Who is Elisabeth Clay?
Coming off her recent win at the 2017 ADCC West Coast Trials we were left wondering, “who is Elisabeth Clay and where did she come from!?” In case you missed it, FloGrappling summed it up nicely, “The 16-year-old blue belt from Alaska won the -60kg division, which makes her the joint-youngest competitor to ever compete at ADCC Worlds (the other being 16-year-old Kizma Button who competed in 2005). Whatever happens in September, her name will likely stay in the people’s memories for a long time as a result.”
Curious to learn more about her and eager to follow her journey to Finland the ADCC Worlds we reached out and soon partnered with Elisabeth to help her tell her story as it unfolds. Through blogs and vlogs, Instagram takeovers and more, we will be looking back at the journey that led her to the West Coast Trials, how she hits the Jiu Jitsu mats to train for fights and ultimately to her experience in Finland, each and every week!
Below is Elisabeth’s first post, we encourage you to check in weekly!
Introductory Blog—Elisabeth Clay
“I was born into a family of competitive gymnasts. We are a blended family (my Dad had 2 children and my Mom had 4 when they got married) and together they had four more. My Dad adopted my Moms first four and we were raised as a tight group. I am the oldest of their four they had together. Four of my older siblings were on competitive gymnastics teams, so hardcore training (40 plus hours a week) was just a normal part of my life. My older sister Lacey had heart issues, so she coached once she could no longer compete. She also trained and became the youngest Yoga Alliance certified yoga instructor in the U. S. This all took place when we lived in Texas.
When we moved to Alaska, high level gymnastics was difficult to find. So my older sister, Lacey, became my coach on the Kenai Peninsula at the only gymnastics school. When it became apparent that my time was wasted and would not be able to progress because of lack of training hours; I left the sport of gymnastics with great sadness. Quickly we began the search for a sport that would appeal to me and to my younger brothers. A family friend suggested that we check out Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as he trained at a local school. My mom decided to check into any of the local martial arts schools (although at the time, she was not in favor of any fighting art, funny to think now). We tried out BJJ at the one and only legitimate BJJ School and I immediately fell in love with it. Being in a seasonal town, where summer fishing pretty much halted everything, the school was closed in July. So I trained open mat sessions and in informal classes until August of 2012 when formal classes began again. I trained a matter of weeks before I began not only taking kid’s classes but also adult classes, MMA classes and extra conditioning time at the gym.
By six months in, I was a student helper in the kids’ classes and training/conditioning more than ever. I trained there for 4 years, and then by necessity of training, moved to Anchorage and began training at Legacy Jiu Jitsu. It was a decision that I was forced to make… move or stop training. We looked at schools all over the United States researching teaching philosophy, training partners, class hours, etc. I needed a school that not only would tolerate, but encourage a free spirit and hard core training attitude at my age. It had to have training partners that would not be put off by who I am, as I am not the easiest to work with. I push hard, I have a playful mouth and I love “smart-assery” mixed with intensity. I love a complete game… from IBJJF rules, to leg game, to shin on shin, to pressure, you name it. I didn’t want to limit my learning by what is “accepted”.
While researching schools, I was missing training, so I said “Let’s check out the new school in Anchorage”. WOW! It was a perfect match and just what I was looking for. Jordan Kontra is an incredible professor. His attitude was and is just what I needed. He challenges me in training, diet, weight cutting, and so much more. You come into class and most of the time there is reggae music playing until it gets to competition class and then there are motivational talks or intense music for hard core training. We train like it is a tournament and we have bonded into a really tight group. There are women in the classes, but for the most part, I train with some real Jiu Jitsu monsters. They are black, brown, purple and blue belt men. Four of us from that group were on that ADCC trials team. I cannot thank them enough. Kalei Talamoni, Grant Birmingham, Dennis Grogan, and of course my professor: Jordan Kontra. I would not have won without them. It was the best decision for my career and just for my love of Jits to join the Legacy family. I am blessed beyond words with an awesome coach who works with my attitude, drive and focus in a spectacular way allowing me to grow and become the best BJJ me. The family of training partners is varied and they challenge and support my growth daily. They beat me up constantly and occasionally let me beat them up. If you’re not getting beat up, you’re in the wrong room. I love it! My training schedule includes noon Jits, assisting in kid’s class, night class, and comp class. Then three days a week I do cardio- either swimming or running for 45 minutes, and three other days a week I lift. Also, included in my training, a group of us come in and work on take downs, wrestling and wrestling defense for an hour. The gym rats of us are regularly there many extra hours. Regularly 6.5 to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week we are training. Saturday is a 2 hour open mat, then weight lifting. And Sunday is judo for an hour, plus often extra work after with Sensei Nifo Faletagoai. Add into that schedule several hours cooking, meal planning and prepping to eat optimally. I eat super clean to be able to train like this and most of my food is weighed or measured, in order to maintain control of the diet. I cook the vast majority of my meals myself.
Yoga was something I was introduced to very young as my sister taught privates, classes and practiced at home. I began incorporating yoga into my training after a back injury, where I could hardly do any Jits. For my training and body rehabilitation, hot flow became my favorite. The temperature of the room was great for loosening my muscles, but not too hot, and the flow helped with the stretching and strengthening of my low back. In the last year, I have had some fun with Acro Yoga. My training schedule has become so intense that yoga has become less common in my regime, but I am about to incorporate it back into my weekly schedule. I am super excited to compete with the big name BJJ people and see how I do, as well as being able to eat after and enjoy some Finnish food (particularly since I am ¼ Fin). I live and love to train hard and compete. Jiu Jitsu is my life. Pushing myself and my training is what makes me happy. Win or lose, I will be challenging myself and I’ll be back again to compete. If you want something, choose you’re training family carefully and chase you’re dreams to the fullest. Don’t let anyone stop you or tell you that you can’t, not even yourself… become your lion or lioness!”