and combat sport community who support his ascent to power, from members of the Gracie family to popular fighters like Cyborg, Andre Galvao, Jose Aldo.

Who is Bolsonaro, and why should we, women in the combat sport/martial arts community, care?

Join Robert Drysdale and I for I Hit Hard’s third podcast, focusing on understanding the politics of Brazil’s new president elect, Jair Bolsonaro. As both a Brazilian citizen and BJJ coach, Robert also shares his thoughts on the repercussions Bolsonaro’s politics may have in BJJ gyms, and why it will become increasingly important to fight for BJJ gyms to be inclusive and safe spaces for all.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Life Drawing

All photos of the life drawing class by Kari from Come to Life

Recently, I had the pleasure of modelling for a local life drawing class run by Come to Life in Croydon, South London. This wasn’t an ordinary life drawing class, because both Laura (who invited me to model with her) and I posed in our gis for the class to draw us in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu positions. In our gis, the class were able to focus on the folds and contortions of our uniform, as well as the dynamic positions we held.

Unfortunately, Laura and I were pretty unwell on the night, but it was a great experience to have people draw us in our martial arts clothing. We did a few different poses, including an armbar, a morote seoi nage throw and a few guard passes. In the second half of the class, I posed in my rashguard, which included triangling a pillow for half an hour (I admittedly dozed off at this point, the position was surprisingly comfortable!). Throughout, Brazilian rap and hip hop boomed in the studio, setting both the pace and the tone of the class.

Perhaps the most exciting part of being a part of this class was seeing everyone’s sketches of Laura and I. It was moving to see something that is an art in its own right (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), be translated into another person’s artistic expression on paper. Anything that has physical expression, including martial arts and combat sport, can be seen as a form of art.

There is definitely something special about drawing the human form as it is performing a martial art. Not just in how the physical body is depicted as it enacts the techniques of a martial art, but also in how the artist interprets the ‘intent’ carried by the martial artist on paper. Specifically, ’martial intent’, which I would describe as the will of power and the transfer of energy by martial artists through their body into physical strikes or motions. I wonder how that kind of dynamic intent can be translated on paper?

Whilst this time Laura and I were in static poses for this particular class, I would love to be the subject of study (and the art student behind the easel!) in a class that looks to sketch martial artists in action.

Ronin Reviews: New Wave Academy – Women’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Class

I love training at different clubs and two weekends ago I had a particularly good excuse to do so! My friend and fellow fighter at London Fight Factory, Laura Harvey, recently joined New Wave Academy Training Centre as their Brazilian Jiu Jitsu coach for the women’s classes. As I live in the area, I decided to wander down to NWA to support her first session.

To give a little context, Laura was one of the first women to join the BJJ classes at London Fight Factory. She was one of the pioneering women who worked hard to encourage other women to join the club and continue to practice the sport. As a result of these early efforts, London Fight Factory boasts a thriving community of women fighters. Alongside Helene Pei Pei, Laura also founded the Women’s BJJ classes at London Fight Factory that take place every Saturday morning, which now attract many women both new and experienced to roll together.

I was extremely excited to learn that Laura would be teaching at NWA. I had heard a good deal of positive things about the club, and was keen to come along for the women’s classes. The turn out for the first session was great and there was a mix of women from a variety of backgrounds: mothers who were interested in trying the class because their children practice BJJ; budding white belts who were eager to attend more sessions and up-skill themselves (hello, me!); women who came from other martial arts backgrounds like MMA; and NWA’s regular women BJJ fighters.

Laura handled the mix of abilities with care and determination, and I know that facilitating a class with complete beginners to the sport is no easy feat. What I really appreciated was that she took the time to break down the fundamental elements of BJJ for those of us for whom this was their first interaction with the sport. I was happy that Laura took the time to go through each component of the forward and backward rolls, the hip-up and the shrimp. From my experience, it is not being able to master the fundamental elements of the warmups that can make newcomers to the sport feel out of their depth unless it is carefully explained to them. I know that when I started BJJ it was the attention from my seniors in instructing me how to approach the warmup basics that made a huge difference to my confidence at the time.

The session was tremendous fun, and I enjoyed seeing the women who had never experienced BJJ find joy and confidence in being able to do some of the techniques we practiced. I liked that Laura lead the main technique of the session around achieving an armbar submission. A lot of people might lead a first session made up of mostly beginners by teaching a technique that looks solely at positional dominance, but I am a big advocate for integrating submissions into understanding the way that positions work.

Besides, whether people want to admit it or not, the high from executing a submission is a fantastic way to get beginners into the sport – nothing beats mastering a technique that enables you to submit your opponent. I think that this is particularly true for women who enter into a martial art like BJJ. Women are often lead to believe that we are physically incapable of incapacitating someone through physical force or technique (especially in a martial art/combat sport). To realise our capacity for strength (inner and outer) is one of the greatest, most life-changing experiences – and I have been lucky enough to undergo that journey myself through the martial arts I practice.

What I loved about my experience at New Wave Academy was that many of the women who came to the women’s session were parents inspired to try BJJ through their children who train on the ‘Warrior Cubs’ programme. A particularly fun result of this was that their kids watched them experience their first time trying BJJ. For example, one of the mums who joined the session was keen to try her hand at rolling, and at the end of the session, we rolled together. As we rolled, her son perched himself at the side of the mat and screamed instructions to his mum:

‘Mum! No, no, put your arm there! Mum, you need to keep your legs up! Yes mum, like that!’

BJJ is often referred to as a martial art that you practice for a life-time. Sometimes, it’s easy to lose sight of this when you’re 20-something and submerged in several martial arts. Training at New Wave Academy that weekend reminded me that BJJ has the ability to bring together people of all ages and abilities.

-You can join this class at New Wave Academy Training Centre from 1pm-2pm every Saturday-