Purple belt Sarah Black on training late in life: “I do everything I can to be as effective as possible.”

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Sarah completes a throw at the 2013 Pan. Photo: Erin Herle

Sarah completes a throw at the 2013 Pan. Photo: Erin Herle

A stand-out competitor and instructor at Gustavo Dantas’ GDJJ Academy, Sarah Black sets an example for many. She didn’t start training when she was a kid, nor even a teenager. And despite that, she has risen to the top of the podium on many occasions and now leads the women’s program at GMA GDJJ in Tempe, AZ.

Her professor, Gustavo Dantas, decided to take the ropes and interview this star student for GRACIEMAG:

In 2006 at the age of 26, Sarah Black took her first judo class and she would end her Judo career in 2010 with the rank of nidan (second degree black belt) from Jason Morris. In 2009 she started shifting her focus to Jiu-Jitsu and joined team Nova Uniao. She was awarded her blue belt from Robson Moura (André Pederneiras) in 2009 and in 2012 she was awarded her purple belt from Gustavo Dantas (André Pederneiras).

Last year in 2013 it was a stand-out year for her. At the age of 34, she won both the adult and masters IBJJF World Championship in the lightweight purple belt division. Other recent results also include 2014 Pan champion and 2013 Abu Dhabi World Pro Trials open weight champion earning her the ticket.

Of her 38 medals competing under Gustavo Dantas, 33 have been gold and 5 of these have been from IBJJF World Championships.

Here’s how she continues to perform at this exceptional high level that is inspiring to people around her:

You started at focusing on Jiu-Jitsu at a relatively late age of 29. Did this impact the way you approached your training?

Yes, it had a huge impact on my approach to the sport. In a positive way it made me more focused. I set myself a long-term goal of becoming a black belt world champion very early on. Everything I do in training and my personal life is based on that goal and how I am going to achieve it. I know I have a few years left to perform at my peak and I do everything I can to be as effective as possible.

Can you give the readers more detail into your mindset when it comes to preparing yourself for competition?

I try to focus on things I have control of. The level of competition is continually increasing as our sport grows, but I have no control over these sorts of external factors. My focus is on my performance and not my results. There is so much I can do to align stars for my self. For example, means holding myself to a predetermined weekly training schedule, focused drilling, clean eating, quality sleep, smart supplemental conditioning and early weight cuts. For my night before, and day of, competitions I have preparation and warm-up routines that help ease anxiety for competition. I also incorporate visualization at all levels from something as small as a grip to standing on top the podium. Will I be on top of the podium? Who knows, but I focus on the things that will help get me there.

Do you have any tips for competitors aspiring to compete at the highest level?

I look at my training as having many different facets and I am a firm believer that you have to address and have a plan for improving all of these. On the physical side it is a lot more than training every day of the week; you have to look at your diet, how you look after your body and surround you with the right training partners and coach etc. Look at the complete picture and improve on all levels. As many of us know, training Jiu-Jitsu is tough on your body. I feel that if I am going to put myself through that, I need to put just as much effort in to the other areas. Gustavo Dantas and my teammates at Nova Uniao provide me the best environment to grow in.

You mention the mental aspect of your preparation; can you give us some tips on how you mentally prepare yourself?

I would not be able to improve my level of Jiu-Jitsu to the levels I need by not having a coach, so for me the same applies to my mental preparation. I have a mental coach that helps me get ready to perform. Under his guidance I have been able to greatly improve my competition results. Gustavo’s program, “Inner discovery for outer success” is in my opinion, a program that everyone should go through. It would be great if we are all performing to our very best, with no mental blocks. Then we could truly see who has the best Jiu-Jitsu.

In order to maintain balance between your professional, personal and training lifestyles, do you have any other support systems?

Yes the key for me is to manage that balance. I have many support systems around me that I am extremely grateful for. They definitely play a huge part in my performance. I look at sponsors from a slightly different viewpoint. I align myself with people that can help me on this great Jiu-Jitsu journey. I use Q5 labs for all my nutritional and supplement needs. Jiu-Jitsu tracker is something that is becoming a big part of my training where I can keep track of my own training as well as my opponents. I need my body fixed continuously and OSS Arizona has been invaluable in that respect, they have a Jiu-Jitsu background so they understand my NEED to be on the mat.  As I mentioned before, my mental coach, Gustavo Dantas (www.thebjjmentalcoach.com) has been a huge catalyst for me to achieve my desired results.

Check out more of Gustavo Dantas and his team at www.gdjj.com

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