GB Women: Motivational advice with Prof. Jo Thomson

“It’s a long journey. I can tell you that it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.”
This week we will be talking with GB Australia’s first woman black belt – Prof.  Jo Thomson – about how she started training in jiu-jitsu at 47, coming from a different athletic background, and her best motivational advice. Prof. Jo is +60 years old and still training hard at GB Sydney.
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 GB: Let’s start by introducing you to the Gracie Barra readers. Can you tell us how you got started in training jiu-jitsu? What is your home Gracie Barra school?
Prof. Jo:
I started training at GB Sydney in around 2005, at the age of 47. It was my first experience of martial arts.
I still train at GB Sydney, four days a week.
I met Professor Marcelo Rezende when he arrived here 20 years ago. He started training a few people at a little gym very near my house. I’d been powerlifting there…I’ve competed or trained at many sports, and at that stage, I was probably running 100kms a week too. (My first thought upon seeing them sparring? “They look like hermit crabs!”) a year or two after that I persuaded him to take on my son as his first junior. Jake was 12. By then we’d all moved into a Fight Gym in Manly CBD.
A year or two after that, GB moved to a place of its own about 5 km away.
For us both to continue training, I’d have to be driving Jake to Jiu-Jitsu then go back to Manly to do some lifting then back to get him, then home.
So I asked him if it’d be ok for me to try Jiu-Jitsu.
Basically (and this is what I tell people), I started at GB Sydney because I’m really lazy! Too much driving!
I have never even thought about quitting, and I’ve never trained anywhere else. I’ve never been off the mats for more than a week (give or take a pandemic) and then only to go some place like Hawaii for a canoe race.
There were very few women training. But everyone was very accepting and respectful (except perhaps my own son….we’d fight like those savage beasts on “Animal Planet”)
GB: You have the distinction of being the first Australian woman black belt. And you started jiu-jitsu relatively later in life. What tips can you share for over 35 students of jiu-jitsu?
Prof. Jo: I have been at Master level in several sports….including running marathons and powerlifting and 74 km open ocean canoe races (10 of those, in Hawaii….going back, as soon as I can!)
My advice:
1. Develop “a non-quitting attitude” (more on that later).
2. Tell yourself “it’s only pain”. I don’t take a step without pain (feet, mostly). Tell yourself “pain is the purifier” (the words of Aussie athletics coach Percy Cerutty circa 1950)
3. Memorise the “self-motivation course 10 words and 20 letters” :
4. This one has been thrown back at me by one of our juniors, in her GB Ambassador speech (slightly edited!).
When our athletes are preparing for competition I always say this:
“It’s not about luck…I do not wish you luck! It’s about The “P” Rule :
Finally, as I said in my Second Degree acceptance speech (addressing in particular “my girls”):
“It’s a long journey. I can tell you that it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it”
(Right before one of the girls yelled from the back of the room “I love you, Mum!”)
See also on GB Blog: GB Values: Goals and Discipline with Master Carlos Gracie Jr.
Writer: Mark Mullen, Gracie Barra Black Belt