Last Sunday, I had the extreme pleasure and honor to sit down and interview, Australia’s first female blackbelt, Sophia Drysdale after attending a seminar with her and Janie Meadows at Oklahoma Martial Arts Academy in Edmond, Oklahoma. For information on the seminar, read here.
Sophia began training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2002 at the age of 21 in Australia after a stress fracture in her shoulder caused an end to her gymnastic career. From the beginning of her journey with jiu jitsu Sophia had dreams of becoming the first Australian female black belt and a world champion, dreams many people dismissed. In 2007 Sophia moved to the United States to further pursue her Jiu Jitsu goals. In 2010 her goal became a reality when she was awarded her blackbelt from Robert Drysdale, becoming the first Australian female blackbelt. She has competed on a national and international level, and has won world titles, both at gi and nogi and Pan American titles, most recently winning the IBJJF 2014 World Masters at the Light weight Masters 1 division. Her 2014 world title serves as the end of her competing career.
Sophia considers this victory to be her greatest accomplishment of all, because she is not only a competitor, a teacher and mentor, but is also a mother. She competed and won at the World Masters after recently finishing breastfeeding her child, who was only 1 year old at the competition. At this competition, she was the only mother on the podium. Her goal is to show and encourage mothers that as a mother you can have an identity, goals, and dreams outside of being a mother, while still being the best mother you can be. Sophia would like to encourage women to make time for themselves and follow their dreams as well as believing in their children’s dreams. Jiu jitsu is a sport that all can pursue, even while having a family and being a mother, along with all other commitments we all have. Sophia Drysdale is testament to that, training jiu jitsu until she was 8 months pregnant. She serves as an inspiration to all mothers in the Jiu Jitsu community.
Now that her competition career has come to an end, Sophia is focusing on empowering and encouraging other women to join Jiu Jitsu. Her advice to women beginning in Jiu Jitsu is to start with a friend. Having a friend will help encourage one to continue along the journey and can also make you feel more comfortable when starting. Additionally, she encourages women to attend all women classes and gyms to have this option, as many beginners can find it difficult to train such a physical, close contact sport with men, who may be strangers.
Jiu jitsu has shaped who Sophia has became today. She has became a role model to other women and continues to try to encourage and empower women in the sport. Through conscious efforts, she wants to build women up and create a culture in her gym that allows women to feel safe and valued. Her female programs have a extremely high retention rate, and she believes this is due to the culture and environment she provides. Sophia provides positive encouragement and demands her students to build each other up and does not tolerate gossip, belittling or cattiness. This all combines to create an environment where women feel the ability and interest to pursue Brazilian Jiu Jitsu longterm.
Sophia encourages women to join jiu jitsu as a self defense means, while offering a free trial to ensure women will receive what they want. She believes that women need martial arts for self awareness. It is her belief that women need to ensure that we do not become victims, and many women do not realize how vulnerable they truly are. By trying and learning Jiu Jitsu women can realize and overcome their vulnerability and have the ability to defend themselves if the need ever presents itself.
Sophia is a complete inspiration to myself, as the mother of a three year old, and I am sure to many others. She serves as a reminder to always follow our dreams and believe in ourselves, even if no one else believes in us. Her approach to encouraging and empowering other women to try Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can almost definitely be linked to the increase of women from when she started. Jiu jitsu practitioners like Sophia Drysdale encourage and motivate women to step on the mats and stay on the mats.
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