Photo courtesy Sophia Drysdale
Sophia Drysdale (nee McDermott) will be leaving sunny Las Vegas to return to her native Australia to host a Brazilian jiu-jitsu training camp for women February 15th and 16th. Sophia is considered a trailblazer by female grapplers down under so we had her answer a few questions prior to her departure.
The FightWorks Podcast: How has the Australian Girls in Gi experience changed since its first camp a few years ago?
Sophia Drysdale: The organization has grown rapidly over the past few years. Jess Fraser, the founder is extremely pro active about making sure AGIG reaches every female who trains jiu jitsu. It has grown from being a women’s internet forum to an organization that runs camps, work shops, women’s only tournaments and sponsorships to enable girls to be able to attend international training camps and competitions. It is an incredibly supportive group that makes any women in the sport feel like they belong regardless of rank or affiliation.
The FightWorks Podcast: What’s on the agenda at this year’s Australian Girls in Gi?
Sophia Drysdale: This year is their biggest year yet, starting off with the largest all women’s BJJ camp in the world. Throughout the year there are women only tournaments scheduled and sponsorships offers. Additionally just like last year, AGIG will be bringing across a crew to train at the Zenith camps in preparation for the largest tournaments such as the Pan Ams and Worlds etc.
The FightWorks Podcast: In 2010 you received your black belt from Robert Drysdale. Has your idea of jiu-jitsu changed since that promotion?
Sophia Drysdale: I have been training as consistently as possible since receiving my black belt even though I have given birth to two babies. It has been a very difficult journey trying to juggle motherhood and training. Not being able to train has made me realize how much I love it and how important it is for me. I make sure no matter what that there is time for me to get on the mat, no matter how exhausted of busy I am.
The FightWorks Podcast: From a teacher’s perspective, how does teaching jiu-jitsu to a room full of women differ from teaching a mixed gender class?
Sophia Drysdale: To be honest I feel a lot more empowered teaching to a women’s only audience since I can relate exactly to their issues that they may be experiencing on the mat. The issues that come up for women are very different from a man’s.. and understandably men often don’t have an answer. Additionally women don’t often have the courage to ask these questions with a male teacher especially in a male dominated environment. Having another woman to teach enables other women to become more confident as individuals and as athletes which is why I find it more empowering.
The FightWorks Podcast: From a student’s perspective, how does learning jiu-jitsu in a room full of women differ from learning in a mixed gender class?
Sophia Drysdale: I personally have not done much learning in women’s only classes since all my training is done mostly with men only because I started at a time when very few women were training. However, I have done a lot more teaching in women’s only classes and I can say that the students are happier and more relaxed and less tentative. I have observed that when they are rolling together they don’t hold back but often they hold back when they are rolling with men. The piece of advice I give to other women during training over and over is to be more aggressive and to lead the fight.
The FightWorks Podcast: Tell us about the female jiu-jitsu scene in Australia. What are the hotspots and are there any names we should be on the lookout for?
Sophia Drysdale: Jiu JItsu in general in Australia is growing and growing. I would suggest that it is the 3rd most popular country in the world with Brazil 1st and USA 2nd. Since the launch of AGIG the amount of women training in Australia is close to the number of men. Additionally nowhere else in the world, even in Brazil will you find so many women participating in the all women events such as tournaments and camps. This has really allowed some up and coming athletes to shine on an international level. Jess Fraser is blue belt World Champion, Livia Gluchowska is blue and purple belt World Champion, Fiona is purple belt Pan Am and No Gi Worlds Champion and Maryanne Mullahy is a brown belt no Gi World Champion in weight division and in the Absolute. These girls have a really promising future in BJJ.
The FightWorks Podcast: Will we see you in action at any IBJJF events like the Pans in March or the Worlds in June?
Sophia Drysdale: Yes I plan to compete in both! Now that my youngest baby just turned 1 things are a little easier for me. I am rusty on the competition circuit but I will do my best.
The FightWorks Podcast: Anything else we should know Sophia?
Sophia Drysdale: I am launching a website soon about fitness and health and training and pregnancy. Throughout my journey with the babies I have been asked so many questions about training and ways to keep in shape while pregnant etc… This website has diet advice and training videos and blogs. I am very excited to be able to give back and to share my knowledge and help motivate and inspire other women, athletes and mothers.