If you are a female BJJ practitioner looking for a camp in which you will receive some excellent training from the top not black belts you need look no further than the Grapplin’ Gals camps Sonia Sillan and her Partner Jamel (Jei) Kennedy put together. Champions such as Mackenzie Dern & Hannette Staack can teach are just a few you to name that teach ladies who really want to get their roll on the most unintimidating environment. Sillan personally believes that “although women can get fantastic training from rolling with guys, it's a completely different experience to be able to roll at the same intensity as other females. As a new jiu-jitsu player, instead of spending an eternity focusing on survival, you can actually play and evolve your game; you can really figure out what works and you have a technique down when you are matched equally with an opponent of your size and build.”
Sonia and Jei
Sonia Sillan started training BJJ in June of 2009 one year after having reconstructive hip surgery. She was diagnosed with congenital hip dysplasia (shallow hip sockets) at 20 but continues in her BJJ pursuits and on a very definite path. When Sillan started BJJ, she was hooked, but her body did not move the way she needed it to. She was one of two girls that trained consistently at her gym. Drilling caused no discomfort, the sparring did. She was constantly smashed or because people were aware of the surgery they didn’t give her a real challenge on the mats. Eventually Sillan entered her first official tournament, as a blue belt, with only an in-house tournament under her belt in 2011. She experienced what most girls experienced their first time competing, she lost. Sillan’s loss came at the hands of her now teammate Amanda Loewen, and one of Oregon's first female black belts. The loss brought the realization to Sillan that women don't get enough realistic training experiences and thus the concept for the first Grapplin' Gals Open Mat was born.
The first GGs happened in 2012 when Sillan and partner Jamel (Jei) Kennedy were starting their own gym Straight Blast Gym of Seattle. They brought GGs along in order to mold it into exactly what they envisioned it to be. GGs moved from small open mats to full blown training camps. The goal has always been the same. On the website the following statement still holds true http://ggbjj.com/: "Our focus is on increasing the standard of jiu-jitsu techniques for women training in the Pacific Northwest. Although BJJ isn't as popular here in the PNW [it's definitely growing], it is still home to some of the toughest and most hardworking women in the sport. We aim to support the growth and progress in women's BJJ locally and nationally." After experiencing difficulties in training, and in competition, Sillan wanted to provide an environment for women to be able to come together and just train – learn, roll, laugh, have fun, figure out how to keep hair in line.
The candidness of Sillan endears one to the struggles of the BJJ woman seeking to create her ideal training environment. “To be completely honest, running our gym has put some road blocks in GGs because I haven't been able to put as much time and effort into it as I would like to, but the camps make everything work. It's amazing seeing all these ladies come together to train, to build connections, to see incredible camaraderie. Being an unaffiliated organization has been absolutely incredible as well; although the camps are being held at SBG Seattle, I feel like the BJJ community has grown.” The 2012 opening of SBG Seattle came with a surprising lack of support for Sillan and Kennedy. Initially they had some hiccups, because departing from their previous gym to start anew involved a great deal of turmoil and underlying politics. Some colleagues have remained since the change and some have not however, just like anything in life everything has a reason and a season. Now that people are recognizing SBG Seattle as a legitimate venture with knowledgeable owners/coaches instead of medal chasers or scam artists things have gotten easier. Sillan’s current successes have not come without some MAJOR sacrifices, “we were almost one Safeway stop away from the baby aisle, stocking up on baby wipes and doing our field baths the way the military does. It’s been an interesting ordeal, but as we grow as a gym, Grapplin’ Gals grows.”
Today, I’m reviewing the Submission FC Ranked rash guard; on their site, they note it’s made from “Recycled Polyester / Spandex blend” and is priced at $64.99.
Look: Upon opening the package and examining the rashie, I was immediately drawn to the design. The logo is featured prominently across the chest and again, much larger, down the center of the back. On top of that, the logo is also found throughout the product in a much smaller, nearly invisible font. Overall, it’s clean and understated. If you’re into large type-face and a clean design, you might like this.
From the site, Submission FC notes a “tear-away tag” – I noticed the tag to be overly large and made from what I can assume is some sort of recycled wood-pulp material. It was extra thin and looks very unique to this product. It lay well against the skin while I was wearing it and found no need to tear it away.
Craftsmanship: Out of the bag, I noticed some seams that weren’t lined up as well as some blue spotting along a couple of seam lines. I believe the latter may be a result of the sublimation process and found it to only affect aesthetics. However, one white thread actually came off at examination and, after only one roll – not one night of rolling, but the first roll of the evening – a long thread came loose from the seam and hung from the end of the sleeve. After one wash, it didn’t get any worse; I was able to cut the blown seam from the rash guard and continue unimpeded. That said, I was very disappointed with the overall craftsmanship of this product and hoped it would have been produced to higher standards.
Feel: I’m 5’7”, 170 lbs without the gi and asked for a medium. Pulling it over my head, I found it to be of a comfortable cut and provided the range of motion needed for training. Compared to some of my other rash guards, Submission FC’s felt thinner and breathed better while providing a similar level of comfort. Overall, I try to avoid long-sleeve rashies because I don’t like the lack of breathability that comes with them, but this was actually a pleasure to wear. As advertised, the product is extra-long and I had no issues with ride up during training.
Care: I tossed this rash guard in with the rest of my usual Jiu-Jitsu laundry and it was none the worse for wear. It suffered little to no shrink and, because the logos are sublimated, there was no design flake to speak of. However, the next time I wore the product, I noted a bit of scratch around the neck and wonder if this could be a sign of things to come based on the craftsmanship issues mentioned earlier.
Overall: If it weren’t for the poor craftsmanship of this rash guard, I would have no issue with it. It wears comfortably, is cut well and doesn’t shrink in the wash; the extra-long length doesn’t ride up after intense drilling and it is of a neat and clean design.
That said, craftsmanship is one of the most important aspects of purchasing any product and I wouldn’t recommend putting 65 hard-earned dollars down just to have seam issues the first time you wear your new rash guard. If Submission FC can get past these issues, fix their seams and ensure each product shipped is of the highest caliber, I can see this becoming a regular rash guard in my rotation.