On sharing gifts, paying forward, and examples.

I started this blog years ago because I was scouring the internet for women writing about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and the cupboard looked a little bare.  For a few days, I would search through the search engines, looking for just one tiny article by, about, for, women in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  The field always came up empty, and it occurred to me, well, time to put up or shut up Deb, why aren't YOU writing about it?

Oh, yeah, I could write.

So, having stumbled across Blogger a couple of times, I decided to use it as my vehicle for this writing.  THEN I found them!  The women!  The women who write about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu!  I think Valerie Worthington's "Prancing and Sucking" was one of the first, followed by Georgette's Jiu Jitsu blog,  Allie the Clear Belt, Tangled Triangle, Jiu Jiu...there they were and for whatever reason I had not googled correctly, but I had found them and now I was going to settle in to this new micro-community.

I wrote this blog consistently, then stopped here and there, but always found my way back to the keyboard.  Then I really stopped for a long time.  I think my last entry before the other day was in 2013.  Too long.  Just way too long.  Recently, a few events shoved the words into my face again, put up or shut up...

First, there is my husband, David.  For many years, he has encouraged me to teach.  The police academy has a team of defensive tactics instructors that teach the physical fundamentals to the recruits.  I have been on the department 15 years, and over those years, the list of qualified female instructors could be counted on one hand.  Maybe half of a hand.  This is significant, because the academy NEEDS quality female instructors who can remove the "Yeah!  Girl power!" sheen and be serious about the power of solid technique.  The field of recruits sees a few very small, petite ladies, who need to have someone close to their own size tell them, and more importantly demonstrate their size need not be a hinderance.  A small gal new to defensive tactics should know she can be just as effective as a "big strong guy" and hold her own.

I'm not going to lie.  I've probably been one of the women who has bitched and moaned about the lack of female instruction at the academy.  A stupid angle. akin to moving to Alaska and then complaining about the cold weather.

Second, one of my classmates at Fabio's, Frank Califano, opened a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school in Alpine.  Dave and I ran into him one night at the pub, and he asked me assist in teaching a women's self defense seminar at his school.  I hesitated for a moment, and then thought, well I kind of have to do this.  I NEED to do this.  How many times have I complained about women needing to be more aware of their person and surroundings?  How many times have I wanted to tell a woman, do you even know how many self defense weapons you have at your disposal in the form of kicking, scratching, biting, etc...?  Now, here was a person offering up a chance for me tell a group of women just how much power they hold in their own being.  I had to do this.  So I said yes.

I helped teach this 6-class seminar alongside Frank, and one of his lead instructors, Randy Blanchard.  We focused on gross motor skill movements, and for lack of a better term, mindset.  The experience was a minor paradigm shift for me.  The look of amazement on the faces of these women when they performed a technique they previously thought was physically impossible, was pure joy.  This class was my baby step into sharing.

Third, Marc Fox.  Marc is one of the lead defensive tactics instructors at the police academy.  He is well-respected and always garners excellent evaluations from recruits.  He is supremely confident and supremely humble.  Marc does talk any talk talk, because he is too busy walking the walk.  Marc is not a big burly guy.  He is not a braggart or fake.  If you met him on the street or at a party, you might think, oh, he's a cool, low-key, surfer guy.  Last night, while sharing beers at the pub after an an excellent Arnis-Eskrima seminar, Marc asked me to consider being a defensive tactics instructor at the academy.  I hemmed and hawed, and then he threw down the words:  Role model.

And finally, number four:  Legacy.  Respect.  Sharing the gift.  I have been shy to teach, because I always think of myself as a beginner, I mean, I really think of myself as a neophyte martial artist.  Why would anyone listen to me?   I used to be flat out convinced my Arnis skills were somewhere around suck level, and then I saw a video of myself sparring.  I quickly realized my skill level was well above suck.  Additionally, I now hold a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from Fabio Santos, a blessing of ability that also says my skill level is well above suck.

To deny my skill level is an insult to my instructors.  The line between humility and insult can be thin.   I strive to be humble, but at some point, one must acknowledge the gifts, pay them forward, and set an example.  From a personal perspective, that means I stop bitching about the lack of women on the mat, and start sharing, start being a role model via action.  Fabio and Romy gave me the gift of their skill, knowledge,  legacy.  To spend too much being humble and not having the confidence to share with others means I'm just a selfish jerk who wastes that gift.   I've had so many role models over the years, in the form of teachers, other classmates, good leaders at my job, family/friends who live a bountiful life, people who have shared through their actions.

Full circle to now...I started this blog in the first place to be a piece of a greater voice in the world, and now I'll continue via action.

Thank you for reading,

Deborah Clem


  1. Cool, looking forward to hearing more about your teaching! I'm always curious about how people approach structuring their class, warm-up drills, how many and which techniques to show, how much sparring, pairing people up or letting them choose, etc. :)

    1. Hey Can! Yeah I'm planning a post on my warm-up routine. I'm pretty methodical and thus keep injuries to a minimum.

  2. I love your comment about there being a fine line between humility and insult. You are so right!


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