BJJ Black Belt, Mother, Wife and Teacher Nyjah Rollins

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FIVE365 had a chance to talk to BJJ Black Belt and all around bad ass Nyjah Rollins.

1. What does Jiu Jitsu mean to you?

Jiu Jitsu has served as a lifestyle and means to express myself in a way that is both mental and physical. Jiu Jitsu has served as a way of life that has taught me discipline, focus and true passion. For over 10 years I have been blessed to learn how to control my mind and body to do things I once thought was impossible. Jiu Jitsu has given me a level of confidence and a “risk taking” attitude that has translated on both the mats and life. As I embark on new and unfamiliar territory I often use my sense of Jiu Jitsu to prepare even when I am unaware of the battle ahead of me. My mental toughness has allowed me to reach personal goals and to find joy in both winning and in defeat.

2.  How has Jiu Jitsu changed your life?

Jiu Jitsu has changed my life in more ways than I could have imagined possible. Not only have I traveled the world twice over, I have built friendships and family members that have impacted my current journey. Although I have trained as a martial artist since the age of 7, it wasn’t until I trained Jiu Jitsu that I learned to “release the Tiger” as my father often encouraged me to do since a child. Jiu Jitsu allowed me to find joy in the challenges and learn how to not only control my own body but also someone else. The level of self control and confident Jiu Jitsu has taught me is unmatched and I am eternally grateful I found such a beautiful art.

3.  How do you balance being a wife, mother to twins and a full time teacher?

I literally take it one day at a time. I focus on doing my best in each area and being present in each roll. Its definitely one of my toughest challenges I’ve faced thus far and one I learn from daily. It’s important that I am always open to feed back as well. This growth mindset allows me to enjoy the process and to find beauty in things that don’t always go as planned. Becoming a wife, mother and math teacher was basically a complete 180 from the lifestyle I lived when I was a full time active Jiu Jitsu competitor and it took some time to understand both my purpose and find my identity in my new lifestyle. As a Jiu Jitsu competitor, I often used competition as a gauge in my Jiu Jitsu success. Now, being a wife and mom has no “meter” or opponent to measure with. In addition, there’s no instructor or book to teach you the right moves or say what works best. Each day I commit to being my best self and focus on the joy I get from being a wife, mommy, and “mom” to my students.

4.  What do your students think of your accomplishments in Jiu Jitsu?

My students think I’m pretty awesome. At least once a week I get a kid to say “I’m not even going to say nothing before Ms. Rollins double legs me ” haha. They love to google me, watch my youtube matches and brag to others about how they have the dopest teacher they would put up against any other teacher. They love the fact that I am in a completely different line of work and share how they are honored that I chose to come and teach them. Sometimes in class we even practice warm up exercises and talk about my competitive experiences. Many of our student athletes come to me for advice and are open to any training and competitive feedback I give. Last year I did a small group self defense class with some of our students and plan to run a girls only BJJ session in the spring for my Queen’s In Training Mentoring group.

5. What led you to Jiu Jitsu?

My big bro Mike Easton lead me to Jiu Jitsu. I remember when he first started training MMA, I was still an active Tae Kwon Do student under the late Grand Master James Wyatt, and we would battle about which art was superior to the other. It wasn’t until I was held down by a much smaller kid when I visited the dojo that I realized the power of Jiu Jitsu and how important it is to know how to effectively protect myself on the ground. My brother has always been one of my biggest supporters and if it wasn’t for our great debates, I would have never found this beautiful art.

6.  What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about trying Jiu Jitsu for the first time?

I would advise a first timer to take things slow and enjoy the new process of learning Jiu Jitsu. If they are anything like me  when I started Jiu Jitsu, which includes but is not limited to being uncoordinated, goofy, and impatient, there is hope in the end. Although Jiu Jitsu can come off as an aggressive and angry sport, it really is a beautiful and peaceful experience when you treat it as an art and not as what you may have perceived from MMA matches or clips from world star. It’s important that you are consistent and open to feedback in order to see the highest level of success. I’d recommend everyone give Jiu Jitsu a try at least once to share the joy that can be created.

