Category Archives: Real Men Empower Women

The student becomes the teacher.

As I keep blogging about my experiences with Jiu Jitsu, I began to realize the impact of writing my thoughts in specific.  I took this opportunity to extend this project into my Grade12 Yearbook class.

As I see in my own training on the mat, once we reflect and look back to where we started and what we have become….we obtain a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment.

These super intelligent students of mine and I have spent the last 4 months working tirelessly on the 2017 Yearbook – hoping it will be yet another award winningdwp-insert book (we have won 2 nation-wide achievement awards so far) – I asked them to
bare their souls, be brutally honest with their thoughts (according to them, I am a big meany ūüôā )¬† and in turn, they prepared these amazing blogs based on their experience of publishing a book in 5 main areas : Layout, Photography/Video, Journalism, People/Time Management – and a note to future yearbook staff.

(This year, I set up my classroom in a hierarchical structure.  We had one Editor-in-chief, one secretary, 5 leads (photography, creative, video, layouts and journalism), and everyone else received the title of minion.  None the less, they all had to help each other with all aspects of completing a yearbook.)

A very special blog written by the Editor-In-Chief – a message to the rest of the class

…..and the rest of the staff ….. ¬†fantastic work everyone!!yearbook

There is a lot of reading here but well worth it, so take your may even see one of them in lights one day in the future…

So proud of my chickadees for not giving up, even when every fibre in your being is screaming to.

These students have taught me that no matter what is going on outside of the walls of our school, like on the mat, once we all focus on a common goal – nothing can stop us.

We have become family – albeit a dysfunctional one – then again, who’s family isn’t?


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Sharing is Caring

october-05-2012-02-15-41-ygI was very nervous about sharing my journey with you.  Although I am not looking for validation from anyone, I am doing this for me; I also did not want to be shamed into stopping everything either.  It has been a very interesting experience and a real test of my confidence levels since I started making my blog public to my friends, family and strangers.

The responses have ranged from ‘this is great!‘, ‘you’re an inspiration‘, ‘keep it up‘ to ¬†……’what a joke this is‘, ‘you must have way too much time on your hands‘, ‘don’t you think you are a little old for this‘, ‘seems like you are a little too into yourself to think you are better than the rest of us‘.

The first set of responses obviously made me feel fantastic….the rest, a real test in controlling my emotions.

I wasn’t offended by the latter comments, but I’ll admit, my confidence levels took a bit of hit.

In a previous post, I stated why I started blogging. I am doing it for me.

But why am I sharing it?

Several reasons…

First – Staying Positive.

positiveBased on media clips lately, there is so much negativity out there..Trump, Meryl Streep, Ronda Rousey, Trudeau, just to name a few. ¬†I am so tired of the constant bashing from one group to another. ¬†Whatever their reasons for doing or saying what they have, it takes courage for them to go against the general population’s beliefs. ¬†Try to look at the positive in each negative situation, no matter what, there is always a silver lining to every situation (even if it’s a thin one)

Second – Talk the Talk, Walk the Talk.

Not everyone warms up to things as quickly as others.  By me sharing my fears and joys, maybe others will take a moment, see that they are not alone in their feelings and look inside themselves hopefully breaking through that barrier called fear.  I mention a lot about women empowering women, but please do not take this as I am all mighty feminist.  I am not.  These thoughts apply to all of us, regardless of gender, size, race or employment.

Third – It’s Important.

We announce weddings and funerals.  We announce wins and losses.

We scream from the mountain tops how proud we are of our kids, all those mommy and daddy proud moment Facebook posts.

We announce everything and anything that is important to us.

Jiu Jitsu has become very important to me.  It has rewarded me with self-confidence, empowerment, a new extended family, and a happy heart and soul.  I love how it has pushed so many of my triggers and Atos has provided a very safe environment for me to overcome them.

I read a post titled “What Are You Giving Back to Jiu Jitsu?

