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Wowee, 2017 was an exciting year!

black belt , camp , competition , ebi , friends , gi , grading , IBJJF , injury , Jiu Jitsu , korea , Lachie , no gi , physiotherapy , review , seminar , team , World Championships , wrestling • Jan 25, 2018

2017 went past like lightning! I can’t believe we are at the end on January of 2018 already and the new season is in full swing.

The past year was perhaps the most jam-packed and exciting year of my life. It was a year of many firsts both professionally and personally. I learnt so much about myself, my friends and who really matters to me in my life. I grew up a lot, started standing up for myself and took some risks, whilst really enjoying my life to the fullest.

2017 is the year Lachie asked me to marry him in Fiji. We have finally booked a date for our wedding for the first week of 2019 in a gorgeous venue in Port Arlington. I’m looking forward to this day already and can’t wait to share it with family and friends.19755877_10154541699562461_1583299297_n 19691447_10154541700537461_157624448_n

Mid-year, I finally put my big girl pants on, resigned from my job and started my own business Physio Lab Melbourne. It took me a little while to get going and learn the tricks of the trade of running my own business, but I am loving working for myself and being Lachie’s employer. I mainly treat combat sports athletes, which is my passion and something I can relate to.Social-Media-02

I took on the job of kid’s coach at Absolute MMA St Kilda, on top of my women’s class and 1:1 privates. In 2018 I will also be teaching a lunch time no gi class, which I’m really looking forward to.kids 2

In 2017, I taught my first international seminars in Korea. I had over 50 people for each day and taught via a translator, which was an experience. Since then, I have been teaching regular seminars around Australia and am looking forward to many more in 2018. I was most proud of organising the Super Seminar where 6 Absolute MMA women who medalled at World Championships taught their favourite techniques. We had over 80 people in attendance and raised money to attend No Gi Worlds. IMG_2330 Super Seminar 1

Right after No Gi Worlds, I received an e-mail from the Victorian Government congratulating me on the silver medal and advising that I have been nominated as a board member for the Professional Boxing and Combat Sports Board of Victoria. This is a huge honour and it will be a wonderful experience and a fantastic challenge. After an interview, a lengthy application process, and pending final government approval, I will be a board member for 2018.

BJJ wise, 2017 was a huge year. It wasn’t all roses and gold medals, but it was the most intense year ever, full of growth and learning. I have never enjoyed being on the mats more and competing proved more joyful every time.

I started wresting 2-3 times a week, attended a Wrestling Camp at the Australian Institute of Sport, but wasn’t able to compete yet, because my knee was not up to scratch post ACL tear at the start of 2017. Doing a wrestling comp is one of my goals for 2018, and I’m super excited about it.

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My first big comp for the year was the ADCC Trials in Japan. Winning the trials has been a massive goal of mine for 3 years. In 2015, I came second to Rikako Yuasa, so I spent the next 1.5 years training my leg locks and wrestling. I definitely improved a lot, but not enough to win myself a ticket to ADCC finals. Yet again, I lost to Rikako at the Asia/Oceania trials and was devastated not to join Lachie and Craig in Finland.adcc rikako 1

Next up was the Abu Dhabi World Pro, where I won a bronze medal as a brown belt and became the first Aussie woman to medal at brown/black division. I gained a lot of confidence and finally got to mix it with the best females in the world.ad 6

Upon my return to Australia and just 3 weeks before Worlds, Lachie surprised me with a black belt. I will never forget this day and all the people that turned up to celebrate with me. I feel like my journey is just beginning as I’m starting to grow into my belt.18198679_10155361379293474_4075446445520613286_n

In April, I flew to Poland for 3 days to have another shot at the ADCC Trials. I lost the first round and came home with shattered dreams yet again.IMG_4343

However, I had to re-focus quickly as World Championships were only 2 weeks away, where I would debut my black belt. I lost my first round by 2 points, which was my first World Championship first round exit.

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I returned to LA only a month later, after getting an invite from Eddie Bravo to compete on the first female EBI. I spent 6 weeks bulking to 56kgs and specific training arm bars and back control, as well as focusing on no points, submission only game. My BJJ improved so much through this process and I became a much better grappler in every way. I was devastated to lose my first round in overtime to the eventual winner. I am looking forward to having another go at EBI, but closer to my normal weight at 115lbs.

