Five 365 recently had the opportunity to sit down with TLI Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, Aarae Alexander. The recent University of Maryland Graduate talks about balancing her career as a Civil Engineer, BJJ, and what BJJ has done for her in her life.

1, What does Jiujitsu mean to you?

Jiu-jitsu has been a huge part of my life since I was a kid. Jiu-jitsu first and foremost taught me how to be a martial artist. I’ve learned self-discipline, hard work, determination, and so much more. This has helped me a lot in not only jiu jitsu, but also in college and the corporate world.

2, What would you tell someone who is thinking about doing jiujitsu?

I’d tell someone who is thinking about doing jiu jitsu to just try it. I think trying jiu jitsu as a kid is a little bit different because as a child you’re just down to try whatever. As an adult, trying jiu jitsu can feel a little silly because you don’t know what to do and you’re trying to make sense of everything. Definitely have an open mind. Jiu jitsu is basically just problem solving. It can be stress relief, exercise, and just fun.

3, If you weren’t doing Jiu-Jitsu what would you be doing?

If I wasn’t doing jiu jitsu, I’d probably just be working and going through the motions. I’d probably be pursuing a Master’s degree or something along those lines. I honestly don’t know.

4, Who introduced you to jiujitsu?

I started at Lloyd Irvin’s Martial Arts summer camp when I was 9 years old. I used to watch the kids that did jiu jitsu in summer camp train during our down time, and I really wanted to try it. I begged my parents to keep me in the program after summer camp. I eventually tried my first grappling class with Master Donnie, and after that I was hooked.

5, Who are your favorite Jiujitsu people to watch?

Of course I enjoy watching all of my teammates. Aside from them, on the women’s side, I love watching Michelle Nicolini, Kyra Gracie, Leticia Ribeiro, and Beatriz Mesquita. For the guys, I really like watching Bruno Malfacine, Mikey Musemeci, Leandro Lo, Jacare, and Xande.

7, How has the competition changed since getting your black belt?

I think that the level of competition is definitely high at black belt. One tiny mistake can change the course of a whole match. There are no filler matches. No one is a scrub, especially in the women’s divisions. You have to be prepared to go at it in every match. The quantity of women may not be there yet but the quality definitely is.

8, What do you think of the progression of women’s Jiujitsu?

I believe that women’s jiu jitsu is getting bigger. The opportunities for women are growing. Tournaments are starting to pay men and women equally which is pretty amazing. It’s nice to see things moving in this direction

9, What does being part of Team Lloyd Irvin mean to you?

Being part of Team Lloyd Irvin means so much to me. I’ve basically grown up with the people that I train with. We really are a family. We hang out together. We train together. We help bring out the best in each other. A win for one of us is literally a win for all of us. When you see me going crazy while one of my teammates is competing, that’s genuine.

10, When you started training as a kid with TLI,
Did you imagine you would be a successful black belt at such a young age?

I always want to be the best at everything I pursue. My first year at Worlds in 2009 really changed the game for me. I won double gold in the blue belt juvenile division. Watching the black belt finals that year was life-changing for me. I’ll never forget watching Michelle Nicolini and Leticia Ribeiro fighting in the finals. It was such an amazing display of jiu jitsu. After that, I knew I wanted to compete at the highest level just like them.

11, What sets TLI apart from the rest?

I think Master Lloyd and Master Donnie have the blueprint to creating champions. They also just really care. Our team is literally just one big family. I think that familial aspect really changes the game. Everyone wants to see everyone grow and succeed.

12, You recently graduated from college and bought your first house. What would your tell others that are solely
chasing Jiu Jitsu Dreams?

I would tell people pursuing solely jiu jitsu to work hard and grind and the results will come. I don’t knock anyone for solely pursuing jiu jitsu. My path is different than the next person’s. I do think it’s important to be smart and make sure you’re taking care of your body. You have to think about longevity in jiu jitsu because anything can happen.

My parents always stressed education in my family. Not attending to college was not an option for me and my sister. I do believe that school isn’t for everyone, and that is 100% fine. You have to make sure you’re happy with your life because you’re the one living it. I think as long as you’re always trying to better yourself in whatever you do and you’re working hard that things will work out in the end.

I want to thank my parents and my sister for always supporting me. I also want to thank Master Lloyd, Master Donnie, and all of my teammates at Team Lloyd Irvin. And big shoutout to Hyperfly for keeping me in the nicest gis and gear.

Follow AaRae @aarae_bjj