My contribution to Jiu Jitsu and the female community Рby publishing my blog, I hope to reach as many women as possible out there to show them that although Jiu Jitsu may seem crazy intimidating at first, it is totally worth giving it a chance.  #GirlPower

My contribution to my fellow Jiujiteiros Рto give you kudos for your patience and determination in helping me learn and practice my techniques to earn my stripes and not giving up on me just because I am a woman. #RealMenEmpo13000297_227613380933484_7811875103146990031_nwerWomen

My contribution to Pura Atos Hamilton – is to highlight the fantastically amazing
environment that Professor PJ, his training crew and all the practitioners who strive to better themselves everyday on and off the mat.  I cannot thank you enough for making me feel welcome at the same time, giving me the space I need to grow at my own pace. #TogetherWeAreStronger


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David & Goliath

As I look around my classroom, I am not unsympathetic to the anxiety that teens nowadays experience.  What I do have is an issue with how many expect things handed to them on a silver platter.  Few are willing to work for success anymore.

In a time where instant gratification is the norm, it is also difficult as an adult to learn patience, let alone perseverance and determination to not give up simply because something is difficult. ¬†It is so much easier to walk away when we don’t obtain what we want in the time frame that we want.

We find excuses.

We say we are smaller, bigger, missing limbs, not missing limbs, older in age, younger in age, out of shape, too much in shape Рwhatever our reason is Р we consider ourselves defeated.

We give up…

But we shouldn’t because when that one moment…the ‘aha’ moment, where all of a sudden all that hard work, the anxiety, the sore muscles (and joints for this old gal) when you know it was all worth it.

Last night we learned different mount techniques.  It is referred to as the King of all positions but what I learned the most was how to modify the positioning davidbased on my size.

Time to begin practicing the technique, I scan the room and see the men quickly scrambling to find their partners. ¬†I wasn’t quite sure why they were scrambling so quickly until my eyes laid upon my partner (6’2″ – 230lbs – all muscle) ….–> –> –> Gulp!!

I got this….I tighten my belt (which is starting to actually look half decent these days), pray that my pants don’t fall off – and an extra little prayer that I don’t end up being squashed..

Getting into position and I can’t stop laughing. ¬†The main objective is to get my knees both on the mat, while straddling his chest….both of them…at the same time….ya, that’s not happening.

harbour_sealStraightening my jacket, taking a deep breath, I try.  Nope. Impossible.

Let¬†me think. ¬† Jiu Jitsu is about learning techniques to defend yourself in real life situations. ¬†I need to learn how to position myself so that one knee is on the mat and my other foot is helping me find balance (thank you Coach Matt for the extra lesson). ¬†Feeling secure with my stance, I place my knee under his arm…ok, maybe it was a little more emphatic than that, I accidently kneed his ribs (he is really really tall).. poor guy, I’m pretty sure I was about to see that cheesecake he was boasting about eating just prior to class – cherry cheesecake for those who really need to know. ¬†(My brand new Gi was potentially going to be the victim of a full on projectile if I wasn’t careful with my knee placement)

After a few very awkward moments, I’m starting to get the hang of this. ¬†Grab his arm, pull down (long arms resulted in my head getting smacked – keep going Yolanda, you can flip him), lock my leg around his ankle (where the heck is his ankle???!! Seriously? ¬†How am I supposed to flip if I can’t even reach?)



My head is spinning, I’m not sure where my hands are supposed to be that don’t cause¬†my embarassment to the max…when this giant of a man now on his back says, “That was all you.”


I request clarification….fullhouse-thumb-290x238-255433

Did I actually flip him without his help?

YESSSSS!!!!!  Success..

With every part of my body spasming due to my flipping this Goliath, I smile…because now I feel like Superwoman.

And now…again…keep practicing. ¬†Flip. Flip. Roll. Spasm. Ignore. Flip…can’t breath….need water.

The class continues, he keeps picking me as a partner- drilling and sparing. ¬†Change partners, do it all over, again and again….it’s all about developing muscle memory….

Until I can no longer feel my muscles.  (I am pretty sure I just learned what gassing out feels like.)

superwoman_234_by_rogelioroman_by_the_darcsyde-d5wq80fOne thing I experienced for sure, these gentlemen warriors made me feel like I was on top of the world. ¬†That I can do this…the first stripe on my belt might actually be obtainable before I turn 80 years old.

