Rose El Sharouni on creating a platform by and for BJJ WomenLaurien Zurhake
In the beginning of September 2017, active competitor Rose El Sharouni received her brown belt from head coach Luiz “Maixinha” Ribeiro (London Fight Factory) at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy Amsterdam affiliated with Checkmat. Off the mats she studies full-time medicine and holds already a Master of Science degree in Sports Sciences. On top of that she makes herself strong for her fellow BJJ ladies by striving with Johanna Tavares to create an online platform as well as organize events by and for BJJ women from all over the world. What sparked my interest is how this successful BJJ athlete manages to balance full time studying with BJJ as well as improving the BJJ community for women.
You are extremely busy – how do you combine full-time studying/work with BJJ?
By good planning – especially good planning. I always make a weekly schedule in which I plan when I can train. Then I make sure to adjust my work and studies to this schedule. For instance, when I have to hand in an assignment, I make sure that it is all planned in. I work therefore extremely structured: I pack my bag always in advance. I always write everything down. In short, everything I do is highly structured and organized. This is for me very helpful. I also make good use of the time that is given to me such as travel time. When I need to do something for my studies I use that bit of time too.
Organizing like this does not mean, however, that it always works. Sometimes I simply can’t go to BJJ training or do strength training, because my work schedule won’t allow me to. I could then instead go for a run. Sometimes I do that, but sometimes I don’t – resting is just as important. Generally, I try to use my time as optimal as possible. Yet, – and this tip is by Ida Hansson and Shanti Abelha, who I interviewed a while ago – it is important to understand that you can’t do everything at the same time and do it perfectly. And that is okay. You also have to allow yourself that. To always do everything in a perfect way is simply not possible. The trick is to find a balance that works for you.
Did this way of organizing your life impact your social life, if so, to which extent?
As a general rule, I see the people who don’t train BJJ less than the people who do. In that sense I see many of my friends in the evening during training. BJJ is for that reason also a social event for me. In that sense I do think that my circle of friends has changed. Some left and some came. Ultimately, it is about priorities, and that is different for every person. Like I said before, you can’t do everything so you have to prioritize. I don’t have so much time, for example, to have a bite with a friend somewhere, but that does not mean that I don’t have time for or see my friends at all.
Some time ago you co-founded Ladies Only BJJ. Why and how is that going?
Ladies Only BJJ started as a monthly open mat for women, organized by my friend Jesmine and me. We wanted to train with all the girls around Amsterdam, because there are not so many. As time went by, I noticed that when it comes to tournaments and social media, female BJJ athletes receive less attention than male athletes. Additionally, even though these days more women train BJJ than before, many are often still the only females in their gym. And besides that, what online resources exist that are specifically directed to women who do BJJ? In other words, a female BJJ community hardly exists.
With Ladies Only BJJ we aspire to fill this gap by promoting women’s BJJ. Currently, Ladies Only BJJ is run by my friend Johanna Tavares and myself. I met Johanna – who is a blue belt from Frontline Academy Oslo, on a tournament in London, two years ago. Even though she armbarred me in the semi-finals of the absolute division, we became friends and stayed in touch. During the European Championship this year, I planned to cover all the female matches – from white belt to black belt – of the Championship. She probably thought this was a bit much to do for one person, and asked me if I wanted help covering the matches. Ever since, we have been creating the online content of Ladies Only BJJ together. We do interviews with female athletes, and we cover them on important tournaments. Also, we create our own content, i.e. blogging about issues that may be of interest and indeed common amongst BJJ women all over the world. By doing this, it creates more attention for female BJJ athletes, and it may also make a woman who is the only female in her gym feel part of a community that exists for her. You can find Ladies Only BJJ on social media, such as Instagram (@ladiesonlybjj) and Facebook and we have our website www.ladiesonlybjj.com. In short, for me it is important to gain through Ladies Only BJJ social presence and social involvement to, from and for women. In so doing, information is provided as well as important steppingstones that help develop a female BJJ community.
What kind of reactions did you receive so far?
So far Ladies Only BJJ has been very positively received. I notice that many women appreciate that we provide updates on the female divisions at competitions (for example this ADCC World Championship, you were able to follow all the highlights of the female matches on our Instagram story). Also, I feel that the subjects we write about are very recognizable for a lot of women, which makes them feel part of a community. Many also shared with me that they like reading more about female athletes, not only their matches, but also how they cope with specific topics like competition preparation, diet, motherhood and many others.
Do you have future plans with Ladies Only BJJ?
Besides the online presence, Ladies Only BJJ hosted already two successful camps with Samantha Cook and Eirin Nygren as well as monthly open mats in Amsterdam and Oslo. We strive to continue with what we’re doing, while at the same time exploring all the possibilities there are to keep growing.
Thank you Rose, for the interview and the best of luck with Ladies Only BJJ!