Ronin Reviews

What are these reviews? Quite simply when I started BJJ I had two very simple goals:

1. Just give it a go.

2. Don’t give up until you’ve hit 100 sessions.

Third session as a whitebelt. Can’t tie my belt for toffee.

At the time of publishing this inaugural review I’ve so far done 522 sessions (give or take 50) from white belt to my current purple belt. At around session 50 I knew this was something I wasn’t going to give up any time soon. Would it change it’s flow and style in how it showed up in my life? For sure, but such is the nature of a marathon versus a sprint.

I remember talking to my second professor about my overall goals with the sport. Both of us coming from more traditional martial arts backgrounds (including competitive Tae Kwon Do) and having African culture as a strong non MA referral point, I felt comfortable in expressing what I thought was a big impossible dream: To help support Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Kenya, possibly be one of the first female Kenyan black belts and open a trust and academy for all who want to learn but a scholarship and training program designed for girls and women as the foundation of the academy’s existence.

He didn’t bat an eyelid and said he looks forward to seeing that happen.

So here I am, 6 years into this crazy journey and a purple belt. I thought getting to purple belt would take forever and it was a decent enough amount of time for me to get my head in the right place for what would be an insane adventure.

It has been an insane adventure, from my first competition being the thing keeping me together whilst navigating my late mother’s affairs in another country after she completed suicide: I lost my in weight division, but won absolutes having had to eat my head’s weight in my friend’s engagement cake and Nosecco the night before to GAIN just over 4kg as 2 months of stress had me drop nearly two weight classes!

To being promoted to blue belt, thinking I’d wait before competing again then the world shutting down in 2020. To deciding this path needed more critical thinking and a fuller embodiment of both the physical and psychological aspects of martial arts, so running a campaign of support to get me to Montana for the Guru Killer 500 hour teacher training BootCamp (I learned to actually like No Gi!)…coming back and being promoted to purple belt threw me as that was only just over 4 years!

Promoted to purple belt 16th July 2022 – 4 years 8 months 1 day since Day 1

By my whitebelt calculations I was now ready to open an academy in Kenya. But. I wasn’t ready – I’m still not ready!

2023 saw me take a mini leap back to Kenya to feel out if I even felt at home after being away for so long! Short answer: I felt incredibly welcomed and at home. From family to BJJ family with One Tribe and the opportunities that are already there just WAITING to come alive, I knew it was time.

At One Tribe BJJ Nairobi finally putting IG sass to actual person. I reached out to Tete when I was a whitebelt, and got to surprise him with my purple belt💜

A few loose ends and personal hiccups meant I spent the rest of 2023 back in the UK making plans to leave – come what may – in early 2024.

110 days into the Exodus, it’s been a slow but enjoyable journey so far. Taking time to actually let myself reset (and get some god damn sun on this pale black skin!) but also remember the mission at hand of visiting BJJ gyms as a solo female traveller with some rulesets in place has taken form and now it’s time to set these reviews in motion!

This page will always show all Ronin Reviews as time goes by.

My intention is to visit at LEAST 30 gyms across Europe and the US before returning to Kenya at the end of 2024/beginning of 2025. So far this has been self funded with my Audiobook and podcast audio editing services (if you’re curious you can go check them out at: https://audiofy.me) and I’ve also got a huge ongoing GoFundMe that’s open to any and all support for this insane adventure.

It’s presented in three phases:

  • The Intrepid Researcher – Ronin Reviews is my travelling for in-person research of what makes an OK, Great and Outstanding gym from a user’s point of view. As I meet more people, I’ll of course be asking gym owners what they get up to and how they manage the stress of running a gym!

  • The Inquisitive Assistant – Once settled back home, the first act of hard work begins. Supporting One tribe with an affiliate across the otherside of nairobi was a fleeting idea that gained legs with my enthusiasm the first time I was there. Travelling from West Nairobi to East Nairobi to train was doable, but the notorious Nairobi traffic after work can sometimes be the reason students don’t train. So this is where an affiliate would work. A lot of work incoming, but co-founding an adventure business and many years working in gyms hopefully has me at least somewhat prepared!

  • The Arising Sifu – The big idea, the goal, the dream: To buy land within the Nanyuki province. The perfect size to accommodate my home, the dojo, the guesthouse, space for visiting tents/yurts and a small pastoral/arable farm space – don’t ask me why there will be three alpaca, but there will be three alpaca. Anything between 5 – 7 acres of land sloping downhill with Mt Kenya as the view welcoming us every morning as we get to witness another sunrise.

Remember that founding reason for the dojo? A Foundation or Trust will also be attached to the Dojo as a for-profit business. Martial arts has been such a crucial part of my upbringing, helping me understand critical thinking skills that are no longer really taught in schools and better social survival skills never really considered at all. As a result I want my foundation to sponsor up to 5 girls each year for 5 years covering their secondary education (14 – 18 included) and enrolling in a 5 year Mixed Movement Art programme at the dojo that requires a 10-day attendance across each of the 3 holidays per year.

This is in addition to whatever sport team or activity they have joined in school.

The sponsorship so far is just the drafted idea above, based off of what I did as a kid – without sponsorship. I was in a fortunate position that the parents who chose me also decided to throw me into everything at school because I’d drive them nuts with the energy I had otherwise.

I am by no means a professional with any of what I’m doing – I’m honestly just feeling my way through and accepting what feels right with what I want to do. My grandmother and mother’s death over the years and accompanying tough experiences around them have really shaken up my existence. The loss of my step-father in late 2020 (and not being told about it until that side of the family had to deal with his Will) was the final straw: waiting to do anything is stupid. Tomorrow is never guaranteed whether you want it or not.

So here I am, with my little free-agent audio business, a lot of time on social media and sitting with the insanely uncomfortable awkwardness of asking for help from friends and communities I hope I’ve made a positive impact with over the years.

If you’ve read this far – thank you! I hope this has inspired you to get up off your ass and do the thing you’ve been putting off for so long. If you want to keep tabs on my crazy journey, it’s available in a few flavours:

  1. Get nifty updates through this entire crazy journey and first dibs on any merch, workshops or special seminars within my GoFundMe:

2. Every now and then I will wax lyrical on Substack, you’ll also get access to a private podcast where I narrate Afrian mythology stories and parables with curated sounds from my travels. My Substack can be found here:

3. If you’re only interested in the Ronin Reviews be sure to sign up for my website’s WordPress emails so you can get a heads-up when a new review has gone live:

Phew!

So that’s probably as concise as I can get for now. No doubt I’ll come back to this and tweak it as time goes by.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the incoming gym reviews from a solo female traveller 💜

As ever I absolutely love talking to people, so ping me a message about whatever via Ze Socials (Instagram @roninstorm_bjj Facebook @Shiggimus) or on my Substack 🫡


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