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3.5.2017. Black Belt.

black belt , friends , grading , Jiu Jitsu , team • May 14, 2017

3.5.2017. The day I received by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt from Lachlan Giles and Thiago Stefanutti.

I’ve now had a week to gather my thoughts and it all still doesn’t seem real. Looking down at my waist still shocks me every single time and I can’t quite get used to it. My grading was a complete surprise and credit to Lachie for keeping it under wraps and making sure not one person spoilt it for me.

I usually arrive at training on Wednesdays 10 minutes late as I finish work at the same time as training starts. I remember feeling particularly tired and a bit ill because I just scoffed 2 pieces of chocolate cake before I ran to class. I bumped into our head coach Thiago in the stairwell and thought it was a little odd that he would visit us on a Wednesday, but I knew he just had a meeting with some of our coaches and may have been in the area. When I walked up to reception our manager Dan was there, which was also unusual, but then I remembered that he was going to drop off the defibrillator we needed at the gym. The mats were packed, but even when people started clapping as I walked in, I still didn’t get it. For a second I thought it was Thiago’s birthday and I forgot it, so I joined in with the clapping like a total idiot. It wasn’t until there were a couple of cameras in my face and Lachie told me to hurry up and get changed that it all clicked… All these people were there for me. As I looked around the room and saw many familiar faces that have been a part of my journey through white belt till now, I got a little teary, but feared my teammate Hannah slapping me across the face for crying, so I didn’t. Instead I got myself ready to roll – 2 hours worth of 2 minute rounds.


I sparred with all the girls first and it was joyous and fun. Everyone was just happy and the rolls were light and enjoyable. I can’t highlight enough what the BJJ women in my life mean to me, and especially my Jits n Tits crew who have been a massive part of my life for the last 2 years or so. It’s an absolute honour to teach and learn from these ladies every day. They are my best training partners and my best friends. Next, I rolled with all the brown and black belts.  I will never be able to express my thanks to all the black belts that came on the night from near and far. You have all been my inspiration for many years and guided me in my own journey and BJJ development. I am so humbled to stand amongst you as a fresh new black belt noob. Again, everyone looked after me knowing that I have some very important competitions coming up and let me showcase my skills as we celebrated together. I finished my rolls with Thiago, then finally Lachie and the 2 hrs flew by.  I have never enjoyed myself more rolling.

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As Lachie and Thiago made speeches, I looked around the room which was full of the most important people to me in my life. I was so moved that so many took the night out of their own schedules to come and support me. There were 80 of my teammates, friends, coaches and even my parents. Believe it or not, I was a little lost for words when it was my time to make a speech and there is so much more I wanted to say.
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In the last 2 years or so I noticed a massive shift within myself where belts had less and less motivation to me. In the end, I just love training and learning each day. Whether I’m wearing a purple or a black belt will never change that. I simply love being on the mats every day with my mates as I try to better myself at this sport and as a person. This is why it took me by surprise at how amazing if felt to receive my belt from my coaches, who’s opinions I value extremely highly.

Of course credit must be given, where credit is due. Thank you to:

Lachie Giles – Thanks for being my coach, teacher, business partner and someone I get to share my life with. You have to play many roles and you play them all wonderfully. Without you, I would never even be here. Thank you for helping me fall in love with BJJ, the game and the constant puzzle and for always being honest but kind with your (much needed) critique. Your coaching is second to none and your patience has been tested many times with me. In the end though I have never had so much fun as we’ve had in the last 7 years and it’s still only the beginning.


Dan Shaw – my first BJJ coach who instilled the importance of technique and detail in my brain since the very beginning. Dan believed in me way before I would believe in myself and I will be forever grateful.

Thiago Stefanutti – You were there since my early blue belt days and have had a massive influence on my BJJ. Thank you for being my coach and a good friend. I have learnt so much from you as an athlete and even more importantly as person. Thank you for always being there and for always having my back.