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@JiuJitsuMag

Katie Hibbert and I made a trip to LA for the UAE Grand Slam in September. I had 4 great fights, but lost the fight for a bronze medal. Although I am not beating the best black belt women in the world, I am also not getting smashed, which is comforting. I came home and worked hard on the mistakes I made – both technically and strategically. LA lasso

I then secured myself a trip to Fight To Win Pro in USA by winning the Aus Sub Only Championship in Sydney. It was a fun comp, and I got to fight new ladies, in the no gi open weight division. I postponed the USA trip to 2018, as I was completely exhausted from too much travel.

I won my first black belt title at Pan Pacific Championships, but was most proud of my female team – all the girls from Absolute MMA that entered won a medal, which was a great accomplishment!Pan Pacs 2017

In November, Chisaki and I flew to Bali for Jiu Jitsu Escaped Camp in Uluwatu. It was 5 days of pure luxury and bliss. We learnt from Bruno Malfacine and Gezary Matuda, trained, rested, and explored Bali. It was just perfect in every way. Bali 6

Finally, the last competition of the season was the No Gi World Championships in Anaheim. I witnessed Lachie winning a bronze medal and becoming the first Aussie male to medal at No Gi Worlds as a black belt. Chi won a bronze medal at blue belt, and I followed up by winning a silver medal in my first No Gi Worlds as a black belt. Not bad, but the emptiness from not winning gold, meant that I went home more determined than ever. I already improved 10-fold from this loss, and I now see a black belt gold within my reach. wolrds 9
I put my body through a lot during the year and right around the time of Worlds I got shingles. It was extremely painful, and unfortunately with FTW Pro and Europeans coming up, I could only rest for 3 days, which was not ideal. I will certainly try to listen a bit more to my body in 2018 and strive for a better life/work/training balance.

I have so many goals to accomplish in 2018. There is big things to achieve in my BJJ career, but also professionally as a physio, business owner and a coach. I’m learning how to manage my time better and make sure I get enough rest, so that I can be more functional and productive when it actually matters.

I have done so much growing as a person, but I’m looking forward to maturing more and becoming a better human being. I can definitely say that I am living my life to the fullest and appreciate the shit out of every minute. Thank you to all of you for being a part of it!

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2018 No Gi World Championships, Anaheim

black belt , competition , friends , IBJJF , Jiu Jitsu , Lachie , no gi , team , World Championships • Jan 11, 2018
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I have been looking forward to my first No Gi Worlds at black belt for a long time. Last time I competed at No Gi Worlds was in 2013, when I won it as a fresh purple belt. I didn’t compete at brown last year, because of a torn ACL.

Since Lachie and Craig have qualified for ADCC in 2015, we, at Absolute St Kilda, have focused a lot on no gi and wrestling, and as a result over the last two years I went from feeling like a fish out of water in no gi, to absolutely loving it. I enjoy the speed, the scrambles, the physicality of it all, and I finally started to get the hang of the different grips and controls required for no gi.

We had a large team from Absolute MMA and I was stoked to compete amongst my black belt teammates and training partners in Lachie, Kit and Craig.

My training partners Chi and Sarah, joined Lachie and I for a week in LA. We trained at Brea Jiu Jitsu for a few days and thank Trumpet Dan for his hospitality and a place to roll and drill. Make sure you check them out if you are ever in the area, there is usually plenty of talent on the mats!

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I realised one of my childhood dreams when we went to Disneyland. It was such a fun day out and somehow we all survived even though most of us were cutting a little bit of weight!

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My cut wasn’t hard, as I usually walk around 52-53kg, but I did stop eating dessert for 4 weeks or so, which is always sad. For those who don’t know me, I am known to eat like a tub of ice-cream every night, because I loooove desert which will probably give me diabetes one day.

