For the Love of BJJ: Couples Who Compete Together
While most of us wish that our significant others would catch the jiu-jitsu bug along with us, there are couples out there who epitomize a seamless partnership on and off the mats. It’s one thing to train together, but it’s another to be able to compete together.
Two couples who recently competed at Pan Ams shared their thoughts on how training and competing together has changed their relationship and improved their jiu-jitsu. Hillary and Brian Van Ornum and Raquel and Renato Canuto related:
“We aren’t sure that competing has been what’s changed our relationship, but more the fact that we both train jiu-jitsu changed it. For 6 years, I was training and competing and Brian was not. For the past 4 years our lives have changed dramatically in that we are both training and getting ready for competitions. Which has really strengthened our marriage. As for competing, Brian says that by having me always there coaching him while he has competed, that his trust in me has been reinforced. When you’re competing, you trust that your coach has your best interests behind what they are telling you, and that they know more than you do.” – Hillary
“Our lives are definitely much different than the average couples. Renato is my husband but he’s also my coach. I am his wife, nutritionist/chef but also his student. There are days that we leave the house upset but when we get to the gym those problems have to be left at the door. There we are student and coach, always. Even when we get home and I want to kill him again, I still make sure his diet is right, he;s eating and drinking enough and his weight is on track. Being so involved in the preparation of competition and the actual day itself has definitely made our relationship stronger Marriage in itself is a selfless union. But in a sport that requires you to be mentally focused 100% of the time, I believe your home life has to be in order as well.” – Raquel
Naturally, watching your significant other compete is exciting, but pretty nerve wracking. However, the feeling you get when you see them win makes it worthwhile.
“I think it’s safe to say that we both get more nervous when the other is competing than when we are competing ourselves. And when each of us has won major tournaments (Pans, Worlds, Masters Worlds) we are probably more proud of each other than we have been of ourselves.” – Hillary
“Watching Raquel compete makes me feel excited but a little nervous. I always feel like it’s me fighting in there with her. Wanting to do the things I see is there. Recently I watched her fight MMA live for the first time. She kept asking me if I was nervous and I lied every time. I kept saying, “babe you’re going to smash her! I have no doubt you’re going to win!” I felt that… but I was really nervous! I felt like I was going to war. I was really inspired watching her. I turn into her fan. When she won I was so happy because I knew what that fight meant to her. I was so proud that she was MY wife.” – Renato
Who better than the people who know you best to help improve your jiu-jitsu?
“We each take what the other needs to work on and try to give each other the feedback that will help them improve. For example, Brian has studied Dominkya and pulled guard like her and worked her guards and omoplatas. In turn, it’s made his guard better, while also getting me ready to face her (which hopefully we will again once we are both healthy!).” – Hillary
“Renato has helped me grow so much. Sometimes he’s a little hard on me and expects perfection but it’s what I need. I didn’t ever think I could possibly teach Renato anything but one day I came to pick him up from teaching and one of the guys walking out said, “Renato showed your triangle setup today in class! Sh*t… it’s sick!” Haha. His game is really well rounded so I see him taking little things from my game and adding it to his, which makes me feel useful! Because I know his game so well I think I am one of his tougher training partners. Not because I’m better than him or even close to his level! I just know him so well. I know what he’s going to do next. So I think having someone to challenge his positions has made him tighten up certain things in his game as well.” – Raquel
“Raquel and I drill together a lot. Helping her to make a position fit for her style has helped my game grow. It has made me think differently and open my mind to other ways outside of my “game.” I have actually learned a lot from her. Things about wrestling and the way she does her triangles and guillotines I don’t see anybody else doing it that way. Some things I taught her, but she does it better than me and made it her own. So she’s always there reminding me to fix the little parts of the position to make it better.” – Renato
There are many great reasons to train together as a couple, but as you’ve just read from these world champions (all of them), there are some great reasons to compete together as well.