Community Members of the Month: Stepping into Confidence and Challenging Ourselves
Editor’s note: Each month we’ll be profiling three key members of our community.
We truly value our community at Easton, from our students to coaches and staff, and all those who put in extra time to help around the academy. It’s arguably the heart and soul of the whole operation.
Time and time over, we hear our members say how it’s the people – their friends, partners, and classmates — that keep them coming back. The disciplines we teach are important, but in the end, they are tools. They’ll only go as far as the people who use them, and how.
This month, we have the girl gang! We highlight Coaches Sandy Song and Jasmine Nelson, and Hannah George (a.k.a. Bubbles) in our Kids Program.
Hannah George, Easton Kids
Hannah George first tried out Easton Training Center in Boulder at the start of 2019, but began training consistently at Easton’s Longmont location in the summer of 2020. Her reason for trying again? Her twin brother, Eli, had started training Jiu Jitsu in January of 2020, and he absolutely loved it. He was certain Hannah would love it to, and he convinced her to give it a shot.
Though at first she was a little nervous, those nerves dissipated quickly. She used to sports, playing on her school’s basketball and volleyball teams, but the closeness of Jiu Jitsu showed her how to experience working with others in a whole new way. It boosted her confidence and improved her social skills, which seeped into other areas of her life as well, including the other sports she plays.
“It helped me be ale to talk to people,” Bubbles says, “and made me feel more comfortable around my teammates. I think because you’re closer physically, and the coaches are so welcoming.”
In some ways, doing Jiu Jitsu looks a lot more like parallel play than sports where all the focus and pressure is on one singular item like a ball, and that parallel play can become a really soothing and familiar space.
What drives Hannah
Hannah’s nickname “Bubbles” didn’t come to her by accident. She’s motivated by life and so completely into the moment wherever she is, her dad Adam tells us. When she walks into a room, you know it. Bubbles is constantly listening to songs, talking to her friends, and sharing whatever it is she has to share with anybody around. (The front desk can testify!)
“I’m mostly motivated by the little kids at Easton,” Hannah tells us. “Some of them look up to me a lot. If one day, I wasn’t “Bubbles,” and I wasn’t social, that could impact them in a bad way.”
One of Hannah’s favorite parts about Easton is how open and friendly the people are. She also really values how the coaches teach the sport — how they show a technique and go into specific details rather than jumping all over the place, and that she can always ask questions and feels comfortable and safe.
“Don’t act on first impressions,” Bubbles says to those who are hesitant to try martial arts. “Your first time, you’re GOING to be uncomfortable. But when you keep doing it, it’s not gonna stay that way.”
We love having Bubbles around to help show new students techniques and help assist Little Tigers classes! She always has a smile on her face and a genuine way of making people feel seen, including coaches and staff!
Sandy Song, Easton Muay Thai
Sandy, who holds a blue shirt in Muay Thai and helps lead the Kids Muay Thai program under Coach Jen Mills at Longmont, first started her Easton journey in September of 2019.
She wanted to pick up a hobby after college and this coincided with a recently developed respect for stuntman and stuntwomen.
“They were so cool, I thought” Sandy tells us. “If I could go back to my younger self I wish I could’ve trained Muay Thai early to start doing that.” At the ripe old age of 22, however, she felt she had missed the boat for a career as a stuntwoman and was too old to start parkour, so she shifted her focus. At the time, her school, CU, offered Muay Thai; Sandy began to take striking classes.
When she saw Easton Training Center set up a booth on campus, she decided to try a free kickboxing class. The Muay Thai class she was taking on campus was pretty casual, and she wanted to learn striking in a more serious way. Her first kickboxing class kicked her ass, but Sandy was hooked and began attending Monday through Friday in Boulder.
What drives Sandy?
“I’ve never been a super academic person, but I do think its important to keep on learning — whether music or sports,” Sandy says, who played flute all through high school and almost became a music major, instead choosing English. Currently, Sandy works as an advisor to Freshman at CU Boulder.
