Kleos VII: Mad Mats, Beyond Thunderdome


Yesterday I competed in Kleos VII: Mad Mats, in no-gi BJJ. It was at High Wycombe Judo Centre, which is quite a way from me it has to be said! I travelled by train across from Lancaster to Sheffield the night before, and then the lovely Maia Holmes drove us down to High Wycombe on the day of the competition. We got stuck in a little bit of traffic around Bicester and Oxford, and I was a tiny bit worried we wouldn’t make it for weigh in, but in the end it was fine and we arrived with about half an hour to spare.

KleosThe venue itself was quite small, but Kleos had purposefully limited the number of competitors, so that they could get finished in good time. The women’s divisions were the last of the day (besides the absolutes), so I weighed in just before 2pm. I came in well under weight (around about 51.5kg) and was right at the bottom of my weight class. This is something that I am definitely going to work on – gaining some muscle and putting on a bit of weight. I want to sit, ideally, around a comfortable 54/55kg no-gi. I think that would be perfect. The extra strength that gaining that bit of muscle would give me as well would be very invaluable.

Anyway, I headed out onto Mat 3 to have my matches. I was up first against a girl called Christie. I always find it a little difficult to remember exactly how my matches go down (in the heat of the moment you’re not really attempting to remember what’s happened) but luckily there’s video evidence! I pulled guard and immediately secured my underhook, I managed to get my hips out to the side and come up onto my knees, but my opponent managed to free her legs and come on top of me as I turtled. I then got back into half guard, but was unable to get as good position as the time before, due to the very good positioning of my opponent’s arm across my face! I had the underhook secured again, so I knew if she attempted to pass I would be able to take her back. This didn’t improve my position, however, with my back flat on the floor. She won an advantage for getting my shoulders to the mat. She then passed into three quarter guard, from which I usually try and regain my half from. Unfortunately, she managed to pass my legs, but I immediately shoved my arms under her legs, denying her the four points for the mount (sneaky!). I then managed to escape from underneath, but she pressured down on top of me again and I was back into the turtle position. She pressured me out of turtle, but I managed to reclaim my half guard yet again. At one point I was on my way to deep half guard, but her arm against my face denied me that position. I then worked onto my side again, but couldn’t build a secure enough base from which to come up and sweep. It was as we were struggling in this position that she managed to pass my guard into side control. She tried to secure knee on belly, but I denied her the position by rolling into her. Time was called (although it took my opponent a few moments to realise!) and the final score was 2-0 to Christie. Well done!

I was a little disappointed to say the least, but as I always think, in the venerable words passed down from the BJJ gods ‘you win or you learn,’ and I was immediately thinking about what had gone wrong, and where I could improve.

I had a one match break between that and my second match, against Bryony Harrington. I was just thinking it was rare that I’ve met another Bryony with her name spelt the same as mine, and at the competition yesterday there were three of us (another Bryony was in the Blue belt category)!

3 Bryony's!
The 3 Bryonys – we should start a band.

The similar names made it a little difficult for the spectators to call out and support, although as she had her team members there and I was on my tod, I was pretty sure I knew who they were calling for! I didn’t immediately pull guard, attempting to secure a collar grip first, but after a modicum of hand fighting I went back to the old faithful and pulled into half guard, securing the underhook. Her shoulder and arm pressure was immense across my face and jaw. Her team told her to “keep heavy on that shoulder” and boy was she taking their advice! She won an advantage for getting my shoulders flat to the mat. She then tried to pass into ¾ guard, but couldn’t quite get her knee down before I managed to get my hips out and back into half guard. She then managed to pass into ¾ guard after a few moments of effort, despite my best attempts to stop it. I then re-secured half guard by getting some space back between us. This process repeated itself again, with me ending up flat on my back again. With 1.30 to go I thought that I was going to lose this match, but there’s was no bloody way I was giving up. I managed to get out onto my side again, and come up onto my knees, sweeping her in the process, before passing into side control. She was certainly a very good wriggler, and it took me a lot of effort to secure the position without her getting away. I then passed into mount just as the ref stopped the match for us to reset, and he made us reset with me in side control. She turned onto her belly to try and throw me off, but I regained the mount position. She then caught my foot and did a very credible attempt at a sweep, but I managed to escape and get to my feet. We then had a rather aggressive wrestle for about ten seconds, before I pulled guard again. By this point I knew the score was 9-0 and that I only had about ten seconds to go, so I was just thinking “survive, survive, survive”. I wasn’t really thinking about advancing my position or attempting to go for anything, I was just purely on the defensive. She attempted some kind of Ezekiel choke, but it wasn’t overly effective because it was no gi. It was still fairly unpleasant, but it was manageable. Time was called, meaning I’d won the match on points. It was an extremely hard fight and I’d had to really push for every modicum of space that I’d managed to attain. Well fought Bryony 2!