Jits’nTits – I didn’t always have the luxury of training with other women. My white and blue belt days were tough and it has always been a struggle to find appropriate training partners. Now I have a group of extremely talented ladies to train with every day who give me some of my hardest rolls. You are technical and far more superior than myself as a blue or a purple belt. However, what I treasure most is the friendships we have formed. I love each and every one of you and you give me more than you know. From training together to eating, baking, swearing like there is no tomorrow and travelling the world, I could not think of a better group of women to have by my side and share 4 hrs a day with.

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Teammates – You can never do this sport alone and I am so grateful to have you smash me day in day out. It’s easy to improve when you are never the best person in the gym. It’s a privilege to share the mats with each one of you.

Parents – Last but not least. My parents have always supported my journey emotionally and financially and never ask for anything in return. Even though I know it’s not always fun watching your daughter fight and cut weight and you are still convinced I get kicked in the head, I appreciate your unconditional love from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for your wisdom and advice and encouraging me to continue with this life, which I absolutely adore. Love you.

I am so damn excited for new challenges ahead. My first go at a black belt competition will be the World Championships…no biggie. But I have looked forward to this point for a long time and can’t wait to test myself against the best. I will be fighting the people I have looked up to for a long time and I know that this is where my journey really begins.

So for now, it’s back to training to work on all my mistakes and continue to enjoy every single minute spent on the mats. I consider myself lucky to be able live the life I’ve created.

I love this sport for so many reasons, but perhaps what I love the most is being a part of this incredible community. Thank you to each and every one of you for being a part it and for sharing some of my life’s best moments.

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Abu Dhabi World Pro 2017

competition , friends , Jiu Jitsu , team • Apr 25, 2017
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My Abu Dhabi Pro adventure began by being invited to Abu Dhabi by the Pony Grappling Club. From admiring their gear from afar to starting a conversation on social media, to being welcomed into their home and lives, I could not be any more grateful.  Reem and Cassielivgr8

are some of the kindest people I have ever known and I already have separation anxiety as I sit on the plane back to Australia.

I was joined by my teammate and training partner Sarah, an amazing blue belt who inspires me every day with her work ethic and her seemingly innocent jokes. I am fortunate to share some awesome adventures and moments all over the world with Sarah, a trend that will hopefully continue for years to come. Erin Here, a fellow badass brown belt joined us in Abu Dhabi and it’s safe to say she made the trip fun and real and full of belly laughs  – the sort that left us rolling on the floor for hours. Margot completed the crazy pack of women, and as always I enjoy her wizard-level BJJ knowledge and the serenading singing.

We arrived a few days before the competition began and went straight to training at Cobra’s, as we all had about 2 kgs to lose in order to make weight. I chose to do the 49kg division, which was a little more achievable than at Worlds as the weigh in was a day before. With a diet plan from Reid Reale of Combat Sports Nutrition and mental support from the girls, I had a much easier time cutting weight this time around and did not lose my mind entirely. The hardest part was probably refusing all the delicious food in business class at Etihad, as it was the first and perhaps the only time in my life I will not fly cattle class. The start of the week saw us all running around the streets of Abu Dhabi in our sweat suits, which seemed so usual at the time, but in fact was not very normal at all.

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For the days before the comp we drilled and rolled with the of the Aussie team and athletes from the rest of the world in various hotels including a newly set up ‘dome’ at the Armed Officers Club.  It was nice to be reunited with Lachie to brain storm last minute strategy, flow roll and just enjoy jiu jitsu without everyday stresses back in Melbourne.

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Margot and Sarah were up first and although they fought really well and showed some really high level technical BJJ, they didn’t win. I am so excited to see them smash their next goals – I am continuously impressed by both of them and I can safely say they are a much better blue and purple belts than I ever was. Demi won a silver medal in the 90kg purple belt division, which was amazing but not at all unexpected.

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Erin was a ‘victim’ of the new 2 per country rule and had to fight in the country qualifiers. She was very impressive in her fights against Tammi Musumeci, but unfortunately did not go through to the main draw.

