Story and Photos By Evelyn Sutton
Archaeological finds of Viking graves in Sweden with the remains of decorated female warriors from the 10th century, prove that in Norse society, women were as powerful as men. A female warrior was referred to as a Shield-Maiden (Skjaldmær), and was mirrored in the spiritual realm of the afterlife by the legendary Valkyries. Shield-Maidens are part of Scandinavian folklore and are mentioned in epic sagas. Nowadays they also appear on the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mats. Proud of her rich heritage, Lindsay Conley is a modern Shield-Maiden who has chosen the gi as her armor and Jiu-Jitsu as her weapon.
JM: Tell us about yourself. How old are you? Where are you from and what does a typical day in your life look like?
LC: I am 33 as of June 22nd, and I was born and raised in New Jersey, just near the shore. A typical day during the week is me going to work at 5:00 a.m. until 2:00pm, then picking up my daughter from school and spending a bit of time working on this or that in my house before having dinner and going to BJJ practice. Then it’s snuggle time before bed.
JM: What attracted you to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
LC: Actually it was watching my daughter train. She had been doing it for about 6 months before I started the women’s self-defense program at Carlson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Team in Melbourne, Florida. I saw the changes in her confidence and her attitude, and was a little nervous to join the co-ed classes. When the women’s classes started up, I figured I’d give it a shot.
JM: What impact has Jiu-Jitsu made in your life, as a woman, and individual?
LC: I feel healthy. I know a lot of women struggle with weight and appearance, thinking they’re not slim enough or fit enough, and I was one of them. As I started to train, I got to a point where I was feeling better and stronger, no matter what my body looked like. I also feel a lot less stress. Jiu-Jitsu has become my own personal therapy session.
JM: How long have you been training? Do you prefer gi or no-gi?
LC: I have been training since September 2020, so about 8 months now. I definitely would say I prefer gi. A few times I’ve tried nogi, it’s just so hard to hold on to anything. You’re already sweaty and gross and now you’re adding slippery clothes or just bare skin. I like the grab options the gi offers.
JM: If you were a BJJ submission, what would you be and why?
LC: I probably have to say that arm bar you get when you’ve been trying so hard to get to a different position. It’s really what you were going for, but the opportunity presented itself and you happily take it.
JM: What things do you find hard in training?
LC: My biggest issue seems to be getting caught on the bottom of a half-guard. I know the move to get out and I try with all my might to escape, battling the other person’s pressure, but most of my strength is not in my upper half body, so it takes a lot out of me.
JM: And what do you find easy, what comes natural to you?
LC: On the flip side of what I find hard, I’m told that I have excellent pressure when I get to a mount position, even sometimes on side control. I have no problem bearing down on my opponent and keeping them down.
“…you are your own worst enemy, your hardest critic.
And sometimes you need to learn to get out of your own way.”
JM: You recently had your very first Jiu-Jitsu competition at your home gym’s in-house tournament. What was that experience like and will you compete again?
LC: It was a little nerve-wracking. And a totally different feeling from rolling in practice, with everybody else rolling around you. In a competition, it’s you and her on the mats alone, no one to guide you step-by-step on how to do it. People are yelling things like watch that leg, turn into her, watch your back. And you have no idea which one of you they’re talking to. But I had a lot of fun and I do plan on competing again but will be sticking to in-house tournaments for now.
JM: How does it feel to be a woman on the mat in what is still a male dominated sport?
LC: Empowering, but also intimidating at the same time. It’s awesome that so many more women are stepping up and making their way in this sport. But being in practice and rolling with somebody who is clearly stronger than you, sometimes you find yourself wondering, can I actually flip this situation around, use it to my advantage, can I actually get to a good position?
JM: Did you play any sports in high school?
LC: Sadly no. In high school I kind of fell in with the “metal heads ” and it was cooler to wear all black and be a chick drummer for me at the time then to participate in school sports. I guess high school was my rebel phase.
