2019 Jiu Jitsu Journey (So Far!)

The main difference between my Jiu Jitsu journey and my Pole journey boils down to the amount of hours I put in, I put in *way* more time into pole than I do Jiu Jitsu, often because I stay for three classes in Pole, but that doesn’t mean to say that I haven’t made progress!

White Stripe

In May I was awarded my first white belt stripe to mark my one year Jiu Jitsuversary.

So, for those of you who don’t know, Jiu Jitsu often has stripes between belts, it often goes five stripes equals one belt promotion. There is no set criteria to stripes and belts, it’s often when your coach feels you’ve made progress.  It can take ten years or more to get your black belt in Jiu Jitsu, so if that’s your goal then you are in it for the long haul, especially if you start later in life.

As such, it’s a pretty big deal for this stripe.

I have zero natural talent for Jiu Jitsu, like, none. I am often at a significant height and weight disadvantage, I am rather timid and anxious, I am clumsy, I don’t like people being in my personal space, and I haven’t had the best time with men so I can feel a little nervous around them.

But I turn up, I try, I get choked out, I learn.

Any little bit of progress is a huge deal for me.

Jiu Jitsu Comp

On the back of this, I have entered a Jiu Jitsu competition. At the time of writing this I am one week away and this is EVER SO SLIGHTLY TERRIFYING.

I will add the results as it happens

Open Mat

Okay, for the longest time I was terrified of turning up to Open Mats, I used to worry that I didn’t belong on them, that I was way too inexperienced to be there, and that if I turned up it would just be an hour of me bothering the higher belts to teach me this thing that I should probably already know, and they are just going to get exasperated with me and I am just going to be wasting their time…

Okay, you can kind of see why I am not making as much progress in Jiu Jitsu as I do in Pole, because in Pole I am completely the opposite to this – when I do make it to Pole Practice, I have no qualms about asking for pointers on a move that I am stuck on, and (as long as it was something that I am convinced that they have been taught before, like a spin or something) I personally wouldn’t mind helping out anyone who was stuck, I wouldn’t think that they are wasting my time.


As of writing I have turned up to three open mat sessions, and yes, they were filled with me asking questions to stuff that we have covered before because this stuff is actually super complicated to my brain, and no, no one was exasperated.

2019 Pole Journey (So Far!)

Well we are right in the middle of the year and I thought it right about time to review my progress.

Pole Competition

I haven’t entered myself into a pole competition.

I have many, many excuses why I haven’t done so – I didn’t have time to practice my routine, I didn’t have time to schedule in private lessons, I didn’t like my routine.

All bull.

I was scared, still am scared, and I didn’t make it a priority above everything else.

But, we have a Showcase coming up in September, and I am determined to enter that!  So watch this space…


Superman is a move that is, on the surface, rather simple – you don’t need a tonne of strength or flexibility to get into it, like you would say for a Shoulder Mount or an Eagle, but you do need an iron will because it hurts.

I can’t even describe the pain, except to compare it to holding a burning rod between your thighs (if you are a Poler, and you have been subjected to the pain that Superman causes and you have a better description, please leave it in the comments down below).

As such, I have avoided it like the plague.

One day in March, our Pole Instructor was feeling particularly sadistic and added it to her lesson and by George I did it! I held it for at least three seconds, long enough to get a picture.

Reader, it hurt, I wept, but I was glad to say that I had done it; I could check it off my list and vow to never do it again.

It doesn’t stop there.

A couple of weeks ago, we revisited Superman, this time our teacher shows us a detail that I missed in the previous attempt, something to do with the top leg, and what do you know, a miracle happened.

I was able to do Superman without it hurting! Three times!

Reader that wasn’t even on my list! Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a scenario where Superman does not hurt, and yet here we are.

I might even include it into a routine one day.

Extended Butterfly

This was a weird inclusion on my 2019 goal list, because technically I had already achieved this move back in August 2018, once.

Do you think I could ever recreate that magical moment? No.

Something was getting in the way every time I tried to attempt it, it seemed really complicated and I didn’t know how to get it without falling off.

Then one Friday session one of the instructors was covering Butterfly and all her variations and I mentioned the difficulty I had with the Extending Butterfly, and to this day I will always remember her advice…

“Just make sure to look up and then take your knee off the pole and around the back”


“Yeah, just give it a go, you’ve got the strength to hold it”

Reader, honestly, I don’t know what I was trying to do before, but I was certainly making it *far* more complicated than that.

