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Girls in Gis

Last year, I was faced with many difficulties that hurt my self-confidence and left me feeling extremely isolated and lost. I distinctly remember telling my fiancé numerous times (probably too many times) that I needed something to rebuild my self-esteem and to give me a sense of belonging.

I had heard of BJJ before and always had an interest in trying it out, but my final push commit was in January when I was at an all-time low. I went in to speak with Katrina, and she boasted about the growing female community here at SBG—this was exciting to me since I not only wanted to feel comfortable (BJJ is a very “intimate” sport for lack of a better term) but I also was hoping to make some friendships. To say it was an incredible decision to join is an understatement.

Firstly, the community of women at SBG is quite big compared to most jiu jitsu gyms, which really speaks volume about the culture here. BJJ is male dominated, so landing on a gym like this is rare. The men and women have equal respect for each other—no one is above or below another person—and we’re all there, focused on our self growth and assisting others in their growth by being good training partners.

But what I really want to talk about is the Girls in Gi’s classes. This has been the most impactful part of SBG for me. It has allowed me to get more comfortable working with others by giving me additional opportunities in a class where I can let down my guard a tiny bit more.

Additionally, I have learned so much about self-defense and gained clarity on setting appropriate boundaries in perhaps more vulnerable and potentially dangerous situations as a woman. Basically, I learned that I DO have a voice, and I can vocalize and protect myself if someone is making me uncomfortable. I feel more prepared to deal with these potential situations.

One final thing—I HAVE made many supportive friendships which has been crucial for my mental health, and I am forever grateful for that. There is so much more that I can say about the Girls in Gi’s program, and SBG in general but I don’t want to be too lengthy. If you are thinking about joining, just know you WILL be welcome here no matter your gender, age, skin color, etc. and the only regret you’ll have is not joining sooner (something I still wish I had done!). 

Coach Cate

Girls in Gis

I began my martial arts journey eight years ago and the woman that I am today is not the girl that started. There are no words I can use to accurately describe what training at SBG Athens has done for me. This is due, in large part, to the incredible females that I get to train with at the gym. I would still train even if I was the only lady on the mats; however, my experience would not be nearly as fulfilling. 

How did I start training is a very common question I get asked. Well, let’s rewind to around eight years ago on Clayton Street in downtown Athens. An extremely random encounter with a stranger quickly led to me getting my butt whooped by a girl who was 6’2”. As an athlete and a tomboy who had been in a few scuffles at school, I always figured I’d be absolutely fine in a fist fight. I was wrong. It was this point, as well as accepting a job as a traveling adolescent interventionist, that I knew I really needed to start learning how to defend myself. 

The first step in my martial arts journey was not actually SBG Athens. It was a nice enough place but something absolutely vital was missing; culture & community. Imagine having two seeds of the same plant species, but two different environments to grow in… the space with the right variables will yield the best crop. I am so grateful for the plunge I took at SBG because they didn’t let me drown. The entire process is honored by slow introduction, so in that way you can safely grow your own strong swim legs without aid of arm floaties after awhile. 

““A ship is always safe at the shore, but that is not what it is built for.” – Albert Einstein 

If you’re on the edge, I promise the best decision you’ll make is to dive into martial arts training. If not for the self-defense skills, physique, mental health benefits, then at least for the community aspect alone. SBG has cultivated a  place to “get after it” while remaining safe with other like-minded folks who are all heading forward. We have women’s only classes to strengthen our bond yet we all also train in the regular class as it’s important to be challenged. God forbid it ever happen, but it rarely will be a tiny female who is going to try and attack you. You’ll need to train with all body types in order to know what works and what does not. Our mats are a laboratory and we are martial arts scientists. 

I will finish with a few tips. My job now, as a coach, is to make you feel comfortable while being uncomfortable; to believe in you more than you believe in yourself sometimes. My job, as a human being, is to tell you not to go into the dark alleyway at 2 am. Call an Uber, a friend, wait for 10 minutes, anything to make sure that you don’t have to go into the dark by yourself. Be alert wherever you go. The way you train is the way you will respond. I’m confident that what we do at SBG Athens is authentic and alive. Train more, fear less. I’ll see you on the mats.


SBG Athens Coach

When I found SBG and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I had no idea how much it would affect my life. I came here looking for an activity for my 5 year old son, but quickly decided I wanted to try it for myself as well. It looked like a fun way to get in shape, meet some new people, and do something I had never tried before. I jumped right in, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made in my life!


