“Hope Looks Like a Fifteen Year-Old”
by Lauren LaCourse
For a long time now I’ve wanted to write a blog to empower women. I’ve sat down probably too many times to count, and wrote pages devoted to encouraging and supporting the ladies not only practicing Jiu Jitsu or MMA, but those being challenged in other ways as well. Much to my despair though, as I would look over my finished work, I was left with nothing but paragraphs tinged with misandry and articles carrying a “poor me” undertone. So, I never published them and after a while I digressed. I went about my typical business (sticking to blogs about life as a BJJ wannabe) and my desire to write an empowering blog slowly subsided.
That is, until I met a girl named Autumn Gordon.
(Photo courtesy of Katie J)
I stumbled upon Autumn at the American Grappling Challenge, hosted by the Ohio Combat Sports Academy. I had traveled there with a few of my teammates to compete in their submission-only Jiu Jitsu competition.
When my eyes first settled on Autumn my immediate thought was, “Wow, she’s tiny.” Even in her gi, you could tell that underneath was a girl no more than five feet tall, who couldn’t have weighed more than 110 lbs. My second thought was how fierce she still seemed, even at that stature. She had earbuds in and was practicing her wrestling shots to warm up before she competed. Pretty damn good wrestling shots too.
Luckily I had the opportunity to watch the gi competition, as I had only signed up to compete in no-gi that day. Autumn walked onto the mat unfazed, against a 2-time IBJJF world champion, and armbarred her.
I’m pretty sure I drooled a little.
I watched her compete against the rest of the gi division. She won silver. Then I got to compete against her in the no-gi division. After about five minutes, she armbarred me as well.
Yep. That was definitely drool. Can I get a rag please?!
After we rolled I was able to sit and talk with her.
I think what I love the most about competition, is the opportunity to meet like minded women (and men) and hear their stories. That day Autumn told me some of her story.
She was fifteen years old and had been training for four years. She practiced multiple arts at multiple facilities and had traveled and competed many times before. Her instructors moved her up to compete in the adult divisions to challenge her and develop her technique. It was working. As a teenager she already had some awesome credentials.
But it wasn’t her credentials that impressed me. It was her.
As we sat and chatted I was affected by her bright smile and beaming personality. She talked about her hopes and dreams and how much she loved competing and training. She said that she was aspiring to be the next Ronda Rousey (shoot, she had the armbar down). Her passion was instantly contagious but not overwhelming. She was both humble and inspiring. There was something about her that just absolutely shined.
(Photo courtesy of Katie J)
It was the first time since I started training that I was starstruck. After rolling with Mackenzie Dern and meeting amazing women in BJJ, it was the fifteen year-old girl with already mad skills that left me in awe. And we only knew each other for a single day.
Because I realized that it’s girls like Autumn Gordon that this world needs more of. In an age of hashtag battles crying about feminism, girls like Autumn give me hope. Girls like Autumn are the ones who are empowering.
Articles, blogs and “#YesALLWomen”‘s that demonize our masculine society won’t make things better; and certainly won’t be the cure of it. The cure will be the telling of our stories, the telling of Autumn’s story, and the telling of stories similar to hers. Because with up-and-coming role models like her, we have hope that what’s coming down the road are girls who love themselves, who challenge the status quo, and who inspire other women to do the same.
So, go on ladies (and inspired men). Tell YOUR story.
(Briana Coubrough, Autumn Gordon, Me)
With much love — as always, Good luck and keep on rollin’.
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