Friday saw myself, Lachie and Kit Dale from Absolute take the centre stage as well as all the other Aussies such as Jess Fraser and Lee Ting. Although there were 7 women in my division, it included 4 Brazilians, which means after the country qualifiers there were 5 of us in the main draw. I was so excited to new new rules because a 5 person division meant we had a round robin so that everyone fought everyone. I think this was the most fair way to determine the top 3 and I finally got to have more than 2 fights with people my own size. The only downfall was that our medals were determined on Friday and we did not take the big stage on Saturday for brown/black belt finals.

Although my water cut took a little bit out of me, I woke up feeling great. Reem made me a delicious breakfast and the girls kept the mood light and I kept laughing all the way to the IPIC Arena. I love getting to the warm up area of the competition. That’s when my nerves start to leave me and I get excited because it’s finally where I’m meant to be – on the mats doing BJJ.  Last year I was a 4 month brown belt, competing for the first time in a brown/black division and fighting my idols. I was thrilled, but star struck to be warming up and sharing the mats with the people I look up to. But this year everything felt very different. I felt like I belonged. I wasn’t there to participate, I was there to fight for a medal. Fighting black belts no longer bothered me, in fact nothing really did. Time changes and mat changes and possible uniform changes meant nothing. I have gotten good at accepting whatever I can’t control, including my emotions.

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As I stood on the side of the mats waiting for the ref to call us, I felt proud. Lachie, Jess and I were all on at the same time. I had friends in the audience and I was going to enjoy every second of my competition. I was conscious to slow myself down a little bit and be smart. At the ADCC trials in Japan, I went 100 miles an hour, rushed some decisions and didn’t perform to my ability. I was determined not to repeat the same mistake.

My first match was a repeat of last years Worlds final. This time I managed to pass and choke from the back. My second fight saw me pass a couple of times and execute Lachie’s cross-face choke from mount. Third fight was Rikako. We double guard pulled and I had a tight footlock, which in the end went nowhere. I came up and started to feel out Rikako’s spider guard, but just when I started to feel confident, Rikako set up a nice triangle which I pretty much saw happen in slow motion. It was tight and I had to tap. I met Mayssa Bastos in 4th round. We double guard pulled, then Mayssa came up.  I made a small mistake and got passed in the first 15 seconds… hard to come back from in a 6 minute fight. I managed to recover guard to single-x and sweep. However with 1 point down and 2 minutes to go I was unable to pass.

Photo @ UAEJJ

Photo @ UAEJJ

Photo @ UAEJJ

Photo @ UAEJJ

Photo @ UAEJJ

Photo @ UAEJJ

passing rikako win

Final tally of wins and losses saw Mayssa take gold, Rikako silver and myself bronze. Although I am not really satisfied with the result and would like the medal to be a different colour, I took so much out of this competition. I was so happy with my mental preparation and controlling my nerves that I enjoyed every second out there. I executed some things I have been working hard in training such us over under passes, smash passes and pressure passes. I haven’t played top game in a comp for a while but I felt very confident there. I will need to watch my videos and closely analyse my mistakes and do much better at Worlds. However I finally feel like I belong. I was very proud to claim a medal at brown/black division and to do so as a brown belt felt even more special. Sometimes I need to remember to take a step back and get some perspective on my performances and to be proud, but never settle.

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Watching Lachie fight his way through repacharge and earn 5th place in the stacked 77kg division was inspiring. He is so close to a medal and I have no doubt he will earn his spot on the podium soon. Jess Fraser made it through repacharge to the bronze medal fight and managed to win it. It is hard to describe how happy I was for her.  It was so special to share the day and some happy tears with Jess and to line up amongst the best in the world to receive our medals as first Australian females in the brown/black division. Success is becoming the norm and this is just the beginning.

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I got to spend the rest of my time in Abu Dhabi with Lachie and surrounded by friends from home and all over the world. We tasted local cuisine, drank camel milk, went 4 wheel driving on the dunes and rode a vey unhappy camel called Shane. Having my ‘girl pack’ there with me meant the world to me and made this journey so incredibly fun. I am forever grateful to Reem and Cassie of Pony Grappling Club, Sarah, Erin and Margot for sharing my crazy for the week.

