Becoming a Black Belt… One Match at a Time
By Debbie Micev 2L
On September 9, 2012, I competed and placed first in the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) American Nationals tournament as a Feather weight (116-130lbs). IBJJF is like the NFL or FIFA of Jiu Jitsu. The tournament took place in Long Beach and I was coached by my longtime friend and Thomas Jefferson Alum Lennie Alzate '10. She is a blue belt and my training partner. This event was very significant in my life because it was my first real win. I have been kickboxing for about four years and I always faced an uphill battle in the ring with more experienced opponents. A few weeks after this event, I also placed first in another Jiu Jitsu tournament called Grappling X.
First, I must describe the two different versions of BJJ in which I compete in: Gi and No gi. This refers to the Kimono, similar to what people see in Karate schools, only thicker because it's used for grappling. The No Gi events are much harder because opponents are slippery with the combination of sweat and spandex. When competing with the Gi, the match is a bit slower and you have thick cloth to grab and use against your opponent. I first started competing in No Gi and then I bought a Gi. I hated training with the Gi on because I train with mostly men and once they clutched on, I had no idea what to do. But I forced myself to go every day because I promised myself I wouldn't give up on something just because it was hard. Even more importantly, at the time I started training in Jiu Jitsu I was suffering from a lot of personal problems. I was extremely depressed, but training in the morning and the evening gave me a sense of purpose and direction as well as the necessary endorphins to combat my depression.
I apply the skills I learn on the mat in school as well. When I am faced with a challenging subject, I remain calm and apply a consistent strategy to exams. And if I don't do so well, I let go and move forward.
A typical BJJ lesson begins with a warm-up, then a series of moves which we drill. After that, it's an open mat where we "roll" (our equivalent of sparring) and the goal is to apply the moves we just learned.
Between law school and Jiu Jitsu, the focus of my daily life is application. I have really grown to love BJJ and I am pursuing a Black Belt, which should take about 10 years if I compete with this level of consistency. As a feather and light feather competitor, I have yet to see a small Black Belt. Perhaps they exist somewhere; I just haven't come across any. I would like to be that woman and be an inspiration for other women and young girls to show them that you can be a good fighter against even the greatest opponent - which, more often than not, is yourself.