Lachie was up first and set the tone for the Aussies. It’s hard to describe the happiness I felt for him, as he qualified for semi-finals the following day and secured himself a medal. He absolutely smashed his first 2 matches and it was so nice to quietly celebrate together – medal at worlds was a long time coming for Lachie and he finally did it!worlds 21

Chi looked amazing in her fights and won a bronze medal. Not many people can win two World Championships medals in one year, but Chi did it in style. Watch out for this girl, she has a very bright future ahead of her!worlds 10

Sarah, Kit, Mikael, Tim, Craig, Lachie Warne, Cooper, Dan and Raph from Absolute MMA all did great and were an inspiration to watch. Everyone is getting better and closer to a podium finish and I’m proud to be their teammate. Other Aussies did amazing too and brought home a few medals!

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I drew Sofia Amarante, a woman I have looked up to for a very long time, in my first round. Sofia has won black belt world titles, had a kid, and is still competing all over the world. I had to switch the fan-girling off when I stepped on the mats though. I managed to win by only 2 advantages. Can’t say it was my best performance, but I did what I had to, stayed safe and followed a plan that Lachie and I worked on. I was ecstatic to qualify for my first black belt worlds final the next day.

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That night Lachie and I couldn’t stop smiling. We each guaranteed ourselves a medal and to do it together meant the world to us. Lachie became the first Aussie black belt male to bring home a medal from No Gi Worlds, which is a huge achievement. It was so hard to sleep with the excitement and going over our game plans.

The next day, Lachie was up first in his semi-final against AJ Azagarm. AJ got an early take down and then defended Lachie’s sweep, takedown and sub attempts for 9 minutes, winning by 2 points (and 5 advantages down).

I faced a 2 x World No Gi Champ Pati Fontes. Hearing my name called out on the centre mat for a black belt final was an unbelievable feeling. I have been in 4 Worlds finals before that, so I knew the drill, but this was special. A couple of years ago, I didn’t even dream of being a competitive black belt, and now I was competing at the World Championship final…

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I knew Pati has a great half guard, but I love half guard passing, so it suited me. Pati pulled and after a while got an undertook and forced the fight into ‘dog fight’ position. I was trying to drive her shoulder to the mat to free my leg, however I leaned into her a fraction too much, which ended up in me getting swept. As we landed in my half guard, I locked on a kimura grip. I was pretty happy in that position and took my time adjusting grips. In hindsight I should have let go as soon as Pati started to get passed my hips, as she started to set up an arm-bar. By the time I came up to defend, it was too late and I tapped quickly.Purchase your prints and licensed downloads from this event - www.mikecalimbas.com/BJJworlds no gi 3worlds 14 Purchase your prints and licensed downloads from this event - www.mikecalimbas.com/BJJworlds no gi 8worlds 2017 ng1 Purchase your prints and licensed downloads from this event - www.mikecalimbas.com/BJJ

It’s hard to describe how disappointed and underwhelmed I felt at that moment. I knew I had a good shot at winning the World Title and it felt a little like a wasted opportunity. In the end though, I composed myself quickly. I made a mental note of the mistakes I made during this fight and congratulated my opponent, who did a much better job than me that day. I’ve had my black belt for 6 months and I have a lot to learn. I grieved my loss, but my sadness didn’t last too long. I was proud of that, because 3 years ago I would have been a broken woman for months.  I put a smile on my face to collect my medal and celebrate with Lachie and the team.

Purchase your prints and licensed downloads from this event - www.mikecalimbas.com/BJJworlds podiumworlds 19Taking a step back and getting some perspective is always a good idea and in the end Lachie and I were coming home as black belt medallists, which is huge for Australia, for our club and for us.
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It’s unbelievable what a loss can do to your BJJ. I had a list of mistakes I needed to fix and I worked hard in the last month to fix them. My half guard passing entries and controls are way better now. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of some really bad habits till after I reviewed myself on film.  I adjusted the ‘dog fight’ position with my wrestling coach. I also changed my kimura strategy from half guard.

