AUSTIN, TX, July 4, 2012 – Texas has a new black belt after Relson Gracie Austin’s Christy Thomas recently earned the distinction under head instructor Relson Gracie. Training under the future Grandmaster for over 11 years, Christy has been a mainstay on the Texas and International BJJ scene for a long time and continues to contribute to the growth of the sport through competition and her academy serving Central Texas.
We recently spoke to Christy about her feelings toward reaching such a great milestone in her development and what she sees as her future in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world.
Interview – Christy Thomas (Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu)
Christy congrats from all of us here at TXMMA.com on your recent promotion to black belt. How long have you been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
My sincere thanks to everyone who’s ever been involved in my progression to this point!! I’m excited after almost 11 years to become the first and (for now) only female black belt ever awarded by Relson Gracie to represent his standard and lifestyle through Helio Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I’d like to express my appreciation for the support my Instructors, peers & training partners, students, friends & family have shown me as I continue to grow with them and share life along our Jiu-Jitsu journeys.
What originally got you into the sport?
Competition. Originally, I was dating a local MMA fighter & I met Relson through him. We were at all the tournaments (very few at the time). Watching the matches convinced me that I could compete & probably beat all the other girls I was saw (ha!). I got on the mats, into training & realized how intricate it was. Almost immediately I got into tournaments. Being competitive, I flourished and fell in love. Relson is passionate about competition so wanting to impress him motivated me as well.
Looking back, what would say GJJ has done for your life? How has it molded you as a person?
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has molded me as a competitor, instructor & leader. It’s given me competence and confidence. It’s shown me my strength and my illusions of my own self. I’ve learned a lot about life, people, and being a woman in a male dominated lifestyle. But really, it’s made things very real. I’ve broadened my horizons and lived a lot of life that wouldn’t have been happening otherwise.
It’s well-known in BJJ circles that it’s pretty difficult to attain a black belt from Relson and now you’re the first woman ever to accomplish that feat. How does it feel?
It feels great!! I’ve always felt 100% support from Relson and my team. I really think the belt changes the way other people look at me – whether they knew me before or meet me now. I never thought that I could ever stop training – even throughout personal conflict. I’ve always had Relson closely in my life. I run a strong academy and I’ve long time lived in what I call ‘boy world’. Black belt comes after brown belt so I had to meet Relson’s standard which is totally reasonable. He told me what he wanted. He forced me to go to Hawaii and train and vacation. After a ton of work – He said I was approved. I was with my peers in Hawaii all working for the same goal and some reviewing and receiving degrees on their black so that moment happened there, with the guys, the night on the mats before I flew back home. It felt great. It’s amazing.
Did you have any challenges that stand out most on this jiu-jitsu journey? How did you surpass them?
A challenge was dealing with personal relationships over time. Some people will spend years with you, take and take and at some point turn on you w/o explanation. Finding a coping skill to let them go even though that personal investment always hurts when it’s disrespected was a skill set to be built for use. Another was when you teach over time, it’s easy to lose your selfish training time and fun time as just a student on the mats. I have to make a serious effort to make time for myself. It shows when other people let themselves get bored resting or getting stagnate. I want to make sure I avoid that. Thankfully, my academy keeps a line waiting for everyone. They won’t let me settle!
Who has helped you the most in your jiu-jitsu career? Anyone you want to credit?
Relson, Richard Giberson, Joshua Lauber, Rhalan Gracie, Stuart Ramos. The strength, patience & love of my Family, my non-JJ friends, my team and my students – THANK YOU!!
Now that you’re a black belt… what’s next?
Now I want to focus on my academy & team, competition and furthering the exposure and reliance on the self-defense curriculum. I want to reach more women & kids. I’d like to show everyone that they can train and be proficient in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu!
What advice would give others that have been on the same path, blue belts, etc. as far as what they need to do to get to black belt?
My advice is talk with your instructor to get goal ideas. Also, training is not easy. Don’t quit. The better you get, the harder people will try to beat you. Push through the mental/emotional frustrations and set small goals to show yourself progress before moving to bigger goals (the worlds isn’t the ideal 1st tournament). Identify your weaknesses in your game so you can communicate with your instructor & adjust along the way. Don’t worry about belts!
What about somebody who may be considering BJJ but haven’t started yet? Any advice for them?
My best advice for anyone open to start a new activity is to realize that Jiu-Jitsu takes over your entire life. Check out options in your area, take many free classes if you can. Don’t over-train and be aware of training with previous injuries. Be honest to your instructor about your health, goals and do your best as a student.
We look forward to seeing you around at competitions but any last words for now regarding your accomplishment or anything else you want to say to the community at large?
I’m looking forward to competing in the near future and I’m stoked to get to witness Relson Gracie’s upcoming belt promotion to Grandmaster – Red belt in early 2013. Thanks Everyone!
(video: Chris Spicer)