Why We Fight?
Featuring Rebecca Descoeurs Contrino: Gracie Barra Purple Belt.
Why do we fight? What is it that compels the Jiujiteiro to press on and continue to train, day-in and day-out, with little to no return? This year, I’ll be interviewing members of the GB Montreal family to try and get to know them better and gain insight into their jiujitsu journey. We are an eclectic bunch with diverse backgrounds. One thing binds us together on the mats though; we train, we persevere, we fight.
By Dan Aponte.
Dan Aponte: Well Rebecca, congratulations on your recent win at the Mundials. Thanks for taking time, as I understand it, you have a pretty busy schedule on top of your training! So let’s start with the basics. When and how did you get introduced to Brazilian Jiujitsu?
Rebecca Descoeurs Contrino: So I actually started martial arts a while ago, about 6 years ago, but I was mainly only kickboxing back then. After about 2 years of training, I decided to try my hand at MMA; I figured MMA had more opportunity since the sport was growing so fast. Crazy enough, I jumped into MMA and didn’t know any jiujitsu. My first fight was a really close, grueling match. My opponent took me down and I had no idea what to do. I ended up loosing that by close decision. Anyway, it was also around that time that I went to the Fight For Charity that Glen (MacKenzie) used to organize (before jiujitsu became illegal here in Quebec…). My next fight went very differently, and I ended up winning the belt for my division. Around that same time, I had also fought and won a belt in Muay Thai. All in all, though, I’ve been practicing jiujitsu for about three and a half years, and its completely changed my outlook on martial arts.
DA: Nice, this actually seems to be a common thread among the people I’ve interviewed, and my own personal experience as well. I used to do this kind of MMA/street self-defence/karate style thing when I was younger, and felt completely lost when we would spar and end up on the ground. I realised grappling was super important, so I looked for a good school to improve my grappling. In the end, I’ve completely transitioning to BJJ.
Have you thought of getting back into MMA with your new set of grappling skills?
RDC: MMA is still a possibility, but as of now I’m focussing on BJJ.
DA: Gotcha. And so why the switch to jiujitsu? Clearly you’re hooked on martial art competition, but what made you completely switch from MMA to BJJ?
RDC: Funny enough, one of the main reasons is the different style and format of competition. Kickboxing and MMA are performance based competition; there is an entire production, you need to work on your persona, and you focus and concentrate on only one fight. BJJ is totally different; there isn’t the same production surrounding these tournaments, and although people are watching you, they’re just there to see good jiujitsu. You also have to fight way more times in a tournament. Instead of 1 big fight, you sometimes have to strategize for lots of matches. You might have 5, 6, 7 matches, depending on the size of your division and how far you make it.
These are difference between the competition and tournament styles. Outside of the competition stage, the two sports’ environments are very different; I find BJJ to be a much friendlier competition environment. After a jiujitsu match, after a match I’ll actually talk to my opponent and their team or coaches. Hell, I’ve even made friends that are from other teams! In MMA, I would respect my opponent and their team, but it certainly wasn’t friendly. The community and culture are just different, I find the jiujitsu culture to be much more chill, and there is much less ego involved. We’ve all heard this a million times, that if a lower belt taps you, you might not like it, but you get over it and it’s not a big deal. BJJ has taught me humility. In MMA, on the other hand, I found that because there was so much more attached to the production and that you needed to hype yourself up, you couldn’t ‘afford’ to lose to someone who was lower on the ladder. My experience was that MMA had a lot more ego involved.
DA: So in terms of jiujitsu, you ended up going to essentially the ultimate in jiujitsu competition: the Worlds. Tell me a bit about your World’s experiences; this isn’t the first time you compete at the Worlds.
RDC: Right, so we went to the Worlds last year, and we all did phenomenal: everyone won their first 2 matches but ended up losing their third. That was a great team performance in my opinion, although nobody placed, the whole experience really amped us up. This year, unfortunately the team as a whole didn’t do as well, but I ended up winning bronze. Despite the team’s outcome this year, and after talking and thinking about how we can approach next year, the team is ok with the results; nobody is beating themselves up over it.
Anyway, leading up to Worlds though, because I was working and going to school, I was only able train 3 times a week! I had competed at the Grappling Industries tournament in Plattsburgh and did well there, so that built up my confidence. I spoke to my teammates, ‘cause I was still sort of on the fence, and I was telling them “I don’t think I’m ready, I’m not sure I’m ready” and they just said “You never feel ready, nobody is ever really ready!” And so, yeah, they were right… you never feel ready but you just need to train honestly and as much as you can. So I signed up, and I really felt driven and started to train even more seriously.