Thank you so much Eric, Chris and Sebastian along with the rest of the male folk this evening at Pura Atos Hamilton for making me work for it, teaching me perseverance and that yes, there are good men out there who are willing to teach a woman how to fight back in a real life survival situation while not being egotistical about it.

You guys rock!


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Girls just wanna have fun!

I love how Cyndi Lauper twists her dad’s arm behind him because whether it is a girl going out dancing or rolling around on the mat, truth is…Girls just wanna have fun!

Last night was an amazing class learning sweeps but most of all, it was the first time that as I lost control of my leg, I immediately realized that I made a mistake and instantly knew I was about to lose the spar. ¬†Just as quickly, I felt my opponent’s arm swipe right under my chin putting me in a rear naked choke hold.

How awesome was that?! ¬†I was so proud of both of us – me for recognizing my mistake and knowing I was going down…her because she caught it and knew how to take me down. (Now I have to learn how to escape this hold) Way to go Shari!! ¬†We got this!!

Best of all, my baby girl caught it all on film….

Watch how in a few brief moments, all these fears, frustrations, anxiety and learning since we started 4 months ago….all come to me tapping out fast all the while us smiling.

Enjoy!! ¬†We definitely did…



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A day of firsts..

First class32698-just-take-the-first-step-506x300 of 2017.

First time going to a day class.

First time going to a beginner/adult combination class.

First time meeting yet another whole group of grapplers.

First time I felt no intimidation walking onto the mat!!  (Yay me!)

Best of all, first time I actually felt the challenge to want to earn my first stripe.

All thanks to the lovely ladies I met today. They made me feel so much a part of the family but so do all the other members of Atos.  What set these ladies apart was how in one swift second they made me feel like I could actually master this thing called Jiu Jitsu.

As a white belt, I am not allowed to go to any other classes except the beginner classes until I have earned my first stripe.  There is this tremendous calmness in my mind after spending an hour on the mat,  I am in no rush for anything more.

Walking into the studio today, I was immediately welcomed as if they knew me from before. Instantly any trepidation that I might have felt, disappeared. ¬†I didn’t even have time to think about my fear.

Now it’s time for me to get my Gi on..I run into the change room and throw it all on. ¬†Can you believe it only took me a minute to get ready? ¬†And….I remembered to tie the knot of my pants on the side instead of the front.

Uhhmmm….wait a minute….

…am I actually dressed, belt looped properly, pants staying on, hair in a proper knot, no jewelry …on the mat ready to learn – and my heart is not palpitating at a bajillion beats per second????? ¬†Is it possible that this is another first?! ¬†Yep….I am good. ¬†In control. ¬†I can do this…

Time to find partners to practice drilling – I think I will go find one of the ladies….


Professor Riccardo partners me up with a black belt.  Yes, you read correctly.  A black belt.


How close am I to the door? Can I make a run for it?

This gentleman turns, smiles at me and says….are you ready?

What is going on with me today??!! ¬†My response to him was….yes! ¬†¬†(Here I am – practicing today’s new drill – learning how to grip.)

Professor P***l (I’ve learned that Black belts are referred to as Professor)¬†was great. ¬†We both practiced what we learned today. ¬†I noticed that even though he is a black belt and I a white – he too was (re-)learning new things. ¬†Then¬†we talked about the sport of Jiu Jitsu and how it is a gentle sport. ¬†As we were practicing these moves and I was spending more time on just trying to remember all the techniques, he commented on that he felt that chess_30759people who took Jiu Jitsu are really smart because of the constant thinking required with every move (he wasn’t saying that others who do different things are not but that Jiu Jitsu is like a game of strategy, you have to try and figure out your opponent’s next move so as not to get caught in his or her hold.)

I am in his closed guard and trying to…. (truth is I don’t even know what I was doing) …

Woah!!! Did he just say that people who are drawn to Jiu Jitsu are smart?  Does that include me??? Does that make me smart too Рam I not in a Gi practicing drills?!?

With a smile across my face, I focused even harder.