(Also that night I achieved my Drop D!)


Brass Monkey

After achieving my Shoulder Mount, Superman and Drop D (and my invert into Scorpio, but that one I kind of just… did…) I was now officially allowed to join the Advance Class.

I did felt a bit nervous about going to the class regularly without my Brass Monkey, so I scheduled a private lesson and made a list of all the moves I was terrified of and prepared to get my ass kicked.

I recommend this to *everyone*, my intuition is telling me if you are struggling with a couple of moves that terrify you, book yourself a private lesson with a super supportive, patient, persistent, experienced instructor, you get an opportunity to work out your particular difficulties in private.

After an hour in the walked out feeling a lot more confident with my Brass Monkey, I still like to have someone hovering around when I’m getting into it, but it’s there!


Shoulder Mount

I wrote SM down on my list of moves to achieve in 2019 and, technically speaking, I got pretty much just as the ink had dried on my list.

I say technically because I used a tiny kick up, close enough right?

Well, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades and I set my sights on an Aerial Shoulder Mount, to get this I would actually have to master the Deadlift Shoulder Mount.

Sometimes I wish there was more of a dramatic narrative to achieving pole moves, because, more often than not, one week it’s a million miles away and the next week you have it, like a painful Christmas present.

With this one I just focused on keeping my feet well in front of the pole and adjusting my hand distance slightly.




Since I managed to tick a load of goals off, I added some more!

True Grip Handspring and True Grip Ayesha

I know, I know Twisted Grip is technically easier and I am making things harder for myself by not shooting for those grips first, but I’ve already attended one Ayesha/Handspring workshop and we tried true grip and twisted grip and twisted grip just feels *wrong*

Okay, wrong isn’t accurate, but I think my shoulder is far too flexible for it to feel secure.

My intuition is telling me I need to book a couple of privates to get to grips with these, because at the moment this is what I am struggling with:


Fear and confusion because I don’t know where my legs are supposed to go  after the kick, I have had an instructor spot me into it a couple of times and once I am there I can hold it, but programming it in is going to take a while I feel.


Conversation when I’m trying to do my Ayesha:

Instructor: “your bum needs to be further back”

Me: “I cannae go any further captain, I’m givin’ her all I got”

It honestly feels like I’m pushing back as far as I can, but I think I need a bit more instruction.

So what’s the take away I’m getting from this?

Keep showing up.

Honestly, just keep showing up.

Every goal I’ve achieved this year has not come without hours of training and failure. Even ones that have come “easier” have only come from building the strength from other moves.

Even when you get a move, just keep showing up, because I have often found that I sometimes I am missing a detail that makes it easier, makes it look prettier.

On Dyspraxia

So in my extended hiatus my lovely instructor Anna Frost (who has been nominated for an award in teaching, a *very* well deserved award) wrote a  Facebook post about me and my Dyspraxia.

Guys, I cried ugly tears,  it was so lovely.

In this post she mentioned briefly about what Dyspraxia is and how it affects those who have it, and I thought I would do a deeper dive into the nature of the disability and what it’s like to live with it.

I suppose on the whole, I consider myself rather lucky – I have never *not* had Dyspraxia, so I have never known what it’s like to live a co-ordinated life.

Growing up I was always known as “Miss Knock It, Drop It, Spill It, Loose It”, I was a veritable ball of clumsiness; I was late learning to tie my shoes, late learning to ride a bike (to the point where I never passed my cycling proficiency test), struggled to brush my hair and tie my tie – my Mother was (and is) an absolute saint about it, she was always really helpful, and aside from good natured teasing, never made me feel terrible about it – it was always just one of those things.

School was… school, like most kids I was bullied, if it wasn’t for my apparent quirkiness, it would have been something else. What truly didn’t help was that I had chosen to attend a Sports College, and (if you are starting to spot the pattern here) I was completely awful. I couldn’t throw a ball, hit a ball, keep time, anything.

I even had a weird run (something I still have to this day).

Along with being terribly clumsy, I was a nightmare at trying to keep things tidy and not losing things.

I ended up being a very anxious teenager, I just felt terribly wrong in my body – I hated it, I felt like I couldn’t trust it to do what it was supposed to and wished that I was just normal. I felt like other people couldn’t trust me and I would get extremely frustrated that I couldn’t do anything right. This affected how I related to my peers, I always felt like the odd one out, the joke of the group., as a consequence I never really made many friends.