It was great that we were 5 of us going, and we headed there early to train at the other GBs. So we went to Huntington, which is Otávio Souza’s gym, we went to Long Beach, we went to HQ, and then after the comp, we also went to Northridge. It was so cool being surrounded by all these other GB competitors, training, learning, etc. We were all eating clean, we’d get back to the hotel and watch old matches, talking about jiujitsu, it was great, it was super awesome.
So anyway, I competed first on the Thursday, and so we get to the venue, its this giant blue pyramid, and you see swarms of grapplers, and there are all world class grapplers…
DA: By the way Rebecca, you’re now officially a world class grappler. You know that, right?
RDC: *Laughs* Haha, yeah that’s right! Oh man, that’s nuts, I guess I didn’t think of that. Ok, ok, but anyway, we go into the pyramid, and everything is surreal. You see the biggest names in jiujitsu walking around and coaching their teammates, people like Galvao coaching against you, anyway, it was crazy. I got there, and my matches ended up starting early. Andrew (Racine), was supposed to coach me, but he hadn’t got there yet, nobody from our group had got there yet, so I started to panic a little. Anyway, I’m at the pyramid, and there’s a whole section of people dressed in the red shield, and someone sees me about to start with no coach and runs up to me and asks me if I need a coach. I told him I did, so he coached me. That was Marcelo Rezende, who’s based out of Australia and also Marcia Carvalho from GB Georgia. Anyway, the support was unbelievable from the whole GB family, after the matches were over, we were taking pictures together, and celebrating together. It was awesome.
It was also cool to hear from people back home watching on Flo Grappling and stuff, it was great to know everyone is supporting you and has your back.
DA: So how did you get to that point, Rebecca. Run me through your typical week, both on and off the mats. As I understand it, you’re a pretty busy person, so give us a sense of your schedule.
RDC: *Laughs* Yeah… ok so I’m busy, but I think when you’re motivated to do something, you just kind of find time for it, you just prioritize it. Let’s be honest, it isn’t about ‘not having time’, everyone has the same number of hours in the day, right? It’s really about choosing what you do with those hours. I could choose to watch 2 hours of TV today, but I don’t want to. I’d much rather train than sit on my butt, doing nothing! *Laughs*
Anyway, yes I am busy, but so are other people. They just don’t realize watching 2 hours of TV is ‘doing something’ which eats away at their time. At the moment, I am motivated and disciplined to train because this is what I want to be doing with my time. So in terms of what I fill my week with, I work here at the gym, both doing some administrative stuff for Glen and teaching classes as well. During the day and on weekends, I work for my Aunt’s cleaning company. I was also going to night-classes this year, so finding time to train was a little tough. I’ll actually be studying to be a dental hygienist, starting next September. I’m really psyched to be starting that.
DA: Man, so you definitely have to manage your time well to get all that stuff done! Now, as strange as this question might seem, do you think you would be as motivated to train and keep all these things in check if you weren’t competing? In other words, do you think you would prioritize jiujitsu the way that you do if you weren’t competing.
RDC: I believe it’s important to set goals to stay motivated. So for me, my goal is to compete, my goal is to get as good as I can on the competition stage, and so I stay driven that way. However, a lot of people don’t compete, but they have their own goals which keep them motivated. I like testing out my skill and finding out if what I’m doing will work against opponents. But, there are different motivators for different people, I know of people who have gotten in great shape and that was their motivator, or others who have used this martial art and this awesome community to help battle their mental illness, and that’s another great motivator.
So I don’t think you need to compete to stay motivated, but it’s certainly my goal right now.
It can also be little things, but you need to take the time to think about it and work at it. So for example, you can set a mini goal of just working on recomposing your guard, just making sure nobody passes your guard, something small like that. I really believe setting goals keeps you motivated and moving forward.
As a side note, other than setting goals though, I’ve found that the jiujitsu community and my team keep me motivated. I just like training because these people are my friends, we support each other when we aren’t feeling so hot, we push each other to keep going. My best friend trains with me, my boyfriend trains with me, so yeah, I just love being around here, around my teammates.
DA: Why do you fight Rebecca? What keeps you on the mats?
RDC: Basically, everything we spoke about. I’m motivated because I have a clear goal in mind that I’m focussed on: competition. I also keep training because of my awesome support system, my boyfriend, my friends, my team. They are all reasons I keep training. We have a great GB network, were I can train downtown with great people at GB Montreal, and Glen has developed an amazing competition spirit and team, so I’m grateful to be in this environment also. I fight because I love it.
All content by Dan Aponte. Follow him on instagram @just.dan.thingz