1 Jan 2000

Interview with Caoimhe McGill


Caoimhe McGill

27th February 2009

Meerkatsu: How/when did you get into BJJ? Where and who do you train under now?

Caoimhe McGill: I started with traditional ju jitsu as a needed to get a black belt to get on the stunt register. But after seeing BJJ in sep 2004 I gave up on that and have loved BJJ since. I now train with Waqar Ahmed in Revolution Belfast.

MK: What is your belt rank and competition record (or summary of proudest achievements)?

CM:I am purple belt which I received from Carlos Gracie Junior after winning the mundials at blue belt level in 2006. I am also glad to have fought against Kyra Gracie in ADCC world final in Trenton New Jersey after winning the ADCC European qualifiers at under 63kg in 2007. I have come 1st place in the Gracie Invitational in my weight in 2005, 2006 and 2008. I was unable to compete in 2007.
I have also done well in many competitions were I have had to fight in the mens categories such as Irish Open and Supreme National Grappling Championships.

MK: Why do you compete?

CM: I have a competitive nature and really enjoy competing in BJJ and submission wrestling competitions. I prefer the gi but as there are not so many competitions I started no gi just to be able to compete more.

MK: What is your view on the competition scene where currently so few other women compete? Or is the scene changing?

CM: When 1st competed in the Gracie Invitational in 2005 I had just become a blue belt the week before. With all the weight categories together there were 2 of us. Unfortunately since I am at the upper end of female ju jitsu in the UK I still don't get as many competitors, there were 4 of us in the purple belt open. But there were very large blue and white belt categories with full numbers at all weights. This is great, hopefully there will soon be full categories the whole way up to black belt.

MK: What things have you had to do just to get a match? eg move up or down a weight/rank/travel far etc

CM: Until recently I have never changed weight for a competition as I just love doing it and have seen those changing weight suffering and not enjoying their fight or fighting to their full potential. I also don't agree with changing your body weight by hugh amounts. I only changed weight recently for ADCC European final as we did qualifiers in UK at under 60kg as we were fighting for it to be the split if there was only going to be 2 weight categories as it is closer to the middle of female weights. But the Europeans didn't get changed and knowing how big some of the girls had been in the world finals the previous year I thought it more sensible to drop 3kg. Unjfortunately it didn't work out as they increased the weight to 60kg (the weight we had originally wanted) 6 days before the competition so I bulked up again, only to discover that they decided it was too close to the competition to change it. When they changed it back I was now over weight and very annoyed with the event organisers as this was very unprofessional.
I don't think it is safe to have so few weight categories, especially if they cut off point is so low. It encourages eating disorders. When you are small just losing a few kilos could be a very high perecentage of your body weight.

MK: You voiced your frustration at the recent Kent Open where you were not given the chance to fight in the men's division, do you have any further views on this, and do you think all tournaments should have mixed gender divisions?

CM: I think there is a time and place for mixed gender competitions. When the competition is a qualifier for a larger competition were there will be more competitors to fight against in future rounds it is not necessary.
If it is a locally run competition for fun and competition experience I think it is necessary. Otherwise when I fight in Europe I will not have have enough local competition experience.
I have fought up 2 weight categories in male competitions just to get a fight as there is often not many light weight boys either. But there are physical differences between girls which may not make a straight swap the way to go. Maybe if females fight in males they could drop a belt or weight category if possible. This would make it fairer for the boy and girl. The girl will get a fight, the boy doesn't have to feel bad if they lose as they are a higher belt or weight so there is an excuse for them to use. I don't know if this is the way to go, but there must be a way.

MK: What do you think the sport needs to do to attract more women? What things would you like to see change/ happen within the BJJ scene.

CM: I have been to some competitions with pretty poor changing facilities and toilets. So better venue choices might be good. I have recently discovered that a lot of clubs have females even at purple belt level who have never competed. Maybe they need to be asked what would encourage them to compete. There are a lot of competitions who only give prizes to the male categories which is discriminatory. They say iit is because there are not so many in that category, but maybe if they offered prizes it might encourage participation. Maybe if they organised some female superfights for categories that won't have many competitors.

MK: Some BJJ is marketed to women as a self defence program - I'm thinking of the RAPESAFE (now known as Women Empowered)program in the US. What do you think of this strategy and do you think BJJ is a good self defence (specifically for women) generally?

CM: I think any alive martial art would be good as a self defence. BJJ is beneficial as being held on the ground is a situation that a female would really need to be able to get out of. But they would have to train it as we do and spar to ensure what you have learnt works. I've seen some self defence classes taught very badly and leave the women more vulnerable as they think they can defend themselves but are none the wiser.

MK: Do you think Kyra Gracie is a good role model for women in the sport?

CM: I think it is good to have a famous female name that everyone knows. I am also glad that I have had the opportunity to compete against her and would love to again. But I also think that it would be better it the famous female fighter was friendlier and more encouraging to other females in the sport.

MK: As one of the handful of senior level female BJJ players in the UK, do you feel under any pressure/obligation/desire to be a role model yourself?

CM: I hope that I would be an encouragement to other females wanting to get into the sport. I do try to encougage female participants, but my memory is so bad I keep forgetting who people are, so I hop I don't come accross as unfriendly. I hope that I keep my fights interesting so the sport seems more tempting to others. I am really embarressed if I end up having a boring stalling match whether I win or not. They are the only fights I have regretted afterwards and I always wish I had been more expermental even if it meant losing.
I dont feel being a role model has to be a pressure, as long as I have given a good fight that I am happy with. As long as I am having fun and the other competitors are having fun that is the main thing.

MK: How do you respond to male-banter that goes on sometimes, which may or may not include sexist remarks?

CM: I was fighting once in the Irish open and they had a new rule that a competitor couldn't talk to corner thay had to comunicate through the the ref. I was beating this guy by loads of points and he was getting very frustrated by it. When i had my head low and was nearly passing his guard he started laughing talking with his corner in a foreign language in what came accross as dirty talk. He was disqualified which is what he wanted as he didn't want to have to tell people he was beaten by a girl. I'd have prefered the fight to go on.

MK: Do you think guys underestimate how strong/skilfull/technical women players are?

CM: If they have not fought many girls they definately do. When a guy starts training in the club they don't fight properly against you. They try to take it easy and keep the weight off. Arm barring them a few times soon rectifies that.

MK: Generally speaking, how would you describe the differences (if there is any) between the way women train and fight, compared to men?

CM: We all do the same training, there are always moves that suit individual participants, but not different for girls and boys. But when I did my 1st competition I had never even sparred against a girl, there had never been any at training. It was very weird on the mat as female competitors do move very differently. They are generally more flexible and use this to their advantage.

MK: What reactions do you get when you tap guys out?

CM: Guys who don't know me are very surprised. I love to tap out roid heads who are using all their strength, their faces are a picture. Guys who know me know that the fight could go either way, just as it would if they were fighting a boy.
Most guys are not bothered about sparring or competiting against a girl, but there are always a few.

ENDS (C) 2009 Seymour Yang

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.



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