I retreated into myself, if I couldn’t be good at sports or socialising, then I vowed to myself that I would be smart. I became an absolute nerd who would grasp at any chance to show off her intelligence as a defence mechanism to the ever present fear of being labelled as useless.   

It came to head one parent’s evening when I was in Year 10, I was getting glowing remarks from the teachers (even my PE teacher commended my willingness to at least try) until I got to my English teacher, Miss Ogden.

I loved English, still love it to this day, I was quietly confident that this session should be a breeze.

Until Miss Ogden asked if I could step away so she could speak to my parents.

Reader, my stomach fell through the floor, I went to sit on a chair and waited for the longest 10 minutes of my life.

After what seemed like an eternity, my parents came back, bemused, but not angry, they promised to talk to me after we had finished parents evening, but they assured me that I had done nothing wrong.

After picking up a McDonald’s my parents proceeded to tell me that Miss Ogden strongly suspected that I had Dyspraxia, a developmental disability.

The sense of relief that washed over me was indescribable, there was a name for what I had been struggling with, it wasn’t a moral defect, my brain was just a bit weird.

A short visit to the Occupational Therapist confirmed the diagnosis and I was told that because I had managed up to this point, there wasn’t much they could do for me, I had seemed to come up with my own coping strategies.

Looking back, that might not have been the best response, but it was always the best response for me – I had the freedom to figure out what works for my challenges.

I went on to move away for Uni and get a very respectable 2:1 in Immunology, I have held down one job or another for the last sixteen years and I am now looking to compete in a Jiu Jitsu competition.

I cannot state enough the benefits of having a supportive environment like Pole, like Jiu Jitsu has had on my ability to manage my Dyspraxia, I still struggle with co-ordinating limbs, but practice has made it easier, the friendly environments have made me feel less defective, less isolated. I still struggle with organisation and losing things, but I am the most confident I have ever been in my entire life.

Going Back To Your Roots

I once heard a story about a very unusual workshop being held by a very famous Poler at that time.

This was way back in 2015 and the story goes that this person (a Bendy Kate/Heidi Coker/Dan Rosen level poler) held a workshop filled with really advanced people and they spent a good chunk of the session going through improving their Step Arounds and Pirouettes.

Did I mention that all of these people could *easily* bang out an Ayesha?

The reasoning goes that they went into such great detail because the instructor wanted them to realise that there is always room to improve even these really basic moves

I can’t remember who it was that was leading the workshop, and I, for one, certainly was not there to say if it was true or not, but the story stuck with me and I thought about it once again when I had to reshuffle my pole schedule.

It was after I had achieved my Invert and had been consistently attending two Intermediate classes a week, I was put in a position where I couldn’t make one of the days. Now, I could have dropped one Intermediate class and just go once a week, but that would have been a sensible decision, which is rather unlike me.

Instead I chose to replace it with a Beginner’s Class.

It can sometimes seem like in Pole that, much like in Pokemon, your whole focus is to collect moves and to level up. You bang out a move a couple of times and call it done, and don’t revisit it again until showcase or pole competition time comes around and you start looking to perfect it and make it look pretty.

I want to divert a moment, and tell you about my Beginner Pole Instructors Rachael and Anna R – both teachers are fantastic and can execute beautifully elegant beginners moves with such grace that you just want to die.

Reader, how many of you can say that you can execute a very graceful Fan Kick landing perfectly on your tippy toes, just like that?

Honestly, I’m genuinely asking here, because I wondering if it’s just me who lands it like I’m wearing hobnail boots.

Don’t get me wrong, I can do a fan kick, I’ve got the strength down and I understand how to execute the technique, it’s just not that graceful and my legs aren’t always as straight as they could be.

It was watching these teachers that I decided that, along with leveling up and getting into Advance class, I wanted to work on my basics and make them look very pretty.

I decided to add Beginner’s class in place of my other Intermediate class and have been doing the two for the last couple of months.

As I have been attending the Intermediate and Beginner classes I have become confident in my Deadlift Invert, Gemini, Invert into Scorpio, Aerial Invert, Butterfly, Aerial Superman, Drop D, and Deadlift Shoulder Mount.

