This past weekend, The Armory Training Center, located in Jupiter Florida, hosted an event for the Amazonian Women’s BJJ Organization. The organization, started by Stephanie Dodge had more than 30 women training on the mat. All ages were included, from 5 years old up through women in their 50’s. JiuJitsuMania sat down with Stephanie and asked her to share more about the program.
What is the Amazonian Women’s BJJ Group about?
The main reason I started organizing these events and formed a women’s only group was to bring women together through jiu jitsu. I know top level BJJ athletes are, for the most part, friends and when traveling, can train at each others gyms. I want to create something similar in the women’s BJJ community, forming a bond between women and helping each other in many aspects.
How did Amazonian BJJ get its start?
It started when I met 2 other women from different gyms and thought to myself, “it would be so nice if I could train with them, that would really get me ready for a tourney”. Being the only, consistent woman attending my gym for the past 3 years left me wondering, were the guys really getting me ready? I know they all have at least 20 pounds on me, how could they use all their weight and me still be able to work my game. I took it to another level and thought, what if I brought in a world champion female black belt, that would inspire some women. Thus creating my 1st women’s only event, a seminar with Michelle Nicolini. Here I met a local female black belt and world champion, Sofia Amarante. She invited me to her gym to train, an offer I could never refuse, but why stop there? I asked if I could organize an all women’s open mat at her gym and she was more than happy to host. All the women have inspired me to continue and organize these events monthly.
How many events have you had so far and how has the turnout been?
There have been a total of 4 events, 1 seminar and 3 open mats, attendance ranging from 26-38 girls, all ages and all skill levels.
What are your goals for the organization?
My primary goal has always been to bring jiu jitsu to more women, to create an non-intimidating environment where everyone can learn.
Another goal of mine is to help women get ready for tournaments, training with men has its advantages, but women move differently, women have
different techniques that work better for women. I believe training hard at my events has more benefits than just training with men. I know as much as I push, my opponent will push back and I’m not worried about a man’s ego catching up and wanting to just smash me or hold me down for 5 minutes, I can actually work on my techniques and go back to my gym on Monday and work on the holes in my game. One more goal of mine is to take away the gym rivalries and have the women realize, it doesn’t matter what gym I’m coming from, I am here to train with other women, at the end of the day, it’s all about the BJJ community and strengthening it.
What would you tell women who don’t train BJJ and what can they benefit from the sport?
I would tell them to have an open mind towards BJJ, it’s not about rolling around on a mat with a bunch of sweaty men, it’s about empowering yourself, its about strengthening your mind and body, its about being a part of a team and this team usually becomes your extended family (without the fights and awkward moments at thanksgiving). In my opinion, BJJ is the best self defense for women, it teaches you to use the larger opponents weight and strength against them, and when it comes down to it, men are bigger and stronger than most women. I know I have enough “tools” from BJJ that if caught in a bad situation with an attacker, I will not become a victim, I will disable them and get away.
Who are your inspirations for women’s BJJ? and why?
The woman who inspires me the most is Michelle Nicolini, I was fortunate enough to meet her a year ago when she came and trained at The Armory prior to Pan Ams and Worlds. She was the 1st woman black belt I had met and she was happy to train with me, well, lets call it, happy to tap me out 10 times in 4 minutes, lol. I learned a lot from her in the matter of weeks and not only being a good instructor, she makes you feel that you too can be as great as her. She is always asking when my next competition is, even when her schedule is booked with tournaments around the world. Oh, and did I mention her jiu jitsu game is more aggressive than most men, she finishes most of her opponents, to me that is how BJJ should be.
Another inspiration is Sofia Amarante, she is a black belt under Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu, and she is 115 lbs of pure heart. She has a huge women’s BJJ program at her gym with about 15 women training on a regular basis. She inspires women and myself because she is a wife, mother and BJJ black belt, I can relate to her and it inspires me to not have any excuses when it comes to training.
Any events coming up that you want to share with the BJJ community?
I am very excited for my next event, it is a 3-day training camp with the women who inspire me the most, Michelle Nicolini and Sofia Amarante. It will be the weekend after Worlds, June 8th-10th. We will be doing endurance training, gi, nogi and wrestling, and it is going to be for a great price, only $125 for 3 days. The next event will be an open mat in Vero with professor Renato Tavares, details will be coming soon for that. If anyone needs more information or would like to host an open mat, please feel free to contact me via facebook-Stephanie Dodge, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org