JM: How important is having a “female squad” you can lean on for encouragement and support at your gym?
LC: Totally important, at least for me. My gym has so many strong and amazing women that have worked with me and helped me through all the little things, the small details that can sometimes make or break a move. I’m not sure I would have been able to jump into the co-ed adult classes without the encouragement of some of those women.
JM: What do you consider the greatest challenges for women in Jiu-Jitsu?
LC: I know for a lot of women, it’s the lack of other women to train with. They have no one to roll with and feel more comfortable around. I know for me it was hard to think about jumping at the practice with the men. Sadly there are also cases of complete disrespect because some people still think a woman shouldn’t be in a “man’s sport”.
JM: Do you have any women who inspire you in BJJ?
LC: Every issue of this magazine has shown me women from all over the place and each one of their stories is amazing and inspiring. Young girls beating the stereotypes early in life, just setting themselves up for success as they get older. Even the older women not letting their age keep them from doing what they love. But the most inspiration I get is my fellow gym mates. Each of them a mother, or a business owner, or a student. Each one of them on their own level of training, on their own busy schedules. But they never fail to give it their best and to kick some serious butt.
JM: What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of Jiu-Jitsu?
LC: At this present moment I am studying to become a dog trainer. I believe that you can create a better bond with your dog, your furry member of the family, with adequate structure and confidence. I am also big into photography. There’s nothing quite like capturing that one moment in time that will never repeat itself in the exact same way. On my nerd side, I love the cosplay. It’s Halloween, all year long, whenever I want to dress up.
JM: You’re a photographer. How did you get involved with Jiujiteira Magazine?
LC: Well, through random conversations, people found out I did photography, and Evelyn Sutton, the publisher of Jiujiteira Magazine asked if she could use my services from time to time for events at and around the gym. My first shoot was of our Christmas party, which was quickly followed by the amazing opportunity to do a cover photo shoot with Sophia McDermott, the first female black belt from Australia, for an article on the magazine. It was an overwhelming sensation to capture this amazing and strong woman, and then to see my work in print for the very first time. It was a moment I will never forget.
JM: Your daughter also trains. As a mom, why do you feel is important for girls to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and do you have any advice for parents?
LC: Her everyday attitude has improved greatly in the time she has been training. She is a lot more evenly tempered, and so much more confident. I like knowing that if put in a situation where she needs to defend herself, I know she will be safe. In the beginning, as a parent, I was worried that it would cause her to be more aggressive or she would get hurt. What I quickly realized is that you need to trust their coaches. And the coach she has is so caring and so patient, Jiu-Jitsu has completely changed our lives, for the better.
JM: As a young single mom, has training affected who you date and how do potential boyfriends react to your training?
LC: For a long time now I have been a “take it or leave it” kind of person, and practicing Jiu-Jitsu has only strengthened that feeling. This is me, this is all the things I do and if any of it doesn’t sit right with you then I’m not sure it will work. As for potential boyfriends, that hasn’t happened since I’ve started training. But I would like to think they’d be interested in it. And if they weren’t already training they might want to join in.
JM: How far do you want to go in your training?
LC: That is kind of up in the air at the moment. I’m definitely planning on doing more in-house competitions, possibly thinking about later down the line competing at NAGA. But I’m not setting anything in stone. I’m going to see where the vibes take me.
JM: What are you currently working on and would like to get better at?
LC: I’m trying to find new ways to get out of the bottom of a half-guard, that position is out to get me.
JM: What is a life lesson that BJJ has taught you?
LC: The fact you are your own worst enemy, your hardest critic. And sometimes you need to learn to get out of your own way.
JM: What is your hope for women’s Jiu-Jitsu?
LC: I would love to see multiple generations of families inspiring each other and rising up in this sport and lifestyle. Grandmothers rolling with their daughters, who are rolling with their own daughters.
Our printed monthly magazine is full of
extraordinary women with extraordinary stories,
you can subscribe to receive it via mail >