Holly McLean – Portal Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


Name: Holly McLean
Age: 31
Belt: Blue
Club: Portal Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
How long have you been training? On and off since 2016
How did you get into JJ?
I was actually training in a martial arts gym, doing Muay Thai, cause I had always wanted to do kickboxing. I got shin splints from all the skipping that we had to do, and I needed to stop those classes for a while and I could see jiu jitsu running at the same time and so I thought, “oh, I’ll give that a go”.  It took me awhile to get into it, for a while I didn’t know what it was all about. But I loved the vibe and the camaraderie on the mats, and everyone was really supportive, so I kept training, but I still had no idea what I was doing. I was just getting smashed all the time and didn’t know what to do about that. After about six months I started focusing on fundamentals, and I started to understand the concepts, that’s probably when it started to change. That’s probably when it started making a bit more sense.

How have you found returning to training after having your son?
It’s been hard. I don’t know if it’s that I’m a mum now, I don’t know what it is, but when I first started training again I was more aware of personal boundaries. I used to be able to just dive right in and not worry about that. When I first started training again it would be like, “whoa! I’m really close to this person!”  It was in the front of my mind, while before it had never been anything to think about. I don’t know if it’s the hormones but I’m feeling very much like “just be gentle with me”. I don’t have the aggression. Also I’m breastfeeding, and I don’t want people squashing me! And then obviously the time as well, I think it would be easier if David (partner) wasn’t the coach, because then he could mind Jesse, but he’s on the mats teaching. It’s hard to get someone to mind him, cause my family are in Sydney, so it’s mainly the other people who are here.  There’s a few really great mums here, so they’ll look after him while I’m training. There’s about two classes a week now I can do, they’re just the fundamental classes, I’m still not game enough yet to go hard with everyone else. I think as well, I had some muscle separation and problems with my hips, I’m still getting confident in my new body.

What keeps you coming back? What do you love about it?
It’s pretty much my life now!  David and I run this place together, he’s the coach and I’m the manager, so that keeps me coming back – it’s my job!

I also think it’s that I’m quite goal driven, so if I want to achieve a goal I’m going to focus on that and make myself get there. I’ve done a few triathlons before I got into jiu jitsu, so it’s always been like, “yep, I’m just going to do it”.

I love it because I think it is an amazing skill, that training means you are learning something new and getting really fit. When you first start to train you realise how much you don’t know and I remember thinking how crazy people who get in fights are cause they’re so vulnerable and they don’t even know it! Jiu jitsu keeps you focused and makes you have a better lifestyle because you want to eat better, be healthy so you can roll. And I always feel really good after a class and everyone who trains are the best. The team is really amazing!

What are your goals for jiu jitsu?
My short-term goal is to get back into regular training again, and to roll again!  I’ve only been back on the mats for a few weeks, so: join in on the general classes, roll again.  I’d like to give competition another go, but as blue belt that’s a whole other thing. I got my blue belt when I was pregnant, so I haven’t really grown into it yet.
And i’d love to be a black belt one day, but at the moment Jesse’s my priority.

When you get into it, it becomes such a part of your regular routine, and when I became pregnant with Jesse, and that just stopped, that was really hard. I was still really involved in the gym, because we were building the business up so we could move into the new space.  So we were still in the community halls, I was still going to all the classes, talking to people, trying to ramp up interest, and not being able to train myself. That was really hard. I think that it’s about accepting that jiu jitsu will always be there. In the beginning when you get into it I think people are really excited and really motivated and go go go go go, and if they have to take a week off they’re really disheartened.  But as you go further along you realise that you can always train jiu jitsu, it will always be here. You’ve just got to know that “ok, I’ve got to stop making that my focus at the moment.  Now it’s Jesse, or now I’m pregnant, I need to look after my body”.  It’s different priorities.  Jiu Jitsu, it becomes a lifestyle.