My next challenge is a re-match against Pati at Fight To Win Pro in Sacramento on January 12th. It’s a no-gi sub only fight which allows heel-hooks, which is down right my alley. I am pumped to get another opportunity to fight Pati and do much better this time. I am confident in my leg lock game and will be as aggressive as I can!pati

Photo credits:

  • Mike Calimbas
  • Mike Anderson
  • Kenny Jewel
  • Giovanni Sacco
  • IBJJF

Jiu Jitsu Escapes Camp, Bali

black belt , camp , competition , friends , gi , IBJJF , Jiu Jitsu , no gi , World Championships • Jan 1, 2018
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One of the last comps of the season was the Pan Pacific Championships in Melbourne. I managed to win my first championship title as a black belt, but the biggest highlight was my team Absolute MMA – we won the no gi team trophy, every single Absolute lady who entered the comp came away with a medal and my amazing fiancé Lachie earned himself 4 gold medals like a boss.

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2017 was a hectic and exhausting year with work, comps, training, travel and everything in between, so when I heard about Jiu Jitsu Escapes in Bali, I jumped at a chance to have a little R&R whilst still being able to train.  Bruno Malfacine, a 10 x World Champion and Gezary Matuda who has been dominating my division for years, were the coaches leading the camp – it literally doesn’t get better than that!

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When my training partner Chi and I landed in Bali, we were picked up by a driver from Uluwatu Surf Villas – beautiful and luxurious villa resort right on a surf beach, and far away from the craziness of Kuta. Our villa had it’s own pool overlooking the ocean, a hammock, outdoor showers and a beautifully crafted common area.  Chi and I went exploring the surroundings, but really, we just couldn’t wait to train that night.bali 21 Bali 8bali 15Bali 5

The mats were set up outdoors, under a cover and to avoid over-heating,  training sessions were held either bright and early in the morning or at sunset. There were optional yoga classes each day, which were designed for BJJ fighters and totally worth getting up early for. In between training our time was spent lazing around in the sun, trying our luck at surfing and paddle boarding and going on excursions to Ubud, where we got to explore some pretty waterfalls and walk around the monkey forest.

BJJ Girls...

BJJ Girls…

BJJ Girls... The Reality

BJJ Girls… The Reality

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The food was so fresh and delicious that I decided to take a break from my weight cut for no gi worlds. I simply could not control myself and wanted to enjoy my short time in Bali as much as possible, without restricting my diet.bali 17bali 24

Now, let’s talk about jiu jitsu, because it was insane... Bruno and Gezary alternated teaching classes and each session build on one another. Bruno is an amazing teacher and not surprisingly, his techniques blew my mind. It was so much fun rolling with him and it certainly inspired and changed my BJJ in just 5 short days. After meeting Bruno, it is clear why he is a 10 x World Champion – his work ethic and attention to detail is second to none. Same can be said for his selfie and photography skills… everything had to be perfect – the light, the colour coordination of gis, the formation and even Bruno’s hair…

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Gezary taught some of her signature moves and her amazing submission oriented game. Her aggressiveness and the push to always finish her opponents has had a big influence on me over the years.

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There was also no shortage of great training partners. Each day there were at least 6 black belts on the mats, all of different sizes, and men and women of every belt colour, from all over the world. Because the group comprised of just 25 people, I was able to roll and get to know pretty much everyone. It was also so much fun catching up with some great friends like Naoko, Ly, Gabi, Bruno, Thais and Gui.
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It’s hard to put into words how amazing this camp was. Gabi looked after every tiny detail and whilst super organised, she managed to stay completely relaxed and in control. I have so much admiration for her and her husband Gui from Garage Jiu Jitsu, who made this camp not only possible, but exceed all expectations.

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If you are considering of going to the next one, don’t even think twice about it, because you will not regret it. The top level BJJ, dreamy location, delicious food, a great group of people and constant laughs made for an indescribable week. The whole experience was perfect and I miss it every single day.

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2017 World Championships – The Black Belt Debut

black belt , competition , friends , gi , IBJJF , Jiu Jitsu , team , World Championships • Jun 14, 2017
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Ladies Only BJJ

I have never expected I would compete at the World Championships as a black belt this year. However, having won brown belt World Title in 2016 meant I didn’t need IBJJF points and as a result my first black belt fight would be at the Mundials. It’s no small feat, but it’s a challenge I felt ready for. In the end, I have been looking forward to this moment for 7 years.

