Story and Photos By Evelyn Sutton
Natasha Grigorian is quite possibly the most positive and friendly person you’ll ever meet in Jiu-Jitsu. Kind, helpful and easy going, she’s the type everyone enjoys being around. Not too long ago, Natasha left the concrete jungle of São Paulo, Brazil, to build a new life for herself in the United States. This tropical beauty radiates the natural South of the Equator warmth many Brazilians are known for. But get her on the mats and it’s a different story. When it’s slap and bump time, she has no problem slicing your neck in a guillotine. Determined to conquer her American Dreams and her Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu birthright, Natasha is here to slay.
JM: Tell us about yourself. How old are you? Where were you born?
NG: I am originally from São Paulo, Brazil and I am 33 years old. Three years ago I decided to change my life completely and move to the United States. I sold the majority of my things in Brazil and came to the USA with only three suitcases. I was alone. No friends, no family, no job, and full of uncertainty. I had my faith in God to sustain me and determination to make my American dreams come true.
JM: Have you trained martial arts before and what attracted you to BJJ?
NG: When I was younger, I trained Taekwondo back in Brazil, and won the championship for my city (São Paulo). I always wanted to train Jiu-Jitsu, but I felt I did not have enough time and my focus was on other things. What I love about Jiu-Jitsu is the strength it gives you mentally and physically. Modern life is stressful, and Jiu-Jitsu is the best medicine to release stress!
JM: How was your very first BJJ class?
NG: I was lost. I did not know what to do. But my training partners made me feel comfortable quickly. Most people that train know this is a difficult endeavor, so they are happy to help. Outside of Jiu-Jitsu, it’s very hard to meet such nice and helpful people who share your passion.
JM: What impact has Jiu-Jitsu made in your life, as a woman, and individual?
NG: It’s boosted my confidence greatly, enhanced my body awareness, and made me stronger, more flexible, with much more endurance. I’ve also made a lot of great friends! Finally, it keeps me in touch with my culture because sometimes I miss home.
JM: How long have you been training? Do you prefer gi or no-gi?
NG: I’ve been training non-stop for a year and a half. Despite moving and switching gyms, I’ve never stopped training. I began at Fabin Rosa BJJ in Orlando, and currently I’m training at Carlson Gracie Melbourne under David Sutton. I used to be a GI Jiujiteira, but nowadays I am liking being a NoGI Jiujiteira better!
JM: What’s your favorite position and favorite submission?
NG: I like to play closed guard, and I love to use guillotines!
JM: What things do you find hard in training?
NG: Because I am a woman and usually the smallest or weakest person on the mat, I have to be aware of my technique and make sure it is perfect or I’ll get smashed! I don’t have the luxury to power out of bad positions.
JM: And what do you find easy, what comes natural to you?
NG: I am very competitive by nature, so wanting to compete and trying to get better is easy for me.
JM: You are originally from Brazil. In your opinion, what are some of the differences you’ve noticed between the community of Jiujiteiras in Brazil and the community of Jiujiteiras in the United States?
NG: The only real difference is the language. Every gym I’ve trained at has been full of empowered women who share the same drive, passion, and energy. I’ve seen a lot of women use the practice of Jiu-Jitsu to overcome traumatic events and improve themselves. I’m happy to be a part of it, and I don’t think we’re going to stop or be held back!
JM: What do you consider the greatest challenges for women in Jiu-Jitsu?
NG: Attitude is everything. Some women fear the fire, some women simply become it. If you remember who you are and train hard, the game will change for you!
JM: Do you have any female BJJ role models you look up to?
NG: I follow Rafaela Guedes and Rose Namajunas. Rafaela is so intense, but smooth! Rose is one of the best Mixed Martial Artists in the world. Both of them put a lot of heart and feminine energy into what they do. I really draw inspiration from them!
JM: What is your advice for women who just started training BJJ?
NG: Don’t stop! Jiu-Jitsu is a frustrating sport. You will have good days, and you will have many bad days. The key is to keep going. Secondly, … BREATHE! You may have a bad training session or a bad day, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out for Jiu-Jitsu. Remember who you are and why you started. You are beautiful, strong, capable, and brave!
JM: What’s something people would be surprised to find out about you?
NG: A few years ago I broke my tailbone in a car accident. Some days it’s very painful to train, but I fight through it. I’ve also fractured a few of my ribs and sometimes I struggle with my confidence due to pain. Instead of letting it stop me, I view it as a challenge to overcome and try to force myself to become stronger physically, mentally, and spiritually.
JM: What have you learned from Jiu-Jitsu that you apply to your daily life?
NG: Be yourself. Believe you can do something and you are halfway there. We often become our thoughts. Jiu-Jitsu forces you to go outside of your comfort zone and face your fears. Losing is part of Jiu-Jitsu, but it is turning that loss into self-improvement that is important. No one is coming to save you on the mat, so you need to be your own hero.
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