Elisabeth Clay: Onward to Pans!

So, I am off to California to compete at Pans. This is my first year competing as an adult. Seven athletes will be competing from Legacy or Ares Alaska, joining our brothers and sisters from all over the world in the Ares Association to bring all the fire we can. I am super excited to be at Pans. Whether you are my opponent, a fan, or a competitor, I hope that we can all compete and do our very best.

A First For Me

This year I am doing something new. I will be competing two rulesets back to back — Pans this Friday and then next Saturday it will be Onnit: a superfight, nogi and EBI ruleset. If I am going to make this a money-making career, I must be able to switch it up and keep my head about me. Additionally, I will be teaching my first seminar while at Onnit the night before the Onnit Invitational 7.

A Few Words of Advice

Now, to share a learning experience I just went through. Let me preface this with I have absolutely fantastic sponsors: Zebra Athletics, Albino and Preto, and Alaska Club East. But when you are looking for competitions with contracts and rules of their own, you have to make sure that, early in the process, all your contracts are copacetic. The companies you sign are your partners and you want to do right by them. It is your duty to represent them in the best manner possible. They are investing in you, and your actions are your investment in them.

Another piece of advice I have to offer is don’t take a sponsorship simply because you can. Accept the ones that fit you and that you can represent. We are different as individuals just as companies and products are different. Your sponsorship should be a good fit for you. Do not change yourself to fit the company, because at some point you will either fail yourself or the company. Early on I was told by mentors close to me that I would never get big sponsors because of who I was. They said I needed to keep my hair long and not color it, that me in bikinis would be unacceptable, that competing in a sports bra would keep fans and sponsors away. There was so much that was so wrong. I’m here to tell you to be yourself! There is something about being honest and true and having integrity that is far more important than fitting a profile.

We Are All Different

One of the most beautiful things about the world of jiu jitsu is that we are all different. We are from all various races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic levels; we have different gym rules; we have a passion for gi or nogi or both; we prefer leg games or IBJJF or all of it in a flow. We are conservatives, liberals, and libertarians. We are religious and not religious. We are heavy or thin, muscular or not. This is not only okay, it is spectacular. We are all the same on the martial arts mats. All you have to do is find the gym with the right philosophy for you and the people you want to hang with. There is no real limit.

Whether I was travelling alone or with a team didn’t matter. I stepped into that competitive arena with a family, a jiu jitsu family who welcomed me, shook my hand and invited me to eat with them once the competition was through. I love that for the most part we are an extended family of individual jiu jiterios. Yes, there are gyms that preach that you should only cheer for YOUR specific gym family. But in my opinion, we are all out there together to get better. Do we root for those we are closest to more than those we know less? OF COURSE! But in the end it is about each individual becoming better.

More to Learn

Every day I learn more about jiu jitsu, which is my love. I also learn more about myself, my relationships with individuals and companies, and how to live this thing called life. I am so grateful for the part each of you play in the ongoing progress of my life. I am truly enjoying the jiu jitsu life, and, from someone who lives so far away from all of the jiu jitsu mecca’s, I am blessed to have so the opportunity to compete, train, and share it with all of you.

Let me say that I am truly appreciating this awesome California sun and beautiful beaches. It is nice get out of the snow and cold for some great bikini and shorts weather. Thank you, Cali, for sharing it with me. See you in a week, Texas! Hope you give me some sun and nice weather too. If you want, come and participate in the seminar I will be teaching in Austin, Texas at Onnit. I’ll See you on the mats (Zebra mats) in my Albino and Preto gear!

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