I am now in a position to take the Advance class and I want to share what I have learnt by attending beginners class and some guidelines if you want to go back and revisit your baby Poler days


  1. Talk to the Instructor

Every instructor loves to have a class *full* of highly motivated students, keen to learn; and while you might be highly motivated, you might just raise some eyebrows if the Instructor of the Beginner’s class sees you finish off one class practicing your Shoulder Mount and then stick around for their class – especially when they are planning to teach Chair Spins.

Explain to them that you want to go back and revisit some of the stuff you have learnt to make it look nice and ask would it be okay if you join in, they may not be too keen (see following tips as to why they may be hesitant), but if you express a sincere desire to learn and improve they  will certainly consider it!

Even better, they can also start to plan and offer you progressions on the basics they teach (I see you Pike Chair).

  1. Throw Yourself into the Lesson

I’ve been very fortunate in the studio I attend that I have never seen this, but I have read stories of advanced students turning up to beginners lessons and treating it like a Pole Play session.

First of all that is not fair on the students or the Instructor; if you attend a class, follow along and have a positive attitude and give your all to everything the Instructor throws at you, you’ll get a lot more out of the lesson and you will be a nice Polemate to your class.

Even if the Instructor is explaining something really simple that you can do in your sleep, if you start goofing off on your phone it sends out the wrong message to the rest of the class that it’s okay to ignore the instructor when they are teaching.

If your instructor gives you an opportunity to practice whatever you want at the end, go for it!

Speaking of giving your all….

  1. Start Looking at Small Details

Look, you know you when you can do a lot of fancy tricks upside down, the Beginner’s class will not always pose a challenge to you, especially strength wise.

But what’s your back foot doing in your climbs?

What about your bad side? Do you Deadlift Invert on your good side, but still have to kick up on your bad side?

Is there that one move that you didn’t quite get in beginners class and came back to bite you in butt in Intermediate class (I’m looking at you Side Climb!)

Just like in that workshop, it’s not enough to have the strength to do these moves, but you need to refine your technique and make them look better.

Resist the urge to be a diva and rest on your laurels and look at what you can learn and improve on

Speaking of Divas…

  1. Be Humble, But Honest with your pole mates

There is a line between being the big I am and being a liar.

You look like an utter dick if you go in to class and act like a Queen Bee just because you happen to be in the Intermediate class. If you have been poling for more than a minute, you know how humbling the journey is – wherever you currently are there’s always one more step ahead of you.

Inverting, good – can you Deadlift Invert? Aerial Invert? Straight legged Straddle Aerial Invert? Pike Legged Invert? Shoulder Mount? Aerial Shoulder Mount? Fonji?

Yeah, it’s exhausting and humbling.

On the other hand, you don’t do anyone any favours if you pretend that you are a complete newbie.

Think back to when you were a couple of lessons in to your pole journey; imagine if you went into a class and happened to be sharing a pole with someone who you assume is as new as you are, you’re there working on your front hook, figuring out the hand magic involved in a pirouette and trying not to get too despondent that you can’t hold yourself up in a basic crucifix*, but your fellow pole mate, who just told you they can barely do anything, is busting out a competition climb all the way up the 16 ft pole with perfect pointy toes.

You would feel so disheartened and so discouraged that you might not want to come back at all!

*see the first four months of my original pole journey

If you happen to be sharing a pole with a newbie, it might be an idea to let them know that you’ve been poling for a while, just to reassure them.

If you know of non-awkward way to do this, please let me know, because at the moment I tend to blurt out that I’ve been poling for a long time in an awkward, self effacing way.

I may be early advanced level poler, but I’m still beginner level social skills wise

Speaking of humility…

  1. Be Humble *and* Honest with Your Instructor

Even with all your dedication to attending class to refine your technique, there may be beginner moves that you still struggle with and you might feel like you can’t ask for help because you’re supposed to be the advanced student. You don’t get pole points for silently struggling along.

Let me tell you the sad story about my Side Climb.

I managed to level up my way into the Intermediate class without learning how to properly side climb.

So when it came to side climbing up the pole as part of our warm up in Intermediate class, I felt like a right wally and I didn’t ask for help because I felt like I should know it.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a vague idea how to do it and I made an attempt, but I would sooner skip straight into the Gemini climb overs.

It was only last week that I actually asked the instructor if we could go over side climbs again, and she happily went over it and now I know how to side climb with correct form, not just a mish-mash of memories of side climbs gone by.

Also, by asking, you are probably helping your pole mates out, you are unlikely to be the only one who struggles with a particular move.

