Amelia McGirr - Blue Belt Advice
What motivated you to start training BJJ?
I was sort of easing out of Muay Thai at the time and wanted to try something new. My dad was training at GSW and my sister had previously trained here so I thought I’d give it a shot. Definitely a good choice.
What advice would you give to beginners who are just starting their BJJ journey?
Not sure if im 100% qualified to give advice on this as im arguably just starting my BJJ journey, but I’d probably say to just be friendly and be chill. People actually do want to help you improve your game, but if you’re going a hundred miles an hour just to prove you’re big and strong, you’re gonna find that less and less people want to roll with you.
What motivated you to continue training BJJ, even when it was challenging or frustrating?
I realised that even if I didn’t understand a technique or didn’t have any ideas about what to work on, just coming to class made me feel at my best. For me, It doesn’t matter if none of the techniques I do seem to work some days, I still just love turning up to class anyway.
Were there any specific training partners who played a significant role in your development as a BJJ practitioner?
Oh man there’s so many… for a start I’d say that many of the black belts have been great but Darren and Tony in particular have really helped out tons with helping me find what works for me and what doesn’t.
They also really want to share their knowledge and help people develop their game which I find incredibly admirable. There are also other people who I just really enjoy training with and who I learn stuff from all the time like Lee, Juha, Kristen, James, Ethan, Troy, Reece, Adam and a bunch of others.
How has BJJ impacted your life outside of the gym, and what benefits have you seen from your continued practice?
Confidence. Its definitely a challenge being a girl at BJJ, let alone being a teenage girl because I’m not exactly training with people in my demographic. I think being able to overcome this and find my place in the gym has definitely made me more confident in my life.
How did you balance training BJJ with other commitments in your life, such as work or family?
For me personally, BJJ is one of my top priorities. I will rarely plan something or commit to something that will cause me to miss training. This is very understandably not feasible for everyone so don’t beat yourself up if sometimes you struggle to find the time for BJJ.
Did you ever go through a period where you felt like you weren't improving or plateaued in your BJJ journey, and if so, how did you push through it?
In the one or two months leading up to my blue belt I felt like I had hit a standstill in my BJJ. I sort felt like I was a good white belt but still a long way off from blue and I was unsure of how to make that jump.
I found that reading the black belts’ profiles was really helpful. They had tons of good advice to give and I think it sort of gave me that extra push that got me to blue. Definitely read those profiles if you haven’t by the way.
Were there any particular techniques or concepts that you struggled with as a white belt, and how did you overcome those challenges?
I definitely struggled a lot with trying different things. If I wasn’t 100% sure I could do a technique I just wouldn’t try it at all. This definitely came from a place of perfectionism and a lack of confidence.
I think for me, overcoming this was just a matter of becoming more comfortable with my training partners and not being worried about screwing up as much. It’s definitely something I’m still working on, but I find that just reminding myself that everybody messes up and nobody really cares helps me to get out of my own way.
What role did competition play in your BJJ journey, and how did you approach preparing for and competing in tournaments?
I’ve only done one comp and I didn’t win any of my fights, but it was honestly such a great experience. There was a small team of us who went in March. It was almost everyone’s first comp so we were all in the same boat which I think was great because it just made us support each other all the more.
Preparing for the comp, I tried to drill some of my weaker areas like takedowns and side control escapes with people who kind of specialised in those things. If you’re training for a comp I’d definitely recommend doing that because even though I didn’t win my fights, drilling those weaker areas still made a difference.
Looking back on your journey, is there anything you wish you had done differently or advice you would give to your younger self starting out in BJJ?
Don’t be scared of rolling with more people. Yes you need to look after yourself and prioritise your safety, but not rolling with people just because you’re not really mates with them isn’t going to help your game.
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