I then had a third fight. I was the only one in my division who had to fight three times, and by this point I could feel the energy draining a little. I know most guys will scoff at this, because in their divisions they’re used to fighting 3 or 4 times to even get a sniff at the podium, but I’m not used to it. I’ve only ever had two fights maximum at a competition in any one weight class. In that sense it was extremely good practice and well worth the very long journey. More time on the competition mats is more time won in my opinion.

Anyway, my third match, for the gold medal, was against the girl who’d I’d fought first – Christie. So the way it worked (I think) is that there were two semi-finals, and I’d fought in both(!) and then progressed to the final to fight again. I didn’t pull guard immediately in this fight, instead opting to wrestle somewhat. I tried to remember what Adam had taught me in that one wrestling lesson I’d attended (I will be coming to more this month, I swear!). We both secured collar grips and I tried to get my weight over her. She dropped to her knees, attempting to force me to the mat, but then she came back to her feet. She then had quite a credible attempt at a hip throw, but I remembered my brief Judo days and managed to distribute my weight so she couldn’t throw me. She then managed to secure a take down by dragging me to the mat, with her weight on top of me. I managed to secure half guard and this time was a lot more cautious about her arm position on my face. I had the underhook, so I battled to maintain my closeness to her hip, managing to deny her the face pressure. She then managed to escape her legs, but I turtled, denying her the points. She then climbed onto my turtle, but couldn’t get her hooks in for the four points on the back take. She rolled but I defended the hooks, but she managed to sink in a deep RNC. I tried to defend it, but that point I had very little left in the tank and couldn’t peel her arms away, so I tapped. It was a good win from Christie.

So I took the silver because I’d lost in the final. I was pretty happy with that, but I’ve got a lot of things on my list to work on.

Kleos Medal
The dope Kleos medal – how cool is that?!
Kleos Podium
On the podium

I signed up for absolutes because I thought why the heck not? I’d travelled all the way down there and wanted to get as many matches as possible. For the absolutes they mashed the white and blue belts in together, and in an extremely expedient form of natural selection, the three white belts got knocked out by the blue belts they fought. I was up against the blue belt Bryony. I can’t actually remember how she won (there isn’t a video for this one), but it was some kind of choke. I was just pleased I managed to survive for over two minutes! It’s all good experience though. I had a very enjoyable time and had some great matches. I was a little disappointed I didn’t win my first match, but as far as I can see I didn’t make any huge mistakes. There were just some small things that if I’d done them better, or managed to execute properly, then it would’ve been harder for Christie to gain those two points that won her the match. I’m not in any way attempting to devalue what Christie achieved, she had some great matches yesterday and came out the victor.

It was great to see so many girls there yesterday, there was about fourteen of us, which considering it was a capped entry competition I thought was pretty impressive. War Hammer next year, yeah ladies?

Anyway I had a good competition, came away with an pretty dope silver medal, plenty of things to work on, and I’m excited for the next one, which as it stands will be in Glasgow on the 3rd September.

Massive, massive shout out and thank you to Maia for putting me up the night before the comp, driving down and back up, competing, winning a gold and a silver, and all of this on a pretty horrible weight cut of 4.5kg in a week. You’re a champ!

Watch out for Maia’s Spotlight feature, coming in the middle of August…

Anyway, until next time,





Kleos Koming Up


Can’t decide if that title is a bit too Kardashian-esque…

So, it’s Kleos VII this weekend and I am very excited. I am well within weight (the category is <56.5 and I’m currently 52ish) so I’ve got nothing to worry about there. And before you ask, there wasn’t a weight category below that one, hence the reason I chose to go into feather.