Unfortunately because of the ADCC Trials just 3 weeks prior to Worlds, I had no time to cut to rooster, which I was initially a little annoyed about, but in the end I loved feeling full of energy and happy during the lead up. I entered the absolutely stacked light-feather weight division and I couldn’t have been more excited about it if I tried.

This year we chose to stay at home for our camp. We have so many high level grapplers at Absolute MMA that we didn’t feel the need to go anywhere else. I had a great prep; I felt super strong, sharp and confident.
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We had around 20 people in all from Absolute head to LA.  Lachie and I stayed with black belt Michael Hourigan, Aaron Petersen and my amazing tiny training partner Chi Akiyama.

Chi and Nikki were first up and I knew just how ready they were. I get to train with both of them on daily basis and I had no doubt in my mind they were worthy of a gold medal. Both these women have improved out of sight and give me a pretty hard time in training.

Chi was up first, competing in rooster weight blue belt division. She absolutely dominated her way to the finals, sweeping, passing and submitting her 5 opponents. I have never seen anyone take on coaching and instruction as well as Chi did that day. I have a feeling I believed in Chi’s game more than she did herself and seeing her achieve so much put tears in my eyes every single time she fought. This was Chi’s first Worlds, her second international competition and only her 6th comp in total. Winning a silver medal is such a massive achievement, but this is where she belongs now – on top of podiums at worlds.

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Nikki followed Chi’s performance and submitted her way to the final. Her arm bars are the sharpest I have seen and she looked absolutely flawless. Nikki lost the final by an advantage, but in my opinion was the best fighter in her division. I’m so proud to call these girls my teammates.

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Everyone from Absolute fought great, and even though we didn’t achieve more medals, we are definitely coming. Everyone is winning more fights than the previous years and we are now in the mix. It’s a matter of time  until we climb our way to the podium.team

I wasn’t on until Saturday and all week I was just excited and couldn’t wait to step on the mats. I have found the perfect mix of nerves, adrenaline and happiness. I warmed up and took it all in. I absolutely thrive on the pressure I put on myself. I loved every single moment of being in the bull pen this year and felt confident, calm and ready to go. I so wanted a medal and I knew I was perfectly capable of it.

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My first round was Kristina Barlaan who is a seasoned competitor with a tricky guard and some beautiful omaplata set ups. Luckily for me, I love pressure passing, so it was always going to be an interesting match up. In the end, I lost the match by 2 points. I gave up 2 points when I rolled out of an omaplata, but then swept back for 2 points. After a few close passing attempts, Kristina attacked an omaplata again and transitioned to a toe hold from which I rolled out of bounds for and lost 2 points. This was a crucial mistake on my behalf as the sub wasn’t and I kept my leg straight. The last couple of minutes were me trying to desperately pass from a stacked position and then 50/50 where I tried to set up leg attacks, but nothing eventuated.

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I can honestly say I left everything on the mats that day. I didn’t do terribly, but I didn’t do the best I could either. Losing first round is never my aim… I have no doubt I belong on the podium and I know I will get there. My opponent was simply better than me and I need to improve in skill and strategy. And I will. The fire in my belly is lit and I am so motivated to have a better performance at the next Worlds.

It was a pleasure watching the rest of the Aussies compete, and especially my black belt teammates Lachlan Giles, Michael Hourigan and Kit Dale. Kit made it to the 1/4 finals, taking on Andre Galvao on the big stage on Sunday and putting on a hell of a fight.IMG_4659

2017 Worlds campaign came to an end. It’s the first time I have lost 1st round at the world titles and only the second time I have walked away without a medal. But I now know what is required of me and I will come back a million times better and stronger and I am more excited about that than I can really express.

I am so incredibly proud of my team this year, especially of Worlds silver medalist in Chi and Nikki. This is just the beginning for them and the BJJ world will hear their names many more times to come. I’m honoured to be their teammate.

I loved catching up with all my international friends during Worlds and spending quality time with some of my favourite people. IMG_4520 IMG_4664

Thank you to my sponsors MA1 Apparel for making this trip possible. I wouldn’t be here without my sponsors:

MA1 Apparel

Pony Grappling Gear

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