EDITOR'S NOTE: Welcome to the athlete journal of Jess Papi. Jess is a blue belt at Scranton MMA and also pursuing her degree in exercise science. Read her entries every week for insights on competing, training, and juggling BJJ and life.


This has been my first week without going to school at all, and it is fantastic! Every day I get to wake up a little late, do whatever I want, then go to the gym and do what I do. I don’t have to worry about how late I stay at the academy because I don’t have to go home and study or anything like that. I can train for as long as I want. It’s a great feeling. I’m sad that I have to go back to school eventually, but I’m going to enjoy this while it lasts.


Since school ended for the semester, I’ve been pretty productive. Usually on my breaks I would just sit around and do nothing, but now I try to write, draw, or watch jiu jitsu videos during the day. It makes me feel a little better when I go to sleep that I did something to make myself better that day.

Breaking Muscle Shop


The types of videos I’ve been watching have mostly been spider guard videos. I find it easier to progress in jiu jitsu if I have a specific technique to focus on. Spider guard is something that I could always use to play and move around with, but I never really knew how to use it efficiently. I’m trying to learn sweeps, submissions, and variations to the spider guard. I never realized all the different things you could do with it. There are so many variations to the guard itself that I’m getting a little confused on what to focus on. I think I will just watch the instructional videos, listen to what my instructors tell me, and pick the things that really work for me. I personally believe that I could be a good spider guard player if I keep at it.


Even though I’ve been working on this advanced guard, I haven’t forgotten about my basics. I still teach beginner lessons every week, which helps me stay in touch with the groundwork of jiu jitsu (literally and figuratively!). I like to participate in the drills at the end of class to make sure I have it down pat. Also, I teach a women’s-only jiu jitsu class once a week. It’s not really a “class” because I usually only have one student, Loreen. It’s more like a private lesson, but I don’t mind that because I’ve gotten pretty close with her, her husband, and her kids. She only gets to train once a week, so she knows some stuff, but we spend a lot of time reviewing techniques. This is good for both of us because we get the opportunity to practice the basic movements a lot. I still like to teach her some advanced moves though, because I know she can handle it.


In competition news, I think I have finally chosen my first one for the New Year! It’s not set in stone yet, but I think I am doing the NAGA in Philadelphia on February 1st. I usually like to do the Good Fights because they follow IBJJF rules, but they don’t have no-gi divisions for women. NAGA offers both divisions, but in their rules they allow some stuff I’m not super comfortable with. I’ll just have to suck it up and make sure I know my stuff. It’ll be my first competition in about four months, but I don’t plan on being rusty or nervous. Competing all summer long taught me that I can be prepared for a competition in a short amount of time and that there is no time to be nervous.


If you train hard and leave everything on the mats, there is no reason you can’t get out there and win a tournament. I think in my whole career I’ve won one gold medal. I’m going to work as hard as I can, and hopefully 2014 will be my year.

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