Averi Clements


One of the most commonly used phrases in jiu-jitsu is, “Leave your ego at the door.” You don’t need to spend a ton of time on the mats to understand why, either. An overabundance of ego can lead to injuries from refusing to tap. At a minimum, it can lead to intense feelings of discouragement when you don’t achieve the results you want in the gym or at competitions. 

Over the weekend, Elisabeth Clay took home double gold at the 2021 IBJJF No-Gi Pans Championship. First submitting Bridget McEliece to win gold at medium-heavyweight, Clay then moved on to the absolute division and submitted all of her opponents on the way to the finals. She finally won by armbar against Kendall Reusing to win open weight gold, marking her sixth submission in as many matches for the day.

No matter how much you love BJJ, having the occasional “bad” jiu-jitsu class is inevitable. Sometimes, you might feel like it was a bad training session because everyone tapped you, and you tapped no one. Other times, you may have felt like it was impossible to understand the technique being taught like you were a day-one white belt all over again who didn’t know an armbar from a kimura. Maybe you suffered ten minor injuries — just enough to throw you off and make you cranky — or one big injury that will keep you off the mats for a few months. Perhaps you can’t pinpoint what went wrong, and it just felt like you weren’t performing at your best.

Some people sign up for BJJ because they were wrestling or judo champions in high school and want to continue their combat sports careers into adulthood. Others have no martial arts experience at all but are athletic and competitive enough to feel comfortably challenged right from their first class. These people tend to fit right in with the other students, happy to partner up with anyone who looks in their direction and at ease with the idea that they’ll get better eventually, even if they’re struggling at the beginning.

As much as we’d all like to be able to absorb new BJJ techniques and tips like a gi absorbs sweat, jiu-jitsu is a challenging sport to learn. It’s no wonder that, even after spending so much time in the gym learning from their own coach, so many students then go home and go over what they learned in their head, look up follow-up techniques on YouTube, or spend significant cash on DVDs from some of the top athletes and coaches in the world to try to take their game to the next level.

Jiu-jitsu is a specialized sport, and as such, it’s expected that you’d have to wear a (somewhat) specialized uniform when you train. For most academies, uniform rules are based primarily on health, safety, and practicality – a rashguard and spats/shorts for no-gi, and a properly fitted gi for gi class. Always clean. No buttons, zippers, or pockets. Easy enough, right?

There are plenty of reasons to start training Brazilian jiu-jitsu, from the exercise benefits to the mental health benefits to the practical self-defense benefits and beyond. You’ll make friends! You’ll have fun! You’ll even do what the UFC fighters do without having to get punched in the face! Once you get into the sport, you may very well find yourself wondering what kept you from signing up in the first place.

From the time I started jiu-jitsu, I was keenly aware that I was a part of something bigger than what I experienced on the mats. Perhaps it was the mixture of cultures and languages I was lucky enough to find in BJJ class from day one, but I always had the impression that travel was deeply ingrained in jiu-jitsu. Yes, other sports held tournaments around the world or featured teams comprised of people from various countries, but travel and jiu-jitsu seemed to mesh in a very different and special way.