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Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my sponsors who made this trip possible:

Pony Grappling Gear

MA1 Apparel



Mum and Dad

I can’t wait to get back on the mats. It is now full steam ahead for ADCC Trials and Worlds!

Crazies Dancing


Copa Podio feels…

competition , injury , Jiu Jitsu • Nov 13, 2016

I have written about my whirlwind trip to Brazil to compete at Copa Podio for FloGrappling, which you can read here.

I thought I would elaborate on the behind the scenes stuff as well as my emotions and all the mental prep in the lead up to the fight.

When I got the call up for Copa Podio, it came as a big surprise. In fact a few months ago some ladies from Australia were meant to have a competition to select the ‘Kangaroos’ female representative. The competition was supposed to be between myself, 2 of my teammates, 1 training partner and a purple belt, with us all ranging in weight between 50 and 85kgs. None of this made sense, so I’m glad it never went ahead!

In the end my Absolute MMA teammate Maryanne Mullahy was selected to fight Ida Floisvik, but for some reason their fight got moved to January 2017, so in came Emilia Tuukkanen of Finland and I. I was given 4 weeks notice and really wasn’t looking forward to asking my work for more time off for BJJ, especially when I have already planned to go to No Gi Worlds in November and have just come back from Asian Open in Japan. Fortunately my work is wonderful and cleared my schedule straight away.


As exciting as it felt to be selected to compete on such a big stage, it felt heavy with responsibility and no amount of reassurance from anyone else helped me feel any different. It’s one thing competing at the Worlds at the same time as 7 other matches, but another to fight in front of audience, live broadcast on Brazilian TV and a live stream across the world. I wanted to put on a show and make sure I did a good job representing myself, my club and my country. To ease the burden  I jumped deep into preparations where I left no stone unturned. I needed to be aware of Emilia’s game, so Lachie and I studied it together. We then shifted focus to my BJJ including my strengths and weaknesses.

Just when I started to feel confident, I tore my ACL during competition rounds. It hurt as it popped, but I was mainly crying from realising what I have just done to myself. ACL reconstruction means surgery, 12 months of rehab, a hamstring graft, time off work and added expense. In an instant I thought my dreams of competing at Copa Podio and No Gi Worlds were shattered. I had a goal of winning two brown belt World Titles in one year and I was fairly certain that wasn’t going to happen.


I was in denial for a little while because after 3-4 days my knee felt pretty good. Even when I was getting my knee examined at the sports doctor’s surgery, I still hoped that the MRI wasn’t correct and my ACL was intact, which of course was not the case. When my physician advised me that if I could jump, squat and change directions without a problem I could possibly go to Brazil, I was shocked. However I needed to give myself a week to make a decision based on how my knee would handle drilling and heavier weights. I also had an Australian competitor as a replacement ready to take my place if needed be, which was a very tough conversation for me to have.


With two weeks to go I drilled and specific trained and my knee was ok. It didn’t feel right, but with changing my game I had a feeling I would be just fine. In my final week at home, I had a few panic attacks. First one happened when Lachie called me out to do our usual Wednesday night competition rounds. I started shaking, was pretty close to tears and literally wanted to run out of the gym. However, the deal was that if I couldn’t get through that at training, I wouldn’t go to Brazil. So I took a deep breath and tapped hands. I survived, felt good and my knee didn’t combust. My knee only ‘gave way’ during my one and only team competition training before I left. It made me feel sick to the bone, but at least I knew which positions I needed to avoid when fighting. During the final few days, I still wanted nothing to do with leg locks, so of course Lachie and the boys specific trained with me all scenarios imaginable where I could get knee barred, ankle locked or toe holded. There were many panic taps and a lot of fear but by the time I boarded the plane I was very confident in my defences.

I will be forever thankful for the help from my teammates who pushed me to my limit without injuring me further, the constant encouragement from Lachie and my sports psych Anthony, who always tells me like it is and provides me with the tools to get my mental well-being just right.


@ Hannah Gorman

@ Hannah Gorman



I had a lot of time to think on my 40 hour journey to Brazil and came to the realization that the enormous pressure I was feeling is a total privilege of an emotion. I felt grateful that I had the opportunity to do what I was doing, with so many people behind me. It took an incredible amount of courage to get myself ready mentally and physically.

