Why did you start BJJ?

I had wanted to box, but after doing it for 1-2 months I discovered I was terrible at it and kept getting injured! I still wanted an alternative to working out at the gym ‘lifting weights and doing cardio’, so my best friend Roy Duquette turned me on to ‘Groundwrestling’. I started with Sambo, then moved onto BJJ shortly after.

How long ago?

I started BJJ in 2001.

What are the 3 most important things BJJ has taught you?

This question is too profound. I am having a hard time thinking about my best answers!

  • Nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy.
  • Never underestimate who you are working with, you can learn something from everyone.
  • If there is too much resistance felt going after something, there’s a good chance there is a better way to do it. 
  • One more: You are how you train. 

What do you enjoy about teaching?

I think I most enjoy seeing other people succeed. Most people don’t start BJJ thinking they will automatically be good. I certainly didn’t. There can be a lot of trepidation over how their training will go. Being able to teach a student movements that are completely foreign to their body, to teach them to trust themselves and how to develop trust with a partner is really something special!

What is your outside profession?

Believe it or not, I do have other jobs! I work in consulting outside of owning/operating PBJJ. I work with a very select team in the field of Peak Performance. It’s fascinating work, and much of what I come across or learn can be applied to how I choose to teach our classes or cultivate our culture at the school. I feel very fortunate to enjoy my work so much. 

Additionally, I operate another small BJJ business called Groundswell Grappling Concepts with 2 other well-known BJJ figures. We started out marketing primarily to women, but now offer co-ed services! We consult and lead single/multi-day BJJ camps around the country. Our services are careful to integrate a student’s technical training and personal development. These 2 things really go hand in hand when you commit to training long term, but we often neglect or don’t acknowledge the latter. Over the years we feel we’ve had the privilege of meeting so many awesome individuals and communities self-actualizing through BJJ!

Oh, and I’m a full-time mother of 2…that by far is the most exhausting job! I have to be on call all the time, and I don’t get paid overtime. Who would’ve thought?

Goals for the future?

Somewhere down the tunnel of time, I would like to get back to dedicating more time for myself. Before professional ventures and family came along, my life was all about me. lol. I don’t think I really knew how much time I was allowed to spend developing myself, but now, I am painfully reminded of how much time I don’t have. As a business owner, mother, teacher, consultant – a lot of people rely on me or come to me with their needs. I try to share and guide with what I know. I rarely get the chance to be a student these days, to be a receiver and to explore with no expectation or obligation. I’d like to carve out a few hours each week just for myself so I can continue to learn whatever strikes my curiosity. Being a student in life is important.

Finish this sentence: If I knew then what I know now about BJJ, I would …

…have treated myself a little better and had better self-esteem. Both physically and mentally, I pushed myself through moments that have left me a little scarred. There are some old chronic injuries that can compromise my quality of life day to day that probably could have been avoided if I was kinder to myself. There are also some people who I encountered along the way that taught me some terrible lessons in life who I wished I had stood up to earlier. You must teach people how to treat you. Ultimately I imagine I wouldn’t be who I am without these incidences, but some of them were very hard on me. Either way, these lessons have help me formulate my ideas about what sort of environment I’d like to maintain at PBJJ. 

If you could meet anyone in the world/history, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Ugh, I literally have a good answer for this every week, but it changes. Hm. I suppose I’d have to ask myself if there has been a continuous influence in my life. Prior to moving to the East Coast in 1999 (first time), I had read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. It had a heavy effect on me at the time, and I attribute that book to helping me choose how I live my life today. I’ve gifted it to more people than I can remember, and I always keep a copy of it around.

What is your favorite candy/bar and why?

Canadian Kit Kats. They are superior. Made by Nestle (not Hershey’s), much creamier, and not so sickeningly sweet!

Emily Kwok