There’s three girls including me in my category, so I’m guaranteed at least two matches (it’ll be a Round Robin I assume) if everyone shows up and is fit and well. Hopefully it’ll all be good. I feel a little bit underprepared, having just come back from holiday, but I trained four times last week, and it’ll be a few times this week as well. I feel good, and I feel healthy, so we’ll just have to see. I feel like my game has improved massively since my last serious competition in Manchester, so we’ll have to see if I manage to remember it all on Saturday.

The lovely Maia Holmes is taking me down to Buckinghamshire(!) on Saturday so we can both compete. Almost certain she’ll walk away with a gold. Luckily she’s a blue belt and I’m a white, so I don’t have to face her across the mats just yet!!


I’ll let you know how it goes with a play-by-play and lessons learned.

Until next time,




2nd Annual Scottish BJJ Cup


So I found another comp to replace my failed Newcastle comp this weekend. Just to fill you in a small bit – My mode of transportation to Newcastle fell through, so I am unable to get there. It’s sad because another girl has just registered in my division and I’m her only listed competitor, so she won’t have a match if I don’t go, which is kind of sucky for her. This is why I need to learn how to drive! It’s so irritating having to (sometimes) rely on the less-than-amazing British public transport system. Particularly when so many BJJ comps are on a Sunday, which makes getting anywhere even harder!

Anyway, that aside – I have found another comp to go to! The 2nd Annual Scottish Cup is in Glasgow on the 3rd of September and I’ve signed up for both gi and no-gi divisions, as well as absolutes. I’m excited and hoping that I’ll be well prepped and ready for that.

So that’s three competitions now on the horizon – Kleos the weekend after next, Scottish in early September and Liverpool in late September. Just waiting for North-West registration to open now…

Until next time,


An Alphabet of BJJ · Training

I Is For Intelligent Training: An Alphabet of BJJ


Okay so I struggled to come up with one for ‘I’, and this is what I could think of. If you guys have a better suggestion that you’d like to see me tackle, please leave a comment and I’ll give it a shot!

Under the umbrella of Intelligent Training there can be lots of different aspects. Whether it’s about taking care of your body, listening to it when it needs to rest, or whether it’s about the way you approach the time you spend on the mats, it’s important that you approach your training in a logical way.

Know what you’re going to do

This one might sound fairly obvious, but you should at least have a vague idea of what you want to achieve before you step onto the mats for the days training. If you’re going to class, clearly your instructor will have something planned for the lesson. If you know what this is before hand then great – figure out what you want to focus on from that lesson. If you don’t know what it is, then focus on a general part of your game that can be applied to all different lessons. This can be things like improving your basing, working on not getting swept, working on gaining and maintaining the underhook, perhaps hunting for a particular type of submission. Only you (and your coach) know what specific part of your game needs to work.

Keep tabs on what you’ve done

My blog is the way that I do it! Clearly this isn’t going to work for everyone. So whatever floats your boat on keeping tabs on your training is the way forward. Whether this making notes, taking photos (with your training partners permission ofc), or whatever else you can think of, it’s good to keep track of what you’ve been doing so you can go back over what you’ve done before. It can be very easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of material that your coach covers in class, but by keeping tabs, you can always revisit something that you didn’t quite catch the first time around.

Training 1
Training with N.

If you’re injured know what you can and can’t do

We’re not invincible, even if we like to think we are. Sometimes are bodies just give up on us. Hopefully not in a way that will have a long lasting impact, but it can still affect your training and your game in the short term. It’s important to take a break when you need to, but also not to push something that doesn’t need to be pushed. I’m am nowhere near suggesting that I can give any medical advice. But it’s pretty damn obvious that when you’ve pulled a muscle in your leg, you shouldn’t be doing strenuous exercise on it, otherwise you’re probably going to hurt it more.

If you’ve got a training partner then team up

I think this applies more to me, as a female BJJ player, than some of my male teammates. The reason for this is that whilst there’s a lot of guys who are probably around the same weight, finding a BJJ girl who wants to compete who is a similar weight can be like finding a needle in a haystack. I’m lucky in that there are a lot of girls at Kaizen, but not all of them are interested in competing. I do have several excellent training partners though, and we try and coordinate our training hours so that our open mat time coincides. Michael suggests that this is the best way to get better for competition. Just roll, roll and roll some more.

I suppose that most of you will probably have your own training regimes and little things that you do which will keep you happy when you’re on the mat. These are just some of the things I keep in mind when I’m approaching my next class or open mat session.