One of my favorite things about SBG is the Girls in Gis program. We have amazing male members and coaches, and the culture of respect and “family” really makes this feel like a safe place to train with everyone…but there is something special about sharing the experience with other women. As a student, I appreciate having strong female mentors to look up to and learn from, and to have as amazing role models. I also now have the honor of being one of the Girls in Gis coaches, which means I get to help other women learn how strong they can be! It is so cool to watch the growth happening, and to see women (including myself) learn how to be stronger and more confident.


I can’t say enough about how much SBG Athens means to me, and how much the relationships I have with the people here have changed my life for the better. – Katrina McCranie, SBG Athens Coach


Girls in Gis

When I enrolled my 6-year-old daughter in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu I expected her to learn self-defense.  I expected her to learn self discipline and confidence.  What I didn’t expect was the joy and excitement she would get from the classes.  And the biggest surprise was how infectious that joy would be.  

Not long after she began classes I stepped WAY out of my introverted, anxiety-filled comfort zone to join her in taking classes and it was one of the best things I have done for myself.   All of the positives I saw in my daughter learning from BJJ were now mine as well.  I was more confident, I was learning self-defense, I was less anxious.  It gave me a support group of amazing people I didn’t know I needed.  When I first began classes I was more comfortable working with women.  SBG helps support that by providing girls only classes twice a week in addition to the coed foundations classes. 

My coaches were also helpful by partnering me with people I felt comfortable with in the regular foundations classes.   As I have grown more comfortable with myself in BJJ and as I have built relationships with not only the amazing women of the tribe but also the men, I have become more comfortable working with a variety of partners.   I still find myself nervous at times, but I am never uncomfortable with the people around me.  The tribe supports you and makes sure you feel safe and valued. – Rina



“I’ve really enjoyed the program so far. I’ve competed in various sports at different levels and this is BY FAR the most I’ve learned in the shortest amount of time. 

I’ve also been super impressed by all of the coaches and staff as a whole. As a small business owner myself, it’s really cool how y’all operate on the back end. The staff is all super friendly and most of them have reached out to me or learned my name which I feel is really important.  




I’ve been training at Sbg for a little under 2 months and so far my experience has been nothing but fantastic.

The coaches are incredible in both their knowledge of the fight game and as people in general. They create an environment that is both fun and challenging, while also ensuring that everyone is getting better every time they step in to the gym. If you’re interested in mma/bjj this is the place for you!


SBG Athens 1st Female Black Belt & Coach

When I started training at SBG a little over 10 years ago, there were only a handful of women that were in the martial arts program. I really enjoyed Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the men that were training were respectful teammates but I thought it would be even better if more women stuck with training. Selfishly I wanted anyone that was remotely close to my size, but I also knew that there were fantastic skills that women could gain from training. I thought that if women had a resource and community of other encouraging women that could help mentor and guide them through this male-dominated sport, they would find the support and resolve to stick with training.

We started women’s only classes to bolster that community and give them a chance to work with people closer to their size and strength levels – to practice techniques that might not be presented otherwise because of the physical disparities. The goal is to be able to train with everyone, and these classes give women a safe space and a chance to ease-in to rolling, particularly if they have experienced trauma in the past. The bonds and relationships formed on the mats are fostered by constant communication, having social events outside of the gym, and travel to competitions and other women-centered camps.

The fact that SBG Athens has fantastic coaches that are also women works wonderfully for everyone. Men get to see how capable women are, women get to see other women being successful, and everyone benefits from the culture of respect and acceptance. 


Girls in Gis

I’ve been a member of SBG Athens since 2014. Until recently, I have walked past mats full of people training BJJ and MMA to be a part of the TFW strength training program. BJJ looked intimidating and scary to me. I would try BJJ, only to slip back into my comfortable weight training routines. I felt confident that my physical strength was self-defense enough.

Last year, Coach Katrina’s women’s self-defense class changed my perspective. We learned how to break the grip of someone if they grabbed you by the wrist. The technique worked easily among the group of women. At the end of the class, Coach Katrina had us test our new technique among men that were training on the next mat. The men were people we knew and trusted. As I was dragged across the mat like a rag doll toward an imaginary white van, I laughed at the realization that my deadlift would not save me in an actual assault. I barely managed to break the grip in time. What a good lesson to learn before experiencing an actual assault!

My new perspective motivated me to start training BJJ consistently. I began by attending the Girls in Gis class with Coach Katrina and Coach Viki. I also attended Coach Katrina and Coach Cate’s Foundation’s coed classes, where I partnered mainly with women. Over the last year, there are more and more women to train with, and I have made many new friends.

