Mackenzie Dern on challenges of training and how she overcame them

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Mackenzie Dern is among today’s biggest names in BJJ, and has been serving as inspiration to many girls starting out. She’s been also doing great work in MMA since making the move. But the world and ADCC champion hasn’t shed the gi – she began the year winning her third European Championship. Before that, Dern was on vacation in Rio and had a chat with Gallerr. Here’s what she said.

On challenges:

The biggest challenge for me as a woman training BJJ is finding someone with a similar game to what we face in championships. At practice, sometimes I would attempt a leg lock, for instance — I’d attack and attack, and it would never sink on my training mates, because they are too strong or bigger. I made an effort to always attempt it, so that it would at least get inside my head, and, if they were a woman, I could now land in the position. So I went to a championship and locked 7 leg locks in place in just one championship, even though I had never once done it in my sparring. I believe the hardest fact is knowing really what works for us and what the guys are letting us do — which is normal, for them to help us. Women need to make an effort so as not to lose motivation and give up on a position because we can’t do it at practice. At the right time it will work for sure!

On training as a girl:

The greatest piece of advice I could give a new female BJJ practitioner is not to be afraid to sweat and get really close to the guys, because this is grappling, so you need to lose that discomfort of the person being really close to you, on top of you. We often feel that the guy only does that position because he’s muscling, or because he’s much bigger. But it is a type of self-defense. At the right time it will start falling into place. Sometimes you won’t understand anything, but stay consistent; don’t stop training. Don’t lose motivation. I see many women who lose motivation in the first year of BJJ, and then in time everything will start working out; you will see that we have flexibility, we have speed — we have qualities that help our BJJ be high-level too.

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