Class is over, I am elated just by watching the higher belts roll and master their moves.  They are laughing and smiling, their energy is contagious.  I am sitting on the sidelines when it dawns on me that for the first time, I actually want to get in on that action.

I feel like that awkward teenage girl sitting on the sidelines of the dance floor and no one is asking me to dance.  I giggle to myself.  Realizing that I have just broken a level of my fears РI am no longer content with simply watching Рnow I want to be one of them.

What a great class today.

Off to change and without a missed beat, the ladies whom I have now known for a total of 20 seconds, make me feel like a million bucks.  They want me to join them in the adult classes but I quickly remind them I can only go to the beginners one.

They didn’t even flinch. ¬†With all confidence, they told me it won’t take me long –¬†15871223_10210083757104998_1985816496_n

Now…they have given me an injection of empowerment and I no longer ‘think’ I can do this but ‘know’ I can.

This is how you ladies made me feel today. ¬†Thank you for being such a tremendous support…see you on the mat tomorrow!



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Women empowering women…

The one thing I am finding it difficult to locate are Jiu Jitsu technique resources that include women who are in their 40s and up.  I did however find this very inspiring page of women who changed the look of Jiu Jitsu Рthank you for posting this.

63593256011014856976459976_cover-photoIt is true, Jiu Jitsu is a male dominated arena but weren’t so many other arenas also solely male dominated at one point?

As I enter the year 2017, I did a little historical background on women who broke the mold.

The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., Chief Justice of Canada
 Рis the first woman to hold the position of Chief Justice of Canada and the longest serving Chief  Justice of Canada in history.


Viola Desmond Рthe first woman to be gracing the face of our Canadian bill, thriving entrepreneur and defender of human rights and social justice


Ronda Rousey – first woman to break the glass ceiling in MMA,¬† earned olympic medal status in Judo and is currently the former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion – all under the age of 30. ¬†A survivor of domestic violence, you should read her massive list of accomplishments, instead of allowing the media to focus on her last UFC fight loss.


Madame C.J. Walker Рfirst black american female self-made millionaire as a hairdresser. (She is definitely my idol!)  As an entrepreneur,  she has led the way for what the hair industry looks like today.


Valentina Tereshkova Рfirst woman in space;  Manon Rhéaume Рfirst woman in NHL; Hedy Lamarr Рinvented the original hopping technology theory now known as bluetooth; Stephanie Louise Kwolek Рdiscovered  liquid crystalline polymers, which resulted in the product Kevlar; Mary Anderson Рinvented the windshield wiper


There are also some very empowered women that are not listed in Wikipedia and they rzwould be my amazingly strong girlfriends. ¬†Amongst them a medical technologist who runs 15-20kms almost everyday, a vice principal who earned brown belt in Judo, a nurse whose leg has been amputated and is waiting for it to heal so she can go back to Jiu Jitsu, ¬†a stay-at-home mom who has a tumor in her brain but doesn’t give up, ¬†a high school hospitality teacher who trains in Circus Aerobics, my mom who fought cancer for 17 years lived life to the fullest until the end and so many more, a very long list to name individually but definitely not forgotten.

These are the women who give me the most strength. ¬†Women who don’t judge me for my sins. ¬†Will put me in my place if my bullsh*t gets out of hand. Who raise my spirits in a glass with ice & lemon slices, will hold my hair when too many spirits have been ingested.

But never once will these amazing women ever crush my will to strive to advance myself.

These are the types of women I¬†look up to….especially¬†in those moments that I feel defeated.

My way of making it through life is all fire and spit – not always by choice and most often¬†exhausting¬†but how else can I move ahead especially when I have a set of young eyes that watches my every move. ¬†If I stop striving to be better each day, then don’t I teach my daughter that it is ok to just give up?

So ladies, it matters not what your walk of life is or what your choice of training shoes are….always strive to be better than you were yesterday. ¬†Never let anyone tell you that just because you are a woman that you can not do something.

