5 min read
A tournament for women, run by women, and how being a part of it will forever impact my Jiu-Jitsu journey in such a positive way.
5 min read
A tournament for women, run by women
Location: Moose Jaw, SK
Photo by: Autumn Skye Photography
I had the fantastic opportunity to participate in the 2021 Western Canada Women’s Jiu-Jitsu (WCWJJ) Tournament. Imagine, being in a gym filled with female Jiu-Jitsu athletes: The energy was high, the mats were packed, and the cheering was, at times, deafening!
The WCWJJ is a women’s Jiu-Jitsu tournament event that is run by women, and it definitely has a special feel to it. As the first all-female tournament in Western Canada, it was nothing short of epic to see so many female Jiu-Jitsu athletes all under one roof. Women who train know tournaments usually offer 2 or 3 matches at most, and sometimes you end up with someone much heavier than you. In this case, not only were the divisions stacked with players, talent, and energy, there were also competitors from dozens of different gyms. Women from as far as Ontario came out to compete, as well as several gyms from Alberta, one from B.C., and myself from Saskatchewan.
The teams were as diverse as they could be, sometimes with three different players from three different gyms on the same team. I met my teammates the day before the tournament for the first time. One of the beautiful parts of Jiu-Jitsu is that it is constantly bringing people together, and this was no different. I think I can speak for everyone there that day – we all made a lot of new friends.
Thoroughly organized, with lots of great local businesses included, there were many thoughtful touches, such as door prizes, gifts for the winners, professional on-site photography, and gift bags for every one of the 36 competitors. Organized and hosted by Fatima Eltassi, a brown belt who trains under Professor CJ Hollett at 101 Academy in Calgary Ab, the WCWJJ Tournament 2021 was a joy to be a part of and a big success.
Tape it up and eat and some snacks!
My hands were shaking as I tried to delicately but effectively tape the cracked knuckle of one of my teammates. While trying not to impede circulation, I worked hard to steady myself and be the calm we all desperately needed. But there was nothing calm about this. We were all nervous, but we were also excited. In times like this, you have to ride the waves. We try to balance the turbulence, but every moment is a new opportunity to blast you with a sick and twisting knot deep in your stomach.
Normally, my first instinct is to have a snack and try to feel better. It could be my Italian grandmother in the back of my mind, trying to solve my problems with the one thing that always makes me feel better; a nice, fresh snack. But these were not normal times, and certainly not regular problems, and food could not help us now. My body forced itself to prepare for battle; there was no time for snacks or distractions. We had work to do. And it wasn’t going to be easy.
Tournament Adrenaline Dump
I think I stayed nervous the entire day. I would become momentarily distracted from time to time, getting lost in all things Jiu-Jitsu, until I remembered again what I came here to do. Just like every other woman there, I came to challenge myself, to see what I can do, and to answer the questions I have about myself that can only be determined by throwing myself completely into the uncomfortable. What am I made of? Can I survive? Will I be able to execute my game under pressure? I knew that as soon as I bumped fists and the match started, everything could fly out the window. I knew that I was about to drop every ounce of adrenaline I had, and I would become a flaming body of hormones and fire.
3 vs. 3: Game Rules & Strategy
The coin toss was first. Whoever won the toss got to decide which two athletes matched up first. Tri-tet style, 5-minute matches, submission only. A submission = 3 points, a draw 1 = point, and a loss = 0 points. Each athlete fights someone from the opposing team once, and the team who collects the most points overall at the end, wins.
Playing on a team of 3 varied the usual tournament dynamics. Submission only allowed for more exciting gameplay because getting sweeps or establishing positions does not result in points. Strategy also played into it – Who should we match up? How can you make sure the other team doesn’t get points? How can we maximize points for ourselves? Beating a team in matches didn’t mean that you beat them in points, overall. The mental game of Jiu-Jitsu was in effect on the sidelines, too.
Life Lessons on The Mats
My team placed third that day, and honestly, just surviving it was a big victory for me. We got to feel, firsthand, the ferocity and skill of so many competitors and really challenge ourselves. To face fear and doubt yet still facing it head-on and trying our best, felt incredible. In the end, we all rose to the occasion. I realized my weaknesses (which I am 98% made up of), but I also realized that I am so much stronger than I thought. I can survive. My Jiu-Jitsu game, on the other hand, needs A LOT of work. Good thing I met dozens of talented, dedicated athletes who can help me with that.