GB Women: Prof. Jo Thomson on Dealing with Challenges

“…not allowing myself to quit, I continue to show up and do my best. “
This week we will be talking with GB Australia’s first woman black belt – Prof.  Jo Thomson.
Prof. Jo started training at GB Sydney, Australia starting in 2005, at the age of 47 as her first experience of martial arts.
Prof. Jo at over 60 years of age still trains at GB Sydney, four days a week.
Gracie Barra Blog caught up with Prof. Jo and got her to share her experience regarding the challenges for Gracie Barra women’s jiu-jitsu and her advice for overcoming challenges.
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GB: What do you feel are the differences / unique challenges for women who are training jiu-jitsu?
Do you have any specific advice for women in jiu-jitsu? What helped you along the way?
Prof. Jo: The “challenges for women” are a bit different for me, since I was already “old” when I started.
So not interrupted by having kids (since mine was already a teenager and training for a couple of years before I started). The guys were already like big brothers to my son, so we were like a family from the start. “Professor Mom” is a term of endearment I hear a lot.
At the start, I was almost always the only female. Several had been training before I started but parenthood got in their way. NOW we have “Jiu-Jitsu for everyone”, and whole families train with us! Many women train, and keep training. There are “women-only” classes and “self-defense” programs.
I have always felt RESPECTED and INCLUDED even back then before having women on the mats was the norm.
I will share one of my favorite pieces of advice from my dad.
Towards the end of high school, his “careers advice” went like this:
1. Whatever you choose, just do the best you can
2. Why don’t you think about doing something women don’t usually do? (Engineering or Meteorology were his examples because he was a sea captain).
And so here I am!
GB: What motivates you to continue to train and teach at your Gracie Barra school? What obstacles have you overcome?
Professor Jo:
Firstly I should clarify that I don’t teach. Or rather, I teach one-on-one the attacks and escapes that work for me, whilst rolling. Then I wait to have my favorite moves used against me. That’s just the best feeling!
Naturally, what works for me at age 62 is not exactly a long list. But the half dozen things I do reasonably well have been practiced like drills for years and years!
I work full-time as a speech pathologist in a huge private hospital. I am the only one. My patients are old and frail and sometimes not there the next day and that still (after 42 years in that role) makes me cry.
By the time I get to the mats I’m exhausted. But I always always always go home feeling restored and grateful for the twists of fate that gave me this amazing entity in my life… Gracie Barra.
This is so much more than a sport!
There have been few obstacles really.
Like running a marathon by not allowing myself to quit, I continue to show up and do my best.
And I laugh at myself a lot.
See also on GB Blog: GB Values: Goals and Discipline with Master Carlos Gracie Jr.
Writer: Mark Mullen, Gracie Barra Black Belt