I was not raised that way – remember wanting to go to university so badly because I wanted to be an interpreter50s-housewife¬†– i was 16 and able to easily speak 5 different languages without formal study but being told that girls don’t go to university. ¬†That it is a man’s priority to become educated so that he can care for his family. ¬†Women get married, stay home and learn to cook, clean, iron, sew, raise babies….I learned it and I am proud that I know how – it is simply not what defines who I am.

Don’t get me wrong. ¬†I don’t blame my parents for this way of thinking. ¬†I blame society.

Now I speak out. ¬†I tell my daughter, my students and any adult that listens….go out there and conquer what scares you most. ¬†Achieve everything you have been told you could never achieve – female or male, young or old, ¬†never let anyone make you feel less than what you are…ever.

On that note, I am going to keep searching for videos that include women rolling in Jiu Jitsu and if I cannot find them, I’ll bet I can find women that will help me record them so we can post them. Pura Atos Hamilton is very inclusive of women, men and children in their programs. ¬†I am sure they would love to help women empower women.

Thank you Pura for introducing Jiu Jitsu to me and providing an arena where I can succeed.


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What exactly is a Gi?

My friends are such sweethearts. ¬†They have been reading along through my posts and when they come over, they see my Gi (pronounced Gee ) on the drying rack, the list of techniques on my fridge door and they smile. ¬†“You have really taken to Jiu Jitsu, haven’t you Yolanda?”

My soul brightens up a little more….responding with a very calm and serene…Yes.

My students, my friends Рthey have noticed a change in me.  Some have gone so far as to say that they have noticed a small weight loss (my scale says otherwise unfortunately) but most have told me the same thing.  How much calmer I am these days.

So now my friends are curious showing additional support in my journey and they want to learn more. ¬†Hence the current question and one that inspired me to write an entire post on…what exactly is a Gi?

I know I had no idea the first time I heard that I had to wear one if I wanted to get into Jiu Jitsu more seriously.

My first thought was whether or not they had a size big enough for me – would it even fit in all the right places?!?

I remember how nervous with excitement I was when I purchased it.  I was actually shaking.  There were some men in the room, all wearing theirs, they looked like they had just finished a training session.

Professor PJ handed mine from the back room, I didn’t even get to choose my own. ¬†Coach Joel told me to quickly try it on, you can read about that whole experience if you wish.

Not having had a chance to wash it prior to training, I put it on right out of the bag. ¬†BIG MISTAKE! ¬†I couldn’t stand the smell of it. ¬†I felt sooooo uncomfortable, it was stiff, the belt would not keep looped….all in all, I hated it.

But I had to wear it…3 weeks later, I love it. ¬†It has become a garment that makes me feel empowered.




But what is it about this garment that we have to wear them? Let’s see what my research brings up:

According to Wikipedia: Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi I can wear a patch so long as it is in the designated areas Рjust not sure if it can be a cancer ribbon or if it must be something directly related to BJJ.

Why is it called a Gi and not a Kimono?¬† – “The word ‚Äúgi‚ÄĚ derives from ‚Äúkeikogi‚ÄĚ which means training gear.”

The JiuJitsuBrotherhood web site offers this article to help you choose your next Gi.

A Gi is not cheap Рthey range anywhere from $100 -$200 depending on the fabric type and the quality of the material.  So be sure to take care of your Gi.

A beginners guide is offered by BJJSports. ¬†I learned by experience why you need to wear a Gi and/or rash gear – when I ended up with about a 3-inch bruise on my arm. ¬†I didn’t even get hit, it simply happened because I was sweating and my opponent’s finger slide off my arm. ¬†Gotta say though, I was pretty proud of my very first bruise. ¬†I think I showed every one of my friends thereby¬†solidifying their¬†thoughts that I may be entering senility. ¬†

I have learned that there is a training etiquette – which I see in play on the mat but I didn’t quite understand.

The holy grail!!!  I think I have just come across one extremely informative website for White Belts!!

Hands with teacupOk…I see I have a lot of reading ahead of me now….

Hopefully I have provided at least one thing that you can learn from, if I did, then it was worth waking up this morning. ¬†If not, read on – I’m sure you will find something.


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Mi casa es su casa.
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The little engine that could…
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