Until next time,


Saturday Spotlight

Saturday Spotlight: July 2016



When people find out I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I often get asked why that sport in particular; what makes it special? Many people do not understand this martial art, some don’t even know what it is and some others feel it is too intimate; seeing people rolling around on the mats in very close quarters.

I, however, love it. I kind of fell into it so to speak, rather than making a calculated decision to start. I started out practicing a form self-defence at sixteen which segued into Sambo (a Russian martial art) for two years. I loved Sambo and my favourite part of the class was the hour long grappling session that usually happened at the end. No matter how battered or bruised I was for the following days, and even though I was one of the only girls in the class, I still looked forward to the next class. A few teachers even asked me if I was getting hit at home because of all the bruises! Naturally I told them that everything was fine!

Photos courtesy of Laura Jenney Photography

No one understood how a sixteen-year-old girl could enjoy such a sport and I was not able to communicate how good it made me feel. It wasn’t one of the “traditional” martial arts, which made it even more difficult to explain what it was. I had very big self-confidence and self-image issues and sambo started helping me to be more confident about who I was at 16 and who I was going to become. Sadly, we then moved to a country where I could not find a Sambo class, so I had to stop training. I tried many clubs, MMA and BJJ, in the various countries in which I found myself, but never felt comfortable in any of the clubs that found.

I finally found a home for my love of grappling when I moved to Lancaster, in the UK, at 23, where I would be studying at university. Kaizen Academy did not yet exist and the grappling classes were taking place at the Lancaster University’s sports centre. I showed up to one of the classes with little hope of liking it as the other has gone before, but boy was I wrong! When I stepped into that room everyone was so warm, friendly and welcoming and there were other girls there – several of them!

The teacher, Michael, taught his class bearing in mind not everyone had grappled before and I fell in love with grappling all over again. I had never had such a good session. As I found out throughout the class and others following, we were learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and it was taught to us in such a comprehensive and obvious manner that it left me wondering why no one else has ever thought of teaching grappling in this way.

Cosima 3
Cosima at Open Mat

I am now 25 and practicing BJJ in a great community at Kaizen Academy, which opened in October 2015. My training partners are people who love training just as much as I do, if not more, and we are encouraged to experiment and discover things for ourselves – bring ideas to the open mat sessions and develop our own styles. When someone asks me now why I do BJJ I can finally give them an answer: This is my meditation and my therapy. Once I get on the mat, the stress and worries of life fade away and I can centre myself and recharge.

BJJ is like a game of chess – but sportier! BJJ has helped see that one cannot always use brute force (and that you don’t always have to!) and that, like in life, fitness and quick can help you more than over large muscles. On the mats respect for others reigns along with dedication, hard work, laughter and joy. Kaizen Academy is my second family and any woman, or man, struggling with confidence issues, or wanting to discover themselves, or learn how to defend themselves should definitely consider taking up BJJ. It has helped me in so many ways, more than I could describe, and I have a community of friends that I love.

Blog post written by Cosima, and edited by Bryony.

Signing off,

Cosima 4
Cosima and I


General · Unstoppable Girls

Is BJJ A Feminist Sport?



I’ve already written a blog post about how lucky I am in the fact that I have a lot of girls to train with at Kaizen Academy – there’s now about ten regular girls who do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I recently read an article in the jiu-jitsu times that suggested that there is a lot of competition between girls who do the sport and not just the good kind that happens when we roll or spar. It suggested that girls can become territorial over mat space, their gym, their training partners, and other things when confronted with the prospect of a new girl joining up. This got me wondering two things; a) how true it was, and b) whether BJJ had the credentials to be considered a “feminist sport”. Stay with me on this one…

First off I want to clear something up; what is feminism? Some people recoil at the word and say “ugh no, I couldn’t possibly be one of those”. Well, in the words of Laura Bates (founder of the everyday sexism project and author of two excellent books), you are either a feminist or you are a bigot. Well now, that’s a fairly aggressive stance you might think, but all feminism is, is the belief in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes. Not a totally crazy concept, eh? 99.9% of the population (except the aforementioned bigots) could probably get behind that statement and say “yeah, sure, I do believe that, guess that makes me a feminist then”. I know, I know… it’s a scary word. If you want, shout it a few times whilst standing on a chair and it’ll become a lot less scary.

feminism definition

Continue reading “Is BJJ A Feminist Sport?”