By Evelyn Sutton
Photos supplied by Wendy Jarva
Sponsoring an army of champion Jiujiteiras which includes well-known athletes Mona Bailey, Melissa Lozano, Sophie Sharp and Jillian DeCoursey, Wendy is the boss babe designer and creator of SicChic, a company that actively supports and empowers women – from professional athletes to housewives – in combat sports. SicChic is a reflection of Wendy, who with resilience turned a dream into reality despite the loss of a close friend, her own personal battle with cancer and the many curve balls life sent along the way. Wendy persevered and now she lives to tell her story and inspire thousands of girls and women to join the ranks and fight in ultimate style.
As little girls, Wendy and her sister were tomboys. They would wrestle around with the neighborhood kids, play manhunt and practice fighting in the backyard, thinking they were doing the moves exactly like the Karate Kid 80’s movie. Growing up, the sisters loved Karate Kid.
Their father, however, didn’t share the love or approve of his daughters running around like street fighters, protective, he worried they would get hurt.
Fast-forward to a decade or so later, Wendy is now dating a young man named Keith, and her future-to-be-husband is all about that martial arts life. Keith grew up poor and his family didn’t have enough money to pay for karate lessons. He was so committed to learning that as soon as he got a job, he used his very first paycheck to sign-up for classes at the local dojo. Martial arts quickly became a big part of their relationship, an interest they both shared, so much so that once they got married and started a family, they named their second born Brandon Lee, after Bruce Lee’s son. To say they were a little obsessed is an understatement. Both Jarvas’ boys were signed up for classes as soon as they turned four years old.
Keith and the boys were actively training and Wendy started getting a little bored of just watching them in class. On Saturdays, during kids class, an adult class would come in to train Krav Maga. Usually two or three women attended, the rest of the students were men. One Saturday, Wendy told her sister, “You know what? We could do that! How about we start taking Krav Maga classes together?”
They did. And so Wendy’s adventure begins.
The sisters were passionate about their training. They did very well in class and quickly acclimated to the male-dominant environment. Wendy was thirty-four years old when she started. The sisters trained hard for a couple of years to test for their Krav Maga yellow belts.
“I love Krav Maga, that’s my thing. My sister and I, we were getting ready to take our yellow belt test, and for about two years going really hard with training, sparring… to make a long story short, my sister hit me in the breast during a particular tough training session and it felt very strange. It felt like there was something going on other than just a sport injury. I was really concerned.”
A few days later, Wendy had a feeling that whatever was going on inside her breast was getting worse. She decided to seek medical advice and took her concerns to the attention of her doctor.
Coincidentally, at this time, Wendy was caring for her best friend who was battling stage three breast cancer. Once a week, Wendy would accompany her friend to chemo. Twelve rounds were required before she could have surgery. Wendy would sit with her for six hours while she got her treatment and then drive her home after.
“When I got hit on my breast and days after it was still hurting, I immediately knew that was not a good sign. I went to my doctor and he was concerned. He sent me to get a mammography.”
When the results came back, they were negative. The mammography didn’t show any abnormalities.
Wendy was aware that when you have dense breast tissue and you’re only thirty-nine years old, cancer can hide and be very difficult to detect in early stages, especially if the tumor is small. She wasn’t satisfied and requested a sonogram.
The results of the sonogram came up inconclusive. Her doctor decided they should wait three months and then do a follow-up exam.
The three-months that followed were agonizing. Wendy couldn’t focus on anything but what could be happening in her body. “I remember hugging my younger son and feeling like there was something weird, deep in my breast.”
Finally it was time to return to the doctor’s office. By then any hematomas or blood build-up from the training injury were gone, and the sonogram should detect if there was something in her breast that shouldn’t be there.
Wendy gets a new test done. The results come in. The attending nurse pauses for a moment before saying, “I’ll be right back with the doctor.”
The Fight For Her Life
On March 24th, 2011 at 2:54 pm — she actually remembers the time down to the second — Wendy was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her worst fear had materialized. It was time now to gear up for the toughest fight of her life.
Cancer is a cruel opponent. Wendy had to undergo chemo treatment for eight months and lost all of her pretty long hair, something she kept away from everyone outside of her immediate family by wearing a wig that closely matched her natural hair color and style.
Her boys were very little at the time and the thought of them having to grow up without her kept her motivated to beat the disease.
“My boys were little at the time I was diagnosed. I think my younger guy was in second grade and my older one was in fifth grade. Thinking I might not be there for them was terrible. I didn’t want to tell any of my neighbors, I didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. I would wake up and even thou I felt miserable, I would put on makeup, wear a wig that matched my hair and take the kids to the bus stop like any other day. As far as I know, nobody outside my family and a handful of friends I trained with knew what was going on. I kept my battle private.”