Coach Katrina’s persistent nudging got me to step onto the mats for the coed HAP program. She told me the Foundations program is where you learn vocabulary; the HAP program is where one starts writing sentences and paragraphs. Something about that analogy resonated with me. I was reluctant to do HAP because honestly, the men on the mat intimidated me, but I gave it a try. We have so many women to work with that I was able to partner with females during HAP class. At the end of each HAP class, we have several 5-minute live rounds. At the end of each round, we get a new partner. I was in my comfort zone and rolling with other females in the class when Coach Adam asked me to roll with him. I paused.

If you are like me and feel hesitant to roll with men, let me try to describe it to you. Remember what it felt like to be a small child tossed in the air and caught by your dad, or roughhousing with your older brothers? When I was little, I would arm wrestle my dad. He could easily beat me at any time, but he playfully acted like I was the strongest little girl in the world. He would sometimes beat me slowly and carefully, and often let me win! Rolling with Coach Adam felt a little like that. If my technique and timing were correct, he allowed the move. If it wasn’t, then he was honest and didn’t budge. Coach Adam gave me the exact energy I needed for my first coed roll.

Every roll does not feel that way. Some partners remind me of my older brothers who playfully swatted me in the face with my own hands teasing, “stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself”. It can feel this way rolling with stronger people. It forces me, the weaker partner, to prioritize technique and defense. If I escape one submission from a partner during a roll, that feels good to me right now. When I’m submitted, I tap, my partner stops immediately, and we reset. Practicing these skills could save my life. It’s also a lot of fun.

At home, your brother is your biggest nuisance, but in public, he is your fiercest defender. Yes, MMA and BJJ are male-dominated sports, but the people here are like family. SBG Athens values diversity and is proud of the growing Girls in Gis program. Brothers Adam and Rory Singer train women in their program like it is their duty, a service to their community, and a gift to the women in our tribe. This is my home. This is my tribe. There is space for you, too. This is SBG. You will be okay. 


Girls in Gis

My name is Ami and I am a 41 year old mother of three. As a woman, I’ve gone through many phases learning who I am, who I want to be, and finding where I “fit”. From the perspective of motherhood, I never made time for myself when my kids were younger. I didn’t know what I “liked to do”. I watched one of my lady friends blossom into a confident, strong woman before my eyes and thought “that’s great for her.” A few years later I found out just what made this friend bloom. At the suggestion of someone close to me, I went to SBG Athens-to find an outlet for the stressors of raising three teenagers, working, paying bills-all the things we “get” through. What I found was so much more than I could’ve imagined.

I was terrified at first, but I loved Brazilian Jiu Jitsu immediately. I wanted to learn everything I could. I found women I could relate to. Growing up I tended to hang with the boys more. The girls were harder to trust. At SBG I found women I could trust. Grappling with men was a bit intimidating to me at first, so the Girls in Gis classes gave me a place I felt totally safe to start learning the art. Being a woman that didn’t get along with women, this was so important for me-to develop those relationships with other women. Let’s face it, being a small female can make some things very challenging in this sport.

I’ve become so much more comfortable in my skin, which has helped me to feel more comfortable in all areas of my life. The Girls in Gis are a group of amazing, bad-ass, silly women that genuinely care about each other’s journey on and off the mats. It’s like a sisterhood, where we wear pajamas and choke each other out of love! I want all women to be able to experience this and learn how to protect themselves in any situation. We have a good time, learn the art, and support each other. Now I get to bloom too. Thank you SBG and thank you to all the awesome Girls in Gis for showing up and showing me who I am!


Girls in Gis

I have been training at SBG Athens for about 4.5 years. I have loved everything about my experience here, especially the strong and diverse female population and dedicated women’s program (Girls in Gis). It can be both exciting and nerve-wracking to start something like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which is not only physically demanding but can be incredibly mentally challenging, too. It’s also a sport where women are typically outnumbered, but it really doesn’t feel that way at our gym!

I feel very lucky to have so many women, of all ages and from various backgrounds, to train with here. Everyone has something unique that they bring to the group, and I feel like we are all able to learn from each other and support each other’s goals. We really do help each other get better, and form some pretty awesome friendships and have a lot of fun along the way!

Our female coaches do such a great job in helping us foster connections with each other, creating an environment where we can voice our unique questions and concerns, encouraging/challenging us past our perceived limitations, and serving as an inspiration for what we can physically and mentally achieve. Truly, I do feel that our gym as a whole is an incredibly welcoming and supportive community, and the fact that we have dedicated women’s classes (and often a large female presence in regular classes!) is a great testament to that.