Speaking of helping out the newbies…

  1. Encourage the Newbies

People may start attending pole classes to improve their physical health, but they stay for many reasons – one of the main reasons being that a good pole class feels like a small community all there to encourage each other on. I know attending pole classes has resulted a marked improvement in my mental health and my social skills. A pole class filled with people who had a positive attitude is a blessing to everyone.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home from pole class bursting with pride and announced to all who would listen “one of the girls in class said I had really pointy toes!”

Encouraging newbies can easily come across as condescending, forced and insincere – the trick is to sincere and specific. I remember last week one of the newer girls executed a fantastic Fan Kick, one that I certainly couldn’t have done in my first three classes and I made a point to tell her, and she was happy and it’s nice being in an environment like that.

Speaking of encouraging…

  1. Don’t Teach the Class

Look, I have this overwhelming urge to be helpful at all times and I hate to see people struggling – so this something I really have to watch in myself because

I don’t want to injure someone because I’ve given them the wrong advice

I’m not insured if anything goes wrong

It’s not my class to teach – it’s disrespectful to the instructor!

So, if I am paired up with someone and they are having issues and the instructor happens to be the other side of the room helping out someone else I tend to stick to either repeating a particular pointer the instructor gave (I think your top hand goes has to be level with your head) or relating it back to something I’ve experienced (you want to make sure you have a micro bend in your bottom elbow in split grip, I got a nasty case of tennis elbow the first time I tried this because I kept allowing my bottom arm to hyper extend).


Seriously, any doubt, even the littlest of doubts, call over the instructor when they’ve finished with the other student- they aren’t expecting you to have all the teaching points memorized and they would appreciate the heads up.

Speaking of helping the teacher…

  1. Be The Teaching Dummy

There is one thing that is almost as important as learning pole moves and that is learning to spot someone who is executing a move for the first time. The Instructor is always going to be  outnumbered in a group class, so learning the basics of spotting a move, such as the cross knee release, will mean that everyone can spot each other and learn safely.

The paradox often is that the Instructor has to try and demonstrate the move and demonstrate how to spot the move, and honestly you can’t do that effectively without another person.

This is where you have a chance to help give back to the class.

The Instructor may ask for volunteers, but more often than not, they might just call on you to do the move whilst they talk through how to spot it. One of the things to keep in mind, especially in beginners, is that people don’t want to be shown up in the middle of class – especially when it is doing a move they may have done once or twice before – if you are comfortable with the move, and your ego has been weathered by the sands of time, take the time to volunteer your services, especially if the class is looking uncomfortable.

Speaking of giving back…

  1. Be the camera person

Another extension of my desire to help will manifest itself in one of my most frequent phrases – would you like a picture of that?

I wish that I could go back in time to my first pole journey and take photos of my progress – the good and bad stuff, just to see how far I’ve come

I think, through apps like Instagram we’ve become far too aware of what’s out there and I think that we compare ourselves to photos on Instagram, and often find ourselves coming up short. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the gram, but we often tend to skip the opportunity to take photos that we consider that aren’t Instagram ready. I think that’s multiplied by a thousand fold when you are starting your pole journey and your Instagram feed is full of people executing beautiful and advanced moves.

Not every photo has to be for the world, you might think you look horrible now, but a bit of time and perspective does wonders, and as a more advanced student – it’s important for you to gently encourage that mindset.

  1. Seeing Moves from a Bigger Perspective

This one isn’t a tip for attending beginner’s class, but is a bonus that you gain from going often enough.

It’s only from going back to beginner’s class that I have gained an appreciation for the basics and see how they set the foundations for the more advanced moves. The amount of time you spend training split grip Boomerang holds helps build up your strength for the Butterfly-Ayesha family of moves; the amount of time you spend training your Twisted Crucifxes and Peter Pan seats helps build up your strength for Yogini and Invert Pikes.

No matter how many hours I’ve spent in the beginner’s class, I have always come away with an appreciation for the foundations we build there and something I can improve on.

Look, I’ve been guilty of having off days and not being perfect with all of these, but if you turn up with a sincere desire to learn and a positive attitude, you will find your time in beginner’s classes a really enjoyable, positive experience.

No matter what your level is.

You can check out Rachael at @dancingdragonsuk and check out the Momentum Studio @momentum.pole.aerial

It’s Been A Minute

Guess who’s back in the house? Heels click clackin’ about…


Image result for call me mother gif

Okay, yes, it’s me and yes, it’s been a while.