During media day when I was giving an interview, it occurred to me that I perform best under pressure. I have been on big stages before, not only in BJJ, but also when I raced bikes on the velodrome in front of thousands of people and as a rhythmic gymnast as I learnt to perform around the world from the age of 7. I have competed with serious injuries and fought in 4 World Championships finals. This was my playground.image

@ FloGrappling

@ FloGrappling

The day before Copa Podio, I went to visit my second family at Alliance Sao Paulo whom I have missed so much. Michael Langhi, who is my BJJ idol, would be coaching in my corner and even volunteered to study my opponent’s game. Together we formulated a game plan for my fight. I was there when Michael tore his ACL 2 months before Mundials, so his words of advice and encouragement were comforting and meant the world to me.


During the weigh-ins I looked around me and realised what an honour it was to be there. I was surrounded with world’s best heavy weights and people I have looked up to since I was a white belt. Now I was going to be fighting amongst them, on the same show. Right there and then I made a decision to do this for myself and forget everyone else watching me.

@ FloGrappling

@ FloGrappling

@ FloGrappling

@ FloGrappling

@ FloGrappling

@ FloGrappling

I woke up early due to jet lag, but I didn’t really care how I was feeling. I had no doubt in my mind that my fatigue and knee pain would be forgotten as soon as stepped on the stage. We got to the venue 7 hours before I was due to compete and I even managed a nap an hour before my fight. However as soon as I put my headphones on, it was game on. If I wanted to win, I needed to keep my focus for the entire 8 minutes.imageimageimage

Walking out on the mat holding Australian flag was a feeling I won’t forget in a hurry. I enjoyed every second. We tapped hands and it was finally time. I pulled guard quickly and as per Michael’s instructions played spider guard. I desperately wanted a sub, but couldn’t quite get there. I had many opportunities to come up for a sweep which I didn’t take because my knee wouldn’t handle more than a couple of minutes on top and there was no way I could risk it giving way on me during the fight. I eventually managed to sweep, but just when I tried to settle into my passing rhythm, I found myself in an arm bar. It was never really on, but as soon as I managed to get out of it, Emilia was attacking my leg. I quietly thanked Lachie for trying to rip my legs off every day from that exact position. I was able to get into a smash pass position and nearly get the pass, but Emilia turtled. I am not quite sure why I let go of the harness and went back to guard, but I think I freaked out because of possible leg attacks. I still cringe when I watch all the mistakes I make in the final 2 minutes of the fight. Although I wasn’t the most happy with my jiu jitsu that night, I was very proud of myself for doing what I had to to win, for changing my game and for not losing the plot entirely with stress.

When I finally heard the bell to signify the end of the match, I was flooded with relief. I stayed safe. My knee was a little sore, but it was ok. I was ridiculously happy that I won. 


@ Copa Podio

@ Copa Podio

@ Copa Podio

@ Copa Podio

@ Copa Podio


@ Copa Podio

@ Copa Podio

@ Copa Podio

Absolute MMA - my team's support is second to none

Absolute MMA – my team’s support is second to none

Straight after walking off the mat, Emilia and I high-fived and congratulated each other on leaving it all on the mats and putting on a good show. Emilia is a lovely human with beautiful BJJ and I was so glad to be sharing those moments with her.

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We finished the night off with some well deserved drinks and it was a pleasure having a laugh with our competitors. Emilia, Ben, Tommy and I caught a few rays of sunshine the next day lazing by the pool and eating acai. It was the perfect ending to my short time in Sao Paulo!

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I made the heart breaking decision to sit out of No Gi Worlds and get my knee well enough to handle the 2017 season. My year of competition comes to an end now and I am back at the gym learning new skills, developing a new game and getting bloody strong. My knee is holding up sometimes, but also gives me a lot of trouble if I get ahead of myself and revert back to playing my normal style of passing. It’s scary and upsetting, but I am really looking forward to turning it into a positive and expanding my BJJ like never before.

Bring on 2017!