Finding Fitness and Friendship Through Martial Arts

Finding Fitness and Friendship Through Martial Arts

When my twins were born, I needed to find a way to make “mom friends” and move my body again. A combination of Stroller Fit at the local mall and a few mom-and-tot groups at the early years centre helped me to build a little community of mom friends around me.

But a few years later, we moved to a new city out of the little community I created and I once again needed to find some mom friends. I made small talk with other parents at kindergarten pickup, but I was faced with the common question, “How do you make friends as an adult?” 

I wasn't just feeling lonely, I realized that I missed the activity in the programs I previously used to make friends. Let me paint you a picture that I’m sure a lot of parents can relate to—I was back to working full-time, parenting and running my household the rest of the time, and struggling to prioritize my health and well-being. I thought I was busy before but this took it to the next level. We often put so much focus on our children that looking after ourselves becomes an afterthought. 

I had been looking for an activity for my kids to do when an acquaintance recommended a nearby Brazilian jiu-jitsu school. My kids loved it immediately and I spent the next few months watching their classes from the waiting room listening to the other moms chat about their own training. 

The surprising solution to both of my problems came in the unlikely form of martial arts—specifically Brazilian jiu-jitsu. After hearing these moms talk about how much they loved training in the adult class, I eventually worked up the courage to do a trial class and I was immediately hooked. I shocked everyone who knew me—including myself—with how excited I was to train Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Growing up, I was the girl who avoided gym class like the plague and I didn’t play a single sport. I never thought that seeking out an activity for my children would also benefit me in my quest for friends and fitness. 

Rachael and Amber smiling after training

7 years later with Amber, one of the moms that inspired me to try BJJ.

I loved that jiu-jitsu kept my mind fully engaged and present during class. There was no worrying about work, my to-do list, or anything else. At the same time, I was getting a total body workout. I was very sore for the first few months but the joy I was also experiencing changed my internal dialogue around fitness. It stopped feeling like a chore and started feeling like a reward. Thoughts of “I have to go to the gym” became “When do I get to go again”.  

Training several days a week with the same people is a fantastic way to build connections. The moms that inspired me in the waiting room became my closest friends and the rest of the students became my community. With my kids belonging to the same community, it has really made my life easier to navigate. As an added bonus, Brazilian jiu-jitsu helps me to be a more calm and patient mother by giving me an external outlet for my frustrations.

We moved again a few years after I started jiu-jitsu but this time instead of starting from scratch to find my community, the first thing I did was look for a new gym. Joining a martial arts gym allowed me to quickly meet people and become part of a supportive community. 

Now I’m not only a student but also a coach. I get to introduce new women to martial arts with the women-only classes I teach at Eastside Jiu-Jitsu club. If you’re in the east end of Ottawa or in the Orleans area and you are curious about martial arts, come try a class with me. You might be surprised by all of the things jiu-jitsu can bring to your life.

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