Since I am no longer trying to type furiously away at the keyboard on my phone (I do not recommend for long form blog posts, like, at all) I am bringing back a my blog (and vlog!) with a vengeance. I have one post that I have pre-written a while back and that will be published tomorrow , but in the meanwhile, hi! How are you all doing?

3 Tips To Stop You Breaking Your New Years Resolution

Good afternoon all.

It’s been a while! I’ve been training all the way up to Christmas – Christmas came and went and I felt like a boat unmoored without training (if a boat can lie in bed, listening to My Favourite Murder until 4 in the morning eating mash potato).

This was literally me at 4am, making notes on how not to be murfered

January is in full swing and I am back on the training train, making full use of my Christmas presents and back to blogging after my extended hiatus.


Today is a special day.

Today is the day when (statistically speaking) you are most likely to give up on your New Years resolution; and like Clarence staging an intervention for George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ – consider this a intervention if you’re close to giving up.

Looking back over the years of what didn’t work for me, and what actually did, I think I can point out where I went wrong to help you avoid my mistakes.

1. How much distance is there between the Ideal You and the You that Actually Exists.

Let me put it like this.

The Shay that I want to exist on January 1st gets up at 5am, drinks a litre of water, meditates for half an hour, she then dons her special running shoes and goes for a 7 mile jog, then returns to embrace an hour of Vinyasa yoga, then after her morning ablutions, has a healthy llight breakfast whilst reading the headlines from Corriere della Sera after journalling

This is how Ideal Shay walks out the door in the morning

The Shay that exists on December 31st rolls out of bed after pressing snooze three times, makes herself semi presentable, drinks a Pepsi Max whilst eating crumpets and browsing Reddit of a morning.

This is how current Shay contemplates her choices

There is a big gap between these two versions of myself, and the amount of mental and physical effort that is needed to transform me into my ideal self *overnight* is a lot to ask of one person.

Imagine if I told you that I am running from Lizard Point in Cornwall to Dunnet Head in Scotland – not just once, but every day for the rest of the year.

If twelve days into January I told you that I’d given up, you would ask what took me so long to give up!?

On the other hand, just because there is a huge gap between the person you are now and the person you want to be, doesn’t mean that you give up.

You just make that gap smaller.

So, for me, if I want to read Italian newspapers – I’ve got to learn how to read Italian, but I’ve got so many commitments already! The most achievable step for me is 5 minutes of Duolingo.

It means it’s going to take a little bit longer to get to my ideal self, but it’s a million miles better than nothing.

(I’m still working on the getting up early part.)

So if you’re sat there looking at your lofty goals and realising to yourself just how exhausting this is, just before you give up – break the goal up, and find the smallest piece you could do daily.

2. Look for a Community

If one of your new years resolution is to get fit – don’t immediately head to gym to sign up for a year long membership.

There’s nothing wrong with getting fit in the gym – you have access to equipment that can help you tone and trim almost every part of your body, but it can be a very impersonal environment – people want to get in, work out and get out – not many people will stick around and celebrate your first deadlift.

Humans are social creatures, we build bonds through shared experiences and it becomes so much easier to stick to a resolution when you’re not just going out and getting fit, but you’re seeing your friends as well.

It’s a lot easier to get up Saturday morning and get to Aerial Yoga because I can catch up with Bella; it’s easy to get to Jiu Jitsu and catch up with my rollmates.

There’s also an inbuilt element of accountability, I know if I miss a couple of weeks of Jiu Jitsu, people will ask if I was okay – I know if I miss a couple of weeks at the gym, no one will notice.

So if you are currently struggling to stick to your resolutions, can you find a group who are trying to do the same thing?

3. Check your Ego

If you have some level of skill in an area of your life, it can be hard on your ego to go back to a being a beginner.

I made awesome progress in Pole in 2018 – I ended the year with my first Shoulder Mount!

I tried to take a still of me doing a Shoulder Mount, but it was *definitely* at the wrong angle

In BJJ… I am *certainly* better than where I started, but I definitely struggle.

And it is such a struggle some days.

I can’t lie, the temptation to say “I can’t do Jiu Jitsu, it’s too hard! Why aren’t I making the same amount of progress in Jiu Jitsu as I am making in Pole? I give up!” is there.

I know that’s my ego talking and I have to check it. I have to accept that Jiu Jitsu is going to be something I find difficult and that it’s okay for me to be a beginner and find things hard that other people find easy.

