Below is Viola Burlew’s essay; she has been a student for the past 6 years at Easton Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Boulder. She wrote this for the Easton Academies. It is an amazing piece of writing and speaks volumes about her character and as an Easton student. We are so lucky to have such incredible kids come through our schools.
October 11, 2012
Seven years ago, I remember telling my first grade teacher that girls could never be fighters, that girls could never be as strong as boys could, and that boys were always going to be tougher than girls. Now, at age thirteen, the Easton Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy has helped to prove me wrong. I feel that I am as strong as my male classmates and training partners, I am just as able to work hard and roll hard, and that I, like them, am a fighter. But strength is more than just physical vigor; it is both mental and emotional as well. Easton Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has proven that to me so many ways that it is almost indescribable, and I owe this school so much in terms of my character, my well-being, and the way I look at my future. This is what Easton means to me, and how it has affected my life.
One of my great professors, Elliot “Fire” Marshal, once told me that when I come to train, I will be “the hammer, or the nail;” some days, I’ll come in and be on top- I will be the hammer. Other days, I’ll be on the ground, and just repeatedly get beaten- I will be the nail. At first, this to me seemed like a test of physical strength. The bigger you are, the more likely you will always be the hammer, or vice versa. For years, I was smaller than everyone I trained with. I wasn’t as strong, I wasn’t as tall or as heavy, and I felt like I was always the nail. Then, one day, I found myself paired with a boy twice my size in every way. He was older, taller, and much, much stronger. I was already preparing myself to only be the nail, when I started thinking, “You’ve got this. You can beat him. Sure, he’s two feet taller and 60 pounds heavier, but that doesn’t matter. You’re the hammer.” I didn’t lose a single match against him that day, but not because I was physically larger, but because of my mental power to tell myself that I could be the hammer, and that I had a say in what I was that day; in what I was every day. Without Easton, I don’t know if I could have ever learned to do that. The school has made me mentally tougher and more mentally aware of everything that goes on around me. It is a skill I am extremely thankful for.
I’ve trained at the Boulder Academy for almost six years now, and I am one of the few girls my age to do so. I always took so much pride in telling my friends about what a great class I had yesterday, or about the older boys I could wrestle with and beat, and knowing that they probably would never hear this from anyone else. This was very early on in my training, when I was more than slightly convinced that I was a lot better than I really was. In fact, I believed that I had trained so well that I wanted to dive head first into competing. I wanted to really prove to everyone else around me that just because I was a girl, didn’t mean I couldn’t fight just as well as them. I competed in an in-house event that year, and finished very low in rank. It wasn’t really the best day ever. I wrestled harder than I had in class, and I wasn’t prepared for the loss. I couldn’t focus enough on what I was doing against how tired I was, and I ended up being the nail in almost all my matches. After that, I didn’t want to compete anymore. I didn’t want to do anymore work outside of my regular classes, and I found it harder and harder to do anything in class too. I wouldn’t look forward to training like I had before, and it was a very rough few months. My family and my school constantly pushed me to come back, to work harder and to enjoy it. After much debate and encouragement, I picked up my regular training attitude and started looking for further opportunities to advance my skills. Throughout the course of this experience, I had been more emotionally tested than any time before, and because of that I am emotionally stronger. I am neither a sore loser, nor a bad winner. I am grateful for all I have learned and been given over the course of my training, and Easton has contributed greatly to that attitude. I cannot thank this school enough for that.
When training in Jiu-Jitsu, strength appears to be as much a factor as skill. This can apply to almost every form of Mixed Martial Art, and it applies to my life as well. Being thirteen and weighing 116 pounds does have its advantages, but being eight and weighing around 70 pounds- not so much. That’s how I was when I first started class- I was tall, skinny, and had no muscle what-so-ever. It was hard for me to work in class when I was being squished or squeezed, and yet, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed being a part of something unique and physically demanding. I enjoyed learning and being part of a demonstration, even if it was me who was being demonstrated on. The very idea of becoming stronger thrilled me then, and it stills thrills me now. I loved being pushed. I loved being held to the same standards as my male trainees. I loved the idea of working harder to achieve something greater, and I love looking back to the time when I wasn’t strong and being thankful for every physical element that I was pushed through. Easton’s Academy is the strongest supporter when it comes to my physical health and strength, and that fact alone is enough for me to want to keep growing, to keep training and to keep getting stronger.
It is October 11, 2012. I look at myself now as both the hammer and the nail on any given day. I can see my own strengths in all its forms, and acknowledge the areas I need to work on. So thank you, Easton, for giving me such amazing opportunities in my time here. Thank you for pushing me and helping me learn in every aspect of my life, and most of all, thank you for seeing me through the rough patches and keeping me encouraged to do my best. I look forward to many more years of training here with my professors and coaches.
All in all, this school means everything to me, and I am so thankful for the wonderful impact it has had on my life.