We wrap part one of our docuseries, The Women of Easton, with Episode 5: Van Tran — Easton Denver’s Academy Operations Director and the Creative Director for all of Easton Training Center.
Van had been working the front desk at Easton Denver for about eight years when Easton President Mike Tousignant first came to her with an apparel design problem to which Van offered a solution. She would design a t-shirt herself. Easton didn’t have a clear design strategy, and Van had ideas that she knew could give the business some direction.
Three years later, she still designs all the apparel, from gis and rash guards to Muay Thai shorts and t-shirts, and anything that needs any type of creative direction — fliers, social media images, mugs, brochures; the list goes on.
Van has given the company a clean and consistent aesthetic when it comes to its graphic design, and she continues to explore new creative ideas through the Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai apparel we roll out every couple quarters. When she needs additional help, she outsources to other creatives within Easton whom she manages, from other designers to those with a more illustrative approach, which gives Easton’s clean brand artistic variety.
Facing our fears and growing through adversity
Though today Van holds a purple shirt in Muay Thai (the equivalent of a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu) and doesn’t shy from challenges, throwing herself headfirst into new things, she tells us this wasn’t always the case. In fact, when she first started with the company, it took her two years to step onto the mats!
In a strongly male-dominated arena, many things can make a woman doubt herself or hold back from reaching her full potential, like male training partners going lighter on her than they otherwise would or thinking women can’t hang in conversations revolving the sports.
Van points out that sometimes women may even hold back on correcting a male partner in training because they fear they won’t be taken seriously. Martial arts has come a long way over the last decade, but the concept of female black belts and coaches is still relatively new. No matter how inclusive and welcoming our community makes itself, our society has ingrained gendered roles that we need to continuously work to reprogram. But we won’t change the system by standing outside of it.
As scary as it can seem at first, women make the strongest impact for themselves and in the lives of other women by actively showing up, training and learning. The confidence and strength this can uncover will manifest not just on the mats, but in every aspect of our lives.
At the end of the day, the most important thing in our community and our academy is the love for the martial arts and passing that on to others: the game, the dance, and the humility and confidence it leaves us with. If we can get past our fears, be it group classes or simply trying new things, we can uncover a whole world of knowledge in a field that not only serves us in the most practical sense, but becomes a platform from which to also help others.
These five episodes of The Women of Easton are just the beginning. We will continue exploring the topic of women in martial arts, honoring their experience, and highlighting the impact that the women in our own spaces have on the community and the organization.
Van’s story truly exemplifies the transformation that occurs through facing one’s fears and stepping onto the mat, and how by overcoming our limiting beliefs and putting ourselves out there, we can truly manifest our own direction.