I’ve added an extra session during the week to help me progress.

So have you attempted something that is just out of your comfort zone? You are feeling like a complete newbie and you feel like should be better at this? Take a breath and remember that you can’t wish your way to progress, you’re going to such before you get better.

I hope this helps someone out there struggling. If you’ve got some extra advice that can help someone, leave it in the comments below. If you know someone that’s on the verge of giving, send them this way


I have a confession.

I cannot do a handstand.

Look closely…

Nor can I do a cartwheel, but our studio doesn’t offer a 4 week cartwheel course – they offer a 4 week Handstand Intensive course led by the truly knowledgeable James Hunt.

The Handstand Course should really be called “A Masterclass of Muscle Engangement (Whilst learning to handstand)” because what James doesn’t know about anatomy, posture, and muscle engagement isn’t even worth knowing.

It doesn’t matter where you are on your handstand journey – whether it’s doing your first handstand or learning to press handstand, there’s valuable information to be gained.

There is a lot that goes into perfecting your handstand.

The first nugget of knowledge I received was during the warm up. Now, everyone who knows me off the web knows that I have terrible balance, any instruction that starts off with “now standing on one leg” is met with me desperately clutching on to the nearest solid, stable surface.

James instructed us to put all our weight in the left leg, engage our left glute, and lift up our right leg.

Reader, I balanced.

There was ne’er a wobble or a wibble, I was balanced safe and strong thanks to my bum.

We then move onto how to properly do a plank! I learnt in quite a physical way that there is a big difference between a “plank” and a proper plank.

Whilst I was working on one of the exercises, James came over and instructed me to engage my lats (after showing me where my lats were located first), and wouldn’t you know it? Not only did my performance improve in the kick ups, I was immediately felt my posture improve.

I cannot tell you just how good it feels to have good posture. I’m saying byee bye to my hunched shoulders.

The rest of the class is comprised of detailed exercises about shoulder engagement, how to properly engage your core, the importance of engaging the glutes – and partner work! Lots of partner work!

The end of the class is comprised of a partner exercise where one partner kicks up and the other partner spots you. James runs through how to safely spot each other and it builds a real rapport with everyone in the group.

There’s nothing like trusting a someone to catch your kicking feet to build a bond.

And, last night, I actually managed to hold a freestand handstand for at least 2 seconds!

Next time I’m actually going to get someone to capture this feat 😂

If you are down Gloucester way, come in and check out the Handstand course! Or hit James up on Facebook

Practically Trumps Anxiety

I think I remember the first time I had to wear shorts at pole; it was a couple of weeks in, and our instructor announced that we would need shorts next lesson because we were going to learn how to climb.

I gulped.

My instructor, at the time, was tall, lithe and long legged – she was a part time model. I, in contrast, felt short and dumpy standing next to her; add to that my legs hasn’t seen the sun since a two week holiday in Turkey a couple of years previous to this (and then only for a couple of hours) I felt anxious about exposing so much of myself that could be judged.

I mean, if *I* couldn’t help but judge myself every time I walked passed a mirror, surely everyone else would.

There was no getting around it, I had seen my instructor do wonderful and amazing things on the pole, but she was only able to do it because of how skin grips to the pole*

Rissian Layback

Russian Layback from 5th Edition Ultimate Pole Bible. She is just using her skin to stick to the pole.

I sat down and I had to have a chat with myself, and ultimately came up with the reasoning: “it was fine to wear short shorts because this is pole and I actually need to show some skin to get good grip on the pole and improve my skills. It doesn’t matter whether my legs look good or not, it’s all about the grip. It’s practically a health and safety requirement really.”

Here I’m literally just hanging onto the Pole using the pressure from my skin and the friction of my skin – no hands!

So, with my pasty white legs clad in some short shorts, I marched into the studio, and I learned the principles of climbing a pole (I failed to actually *climb* the pole, but that’s another story).

I don’t think anyone actually noticed my legs.

I learnt in a very practical sort of way that by shifting my mindset from a self-critical perspective to a practical one, I was able to overcome my anxieties and insecurities in that moment.

I have been able to use this mindset when I was asked to lead the team briefings at work, I was nervous about public speaking, but I found that once I focused on the message – the actual purpose of speaking – it became easier.

Sure, the fear is still with me, I still get self-conscious about public speaking and inadvertently blinding someone with my snow white legs, but knowing you have a purpose tends to make it easier to ignore the nagging feeling of critical self-consciousness.