Once Wendy completed the eight months of treatment, her hair started growing back and she stopped wearing wigs. One morning as she was dropping off her son at school, a woman approached her and commented: “Hey, Wendy! Why did you cut your hair?” Wendy was known for her long hair and some people were surprised to see that she had “cut it”. This time, Wendy decided to share the truth: “No. I didn’t cut it. It fell all out because of chemo. I had breast cancer.”
At that point, Wendy’s friend made a comment that her mother had breast cancer. Wendy encouraged her to go see a doctor and get tested, for peace of mind. She recommended her friend get an MRI for accuracy. The timing of the encounter couldn’t have been more perfect. It turned out the friend was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. Wendy’s willingness to share her story and encourage her to get tested may have saved this woman’s life.
From Krav Maga to Jiu-Jitsu
After winning the battle against breast cancer, Wendy resumed her martial arts training. She went on to receive both her yellow and orange belts in Krav Maga.
While Wendy was undergoing medical treatment, her sister started to take a couple of BJJ classes in between Krav Maga training and in a short amount of time had become quite proficient at the gentle art. Today, Wendy’s sister is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. “Every time my sister and I wind up on the floor I felt like a fish out of water. I had no tools to protect myself against her Jiu-Jitsu moves. I had to fix that.”
A Vision Becomes Reality
Thirteen years ago, there was nothing for women when it came to athletic fight wear. Rash guards, spats, even gis for female athletes were nearly impossible to find. Women had to settle for men’s cuts that weren’t at all flattering to the female figure or wear kids sizes. The very few products available for women in the market were bland, lacked design and personality.
Wendy wasn’t at all happy with the lack of fightwear for female athletes and decided to do something about it. Having worked as a medical illustrator most of her life, she had the trained eye and artistic talent to be a great fashion designer. It was just a matter of taking the leap.
“I was always an artist and an illustrator. I thought, ‘I should start designing my own stuff!’ And just like that, I got started. I was creating my own rash guards, putting the little details together with an iron by hand. I would wear it to class and my training partners were like. ‘Wow, that’s cool! Where did you get that?’ And I’d say, ‘I did it myself.”
SicChic is a company on a mission to empower women in martial arts and in life. Back in the day, there weren’t many women training BJJ or MMA, and the few that were training often felt they needed to be or look more masculine in order to fit in and be accepted in the high testosterone environment of Jiu-Jitsu. Nowadays, we have a much larger and diverse community of Jiujiteiras with women of all ages and backgrounds training. You can be smart, you can be beautiful, you can be attractive, you can be a soccer mom, you can run a company, you can be all-woman and train as hard as the men. SicChic is a brand that elevates women on the mats and connects with all of that. The focus on high quality materials, attention to detail and attractive designs allow women to feel strong, beautiful and feminine, at the same time perform like a beast when it’s time to roll. Wendy aims to make women feel confident wearing her designs. And nothing is more powerful than a confident woman.
The five-stars rated women’s fightwear brand is available for purchase on Amazon and on the company website: sicchic.com. There are a variety of designs and styles to choose from with the option to order custom sets as well.
Wendy Jarvas loves Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and she loves supporting the community sponsoring athletes and giving out cash prizes at competitions. She’s also done a lot of charity work through SicChic, donating over $30,000 for breast cancer research and $2,000 for autism awareness. Her generosity is only made possible because of the continuous support she gets back from the Jiu-Jitsu community. Buying a rashguard from SicChic goes a long way in making a difference in someone else’s life.
“I love when I get an email from a parent telling me their daughter is being bullied or picked on, and she’s suffering from low self-esteem, she’s upset and they are reaching out because they know I run a company truly committed to supporting girls and women. I listen to their story, I bring them into the fold of all that SicChic is and represents, and usually within six months, the parents will message me again. This time, thanking me, telling me how I saved their daughter. How she is now confident, strong, and fearless. That means the world to me and makes me feel like I fulfilled my purpose.”
Being part of the SicChic army of fighters really helps some of these girls and makes a difference in their lives in a positive way.
There are plans for new products coming down the line in 2021. SicChic Mat Monster nogi set continues to be a best-seller among Jiujiteiras everywhere, having sold over 10,000 pieces since it’s debut nine years ago. Wendy’s creative mind is always thinking of new collections and innovative designs. Not surprising, sometimes new ideas also come from her husband, who actively trains and is involved in Jiu-Jitsu as well.
“It’s really a true partnership between the two of us. We train together and sometimes we create together. I’ll show him a design and he’ll say something like, ‘what if you move this here, put this there’ and it all sort of works out really well. He is involved in the business and he enjoys it. It’s wonderful to be able to share this dream with him.”
Excited about the future, Wendy wants to see our community continue to grow and thrive.
Follow SicChic on IG: sicchicfighter
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