Kickboxing was challenging at first; Sandy did not know how to throw a single punch, and it took her a long time to get used to it. However, once she did she progressed really fast. From there, she got really into getting better at martial arts which at first seemed so foreign and not like her.
As a blue shirt now, Sandy reflects on how growth can seem to slow down compared to the rapid speed with which one progresses through the first several shirts. Going from blue to purple requires more dedication, and growth is constant but not as obvious — improvements are subtle and more about perfecting form.
Sandy’s love for the Longmont community even slightly surprised her. When she started with Easton, she was at Boulder. Its larger academy made it easier for Sandy to show up like she would to a gym — with her headphones in and not talking to anybody. She wasn’t there to make friends. When she switched to Longmont in 2020, it was actually a a little hard for her to adjust to the smaller, community-focused academy.
“At first the introvert in me was like, eughh this makes me uncomfortable,” Sandy remembered. “Over time, you grow comfortable with the people and the coaches. It really is the community that makes it.”
One of the first members at Easton’s Longmont location, Sandy has enjoyed growing alongside Easton Longmont. It’s fun for her to try to be a good partner to people who are newer in the community because she’s been there herself.
For anybody looking to try martial arts, but perhaps unsure or scared, Sandy recommends to try at least one class and see how it goes.
“I know I was very uncertain at first,” Sandy says. “I was too scared to do parkour and I was too scared to do BJJ. [Having done Tae Kwan Do as a kid] I went with what I thought was somewhat familiar — a standing, striking sport.”
It can be intimidating to enter a space that’s not normally made for females, but you just have to let go and give it a try! And remember — everybody has been in your shoes on that first day.
Jasmine Nelson, Easton Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Jasmine Nelson came to Easton in January of 2022 as part of a New Year’s resolution she knew she would keep, but the intention was really planted two years ago.
Growing up watching boxing and some UFC with her dad, Jasmine always thought martial arts looked like something she would enjoy — it just looked so fun. She didn’t have a chance to do extracurricular in high school or college, so when she mustered up the courage to try Jiu Jitsu, she was ready. Unfortunately, that also happened to be 2020 right before Covid hit and everything shut down.
While her BJJ dream got put on hold, Jasmine moved from Austin, Texas to Longmont, Colorado — coincidentally four minutes away from Easton Training Center’s Longmont location! She’d pass it everyday walking her dog, see the kids running in and the buzz around it and thought it sounded awesome.
What drives Jasmine?
“Honestly, I enjoy how challenging it is,” Jasmine tells us of BJJ. “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that pushed me so hard every single time.” It doesn’t matter who she’s going against or what level they’re at, she’s always learning something new.
In her life off the mat, the constant expansion of knowledge continues to drive Jasmine — like why she stayed in school so long, now working on her PhD in Ecology.
At Easton, Jasmine loves how supportive system the community provides. She loves having a group of people that are always there to help out and motivate her and how supported she feels.
“I’ve seen some places that don’t have that same energy,” she tells us. “People aren’t as friendly or helping each other learn and grow constantly.”
We think it’s pretty special too.
Jasmine’s advice to someone interested in trying martial arts? Just show up. If you’re interested in it, look for a gym with a good community (check out Easton’s nine locations!) in a place you feel supported. Step on the mats and give it a shot.
“It’s going to be scary,” Jasmine says, “but if after the first class you had any amount of fun, just come back again and keep trying. The only way you get through it is you keep showing up.” Everyday, we get the slightest it better.
One thing’s for sure — Jiu Jitsu has definitely made a permanent spot in Jasmine’s life, in whatever shape or form that will evolve to. She really enjoys teaching, and also looks forward to competing one day! Stay tuned to watch Jasmine, and our other awesome students, grow.
Check out Easton Training Center’s nine locations and try one of our Kickboxing or Jiu Jitsu classes!