Viva Star

Pasty legs? Don’t care, have a Viva Star. And yes, my top *is* inside out.

*Fun science experiment: grab a metal spoon and a cloth – first, run your thumb over the metal, then cover your thumb with the cloth and try again – notice how easier it is to run your thumb across the spoon when it’s covered in cloth? Your bare skin adheres ever so slightly to the spoon and creates friction – it’s the friction that helps polers “stick” to the pole. Friction and pressure.

Learn to do *Something*

You know that terrifying feeling when you’re walking alone, you catch sight of a man in your peripheral, and you hear the words “excuse me, miss?”

You freeze. Your heart begins to race. You have to make a decision. You think…

  • Do I walk on?
  • What if they chase after me?
  • What if they need help?
  • Do I stop?
  • What if they don’t need help and they attack me?
  • What will I do?
  • What can I do?

It’s that last thought that terrifies me. I’m a 5 ft 6″ woman, I weigh 9st 6lbs – I pose a threat to approximately no one, especially not to a fully grown adult man looking to jump me on a dark, lonely street. What could I do?

Not the most intimidating, I’ll admit

Fortunately for me, I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu six months ago, and I know now I can at least do something.

Fortunately for my polemates, they attended a workshop led by the lovely, knowledgeable and experienced Paul Surtherland (from Trojan Free Fighters).

Now a two hour workshop might not be enough to fully prepare you for an attack, but it was a great introduction to just how effective some of these techniques are.

Paul first walked us through the basics – how to fall without knocking ourselves out and how to stand up without giving up our backs.

(I’m not going to lie, I was quite pleased that Paul noticed my proficiency at break falls and technical stand ups – it was at this point I had to admit I had done this before).

We then moved onto striking (my weakest point) and then takedowns (something I’m working on, because *apparently* “we can’t pull guard in the street”).

It was when we were learning takedowns that some of my polemates started to realise, this stuff could work!

We then moved on to some strangle defences, from standing and from the floor. Then we finished off the class by learning some finishes – the Armbar, the Triangle choke and Rear Naked Choke

It was at one point when my polemate had me in an armbar, she remarked “I can see how this could cause some damage”

You can really feel just how powerful your legs are when someone puts just the smallest amount of pressure in a Triangle Choke.

And it was a similar moment for me, six months ago, when I first realised, that if it all kicks off, I can do something.

Sure, the first thing I should do is run away.

But if I can’t?

If the worst thing happens and I end up knocked to the floor?

It’s not over.

I can survive, I can get away, I can live another day.

I don’t have to be paralysed with fear, thinking “what should I do?”.

All in all, Paul was a fantastic instructor, everyone really enjoyed themselves! Also they felt felt pretty badass after the class – and that confidence can really transfer over to your personal life too.

If you want to learn more you can cone along to:

Fighting Fit Martial Arts in Cheltenham (my home gym!)

Or Trojan Free Fighters in Gloucester


Since its Friday, and I’ve seen a lot of blog posts about it across my Twitter timeline, let’s be thankful!

5 Things I’m Thankful For This Week

  1. I am thankful for GrapplersGuide* for providing templates for training logs. They are revolutionizing my way of training! I’ve set up a Google Docs system – I write down what I’ve learned in training, what I did well, what I needed to improve on. I can actually start tracking my progress instead of just saying “I’m terrible”
  2. I am so thankful for Anna F’s Abso-flexing-lutely class; last week was front splits (which I missed), this week she focused on middle splits/pancake! I learnt so much about flexibility – active vs. passive, nerve gliding etc., and while I’m still a long way off achieving any splits, I feel confident that this class will help!
  3. I found my rollmate! In BJJ it’s a good idea to roll with a lot of different people, but when you find that person who is a similar level to you, is a similar height and weight (and has a similar sense of humour) – magic happens! Or at least it did for me on Wednesday.
  4. I found my Tumeric capsules! I’ve managed to injure my wrist and whilst I wait for my physio appointment, I’ve been reliably informed that taking Turmeric capsules will ease the inflammation
  5. I got to help a polemate qualify for her instructor certificate! She had to record a class and submit it to qualify to teach pole and I’m really grateful to be a part of a community where we turn out and help each other out!

Your turn now – 5 things that you’re thankful for, and go!

*Honestly, if you do BJJ I would recommend signing up for GrapplersGuide – the content is amazing!