7. Who wins a 5 minute round, sub only, you or your husband?

Ugh. As hard as it is for me to admit it….he wins most of the time. We do spur of the moment “carpet matches ” at home all the time and often he will outscore me and use his wrestling skills to take me down and dominate. We have some amazing rolls filled with lots of laughter though. I am highly competitive and things can easily go from fun and giggle to me hunting for submissions even when we aren’t both willingly rolling. He’s a phenomenal wrestler and has supported me when I was training for major competitions before having my girls and was my main training partner and coach for my last Submersiv event this past September. I am grateful to have a spouse who not only supports me but has background knowledge on grappling and can be a training partner as well.

8. What do you think of the progression of women’s Jiu Jitsu?

Women BJJ has come a very long way. I am so proud of the women who train and compete in a professional manner and continue to fight for the equality of women’s sports. Some of the most talented and technical Jiu Jitsu practitioners are women. As scientifically smaller and weaker counterparts to men, I am in awe of the might and strength women continue to show. Sports like Jiu Jitsu are heavily populated by men and can deter women from practicing, let alone competing at a high level. It takes a true warrior to withstand the daily physical and emotional challenges that come along with being a female Jiu Jitsu practitioner. I love that the women’s brown and black belt divisions continue to grow and the level of technicality improves as the years go by. More and more women around the world are training and competing in Jiu Jitsu and its a beautiful site to see, pun intended 🙂

9. How has competition changed from brown Belt to black belt?

I remember when I was awarded my purple belt, the butterflies I felt knowing that my competition went from blue belts to now facing purple, brown and black. My very first competition as a brown belt, I was paired with Michele Nicoloi first round. I only knew she was a bad ass before the match; I finished the match knowing she had a toe hold that could put you out of training for 4 weeks after and that guarding your feet was just one of the many lessons I needed to learn over the next few years. Although brown and black belts are just a level apart, there is a mindset and level of confidence one needs to succeed. Once you have made it to black belt, there are so many different levels and experiences amongst competitors. As a brown belt I won Abu Dhabi pro, Europeans, Pan American, and took silver at Worlds, to only be tossed in a sea of black belts who’s experience ranged from 1 month to 10 plus years. Its literally the best of the best and now the journey has truly begun. I honestly felt my training really started and my true understanding of Jiu Jitsu began after I achieved the rank of black belt.

10. What does being a part of Team Lloyd Irvin mean to you?

I am no longer affiliated with TLI, but am grateful that I was able to train with such a talented and hardworking team. Receiving my black belt and creating friendship of a life time that have positively impacted my life has been amazing and I am thankful for the experience.

11. Will we see you back on the competition circuit in 2019?

Yes, that is the plan! I am currently training and in the gym getting in competition shape. I am hopeful to do a 5 grappling event this spring and to continue to do something I love some much.

12. Who are some of your favorite competitive girls or guys you like to watch?

Some of my favorite competitive girls are Tammy Muscimesi, Mackenzie Dern, Michele Nicolini and Tatian Porfeini. For the guys, I am huge fan of Coprinha, Jamil Hill Taylor, and Muhammed Ali. I love that these are all explosive players who are masters at so many different positions. Whether passing, sweeping, submitting or taking people down they have a very creative and solid game.

13. Can you tell us about sensual grappling 11 for couples?

Sensual Grappling 101 is one of my newest projects. My husband and I created this program after my parents started taking Jiu Jitsu and found the more sensual side of the art. My dad is a big advocate for couples connecting and finding new ways to interact and encouraged us to create a curriculum and class people could take, especially those who have never taken Jiu Jitsu before. I was initially very nervous about how the Jiu Jitsu community might respond as we tend to be critical of new things that are not “competitive or self defense related”, but we decided to give it a try and have gotten amazing feedback from both Jiu Jitsu practitioners and hobbyist alike.  The Sensual Grappling 101 curriculum takes some of the more intimate Jiu Jitsu techniques and transitions them in ways to promote an intimate connection and fun activity for couples to do together. Follow our page TheCouplesXperience on social media for upcoming events and weekly techniques.

14. Do you have any sponsors or family you would like to thank?

Special thanks to my husband Joe for encouraging me to get back to my passion of Jiu Jitsu after having my girls and always supporting me along the way. I’d also like to thank my supporters who continue to encourage me and show love when I am on and off the mats.

Follow Nyjah @beautifulbjj