Champion Sophia McDermott Fitness Tips and Advice for Women in BJJ
Sophia McDermott, owner of SophiaFit, Australia’s first female black belt, multiple time world champion, nutrition expert, and a jiu-jitsu mom, took the time out of her busy day to be interviewed by Girl-Jitsu. She gave some amazing tips on each person’s individual jiu-jitsu, and how their personality manifests into their style. Here are the highlights of her great tips.
McDermott is an inspiring, experienced practitioner that truly cares about women feeling like they belong in the sport, and the interview felt more like advice from an old friend than a cut-and-dry question and response. She holds seminars all over, and anyone can request one on her website. She also sells an ebook on fitness and nutrition, so there are plenty of links for more information and all the Sophia you could want by clicking here or visiting her Facebook fan page here! Article by K. Arms
Fitness and nutrition were already a large part of Sophia McDermott’s life before she began her jiu-jitsu journey. She was passionate about gymnastics when she was young, which led to her jiu-jitsu being so technical and detail-oriented. To really understand a move, she looked at each small aspect of it. In her personal training, she looks at muscles the same way, trying to add functionality to the muscles as opposed to just building them up individually.
“A lot of people go to the gym to do ‘strength training’ for their sports,” McDermott said. “But they’re actually doing bodybuilding training because that’s what’s being taught. It’s muscle growth and shaping your muscles to look good so there’s more of an individual aspect to each muscle. Which looks great on stage, but at a functional level, your muscles don’t’ work as one. Like everything works together; when you’re pulling a gi [in jiu-jitsu], you’re using your forearms and you’re using the biceps and you’re using your back muscles.”
When going to the gym, doing functional exercises where muscles work together will help more in the long run, and still make your body look great!
McDermott became very successful in jiu-jitsu, co-running a gym, training, competing, all while having and raising children. Her immune system suffered from how hard she worked herself, and she was frequently sick. Because of this, she realized athletes needed to take care of themselves just as much as they trained. Nutrition, sleep, and mental health are all aspects that work together to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“That’s what I do now with my personalized plans,” McDermott said. “That sort of mental health and meditation and zen stuff, positive affirmations, goal setting and things like that.”
Over the last few years, McDermott has been “carving out a niche” for herself in jiu-jitsu. The perspective she takes has been tested and is very unique.
“My angle is coming from an overall wholistic perspective of health and wellness,” she said. “Because you can be a kickass athlete, you can have the right technique on the mat in jiu-jitsu, but in order to be a balanced person where you’re feeling good, there’s a lot of other aspects that need to come into play. It’s about eating right, it’s about supplement training that helps your jiu-jitsu. The aspect of mental health is so important; if you’re miserable, if you’re depressed, if you’re stressed, you’re not going to get the results in competition.”
McDermott hosts “lifestyle camps” for women where all of these things are focused on for each attendee. They focus on self-empowerment through various methods and mindset. This translates heavily into jiu-jitsu, and McDermott attributes her own success to her drive.
“You need to own everything,” she said. “If there’s something you want, you go get it. No doubt. It’s yours. If you want to win that grapple, go for it with conviction. If you want to have the body that you want, that you envision, then work towards it. No doubt, 100% conviction.”
Over time, traveling and meeting thousands of people, McDermott has seen enough to believe that there is a connection between one’s style of rolling and their personality.
“The way you roll is an extension of yourself. So when you see these people very methodical, they get the pass, they get the side control, all the setup stuff – that is saying as a person they are a methodical, very planned, organized and structured person. But they might go for an opportunity for a submission and it’s not there. So then in life, they might be timid to go for opportunities or to take risks.”
Alternatively, McDermott sees a lot of women especially with confidence issues that translate directly into their jiu-jitsu.
“They slap hands, and gets grips and pushes into her and she’s like ‘Aaah!’ And it’s like, why are you choosing to take that step back? Be aggressive; call your own shots. I see that in life. We talk about those sorts of things and we look at those aspects. And I think, over the years, for me with women, I see a lack of confidence. What it is is it’s a lack of them feeling like they deserve to win. That bout, that match, that competition, whatever it is.”
McDermott recommends a book that comments on this phenomenon called “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. In Sandberg’s book, she discusses how in board meetings, men will lean in and be a part of the conversation whereas women are more passive in the workplace, not as keen to ask for what they want or make their ideas known.
“And it was really interesting hearing the things she had to say about being a female in the lead, where there was this fine balance between, if you don’t show emotion, you’re this ice queen, and if you do show emotion, you’re weak. So it’s like, which one is it? That’s something we work on in our camps.”
When asked what she wanted to say to women training jiu-jitsu, she responded with a call to support each other and stay involved.
“Try to train with as many women as you can and be in a supportive environment… The more women they are exposed to the better their jiu-jitsu will get, the more supportive they’ll be, have friends, they’ll have that network. Go to events. Go to open mats, go to seminars that are taught by women, where there will be other women, where there is a chance to roll, where there is a chance to connect.”
She also wanted to let mothers know to stay true to themselves.
“I want to tell all the ladies out there, if you have a baby, don’t throw everything that defines you away. Figure out a way where you can still get on the mat two days a week. Figure out a way where you can go out with your girlfriends. Enjoy the things you enjoyed before you became a mother.”