Lakeshia Williams

“I found my tribe. I found my new family and passion. Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gave me a sense of confidence and belonging, and a feeling of strength and empowerment where my age, sex, race, or physical appearance didn’t limit me. It allowed me to reach my fitness goal and become an athlete at the age of 40, acquire a lifelong skill that could protect me and those I care about, and meet people who would become my family. ” 

Photo by Leshyia White @shyia.w
Lakeshia Williams

My journey with BJJ started on May 1st 2018 at UFC Perimeter in Atlanta GA. I had been contemplating for a year whether to join this martial arts class. Since I was a little girl, I was always a fan of martial arts and it was a childhood dream to try it, but I was too intimidated by the fact that I was out of shape, overweight, inexperienced and “older” (I was 39 at the time). For a whole year I would sign up for a trial class and then cancel out of intimidation. Finally, I gathered up the nerve to actually attend a class. I convinced my then 18y/o daughter to take the class with me. When I walked in, everyone was so welcoming and friendly. There was not one judgmental face in the room. Professor Denise Houle introduced herself and told us a little bit about the sport, what to expect when training, and expected etiquette. And then there was the dreaded warm up! I expected it to be tough because I was so out of shape but OH…My…God! I did not expect that much cardio intensity. I knew for sure that I was going to die of a heart attack or asthma attack, or both! I was completely thrown off by the weird movements but everyone was so helpful in assisting me without making me like a total imbecile! We did a few techniques and I remember specifically learning the “knee on belly” technique, but it wasn’t until a month later that I realized it wasn’t called “neon” belly! 

I was very comfortable with the class and the positions and it felt like that’s where I belonged. I remember thinking to myself, “I really love this! I can do this everyday…why didn’t I start years ago…I’m so behind!” 

Lakeshia Williams
Xtreme Moments Photography
Lakeshia Williams
Mike Anderson

At the end of class professor Houle announced that some members of the team were going to be competing that weekend. I wanted to be a part of that experience so badly. I already knew I wanted to compete even before I took my second class. Even though my physical body at that time didn’t reflect it, I have always been a competitor at heart since childhood in anything sports related. I did my first competition 5 months after starting BJJ and won gold. I still train regularly (minimum 4x a week or more if work allows) and compete at every opportunity I get. This was and is definitely my sport. 

My coworkers, friends, and family members thought it was awesome that I found something that I loved. They were always supportive. They knew I was deeply committed when I would go to class even after a 12 or 13 hour shift that day or minimal to no sleep. I was dedicated. I’m STILL dedicated! I found my tribe. I found my new family and passion. Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gave me a sense of confidence and belonging, and a feeling of strength and empowerment where my age, sex, race, or physical appearance didn’t limit me. It allowed me to reach my fitness goal and become an athlete at the age of 40, acquire a lifelong skill that could protect me and those I care about, and meet people who would become my family. I’m in better shape now than I have ever been in my entire life and wouldn’t trade it for anything! I’m very proud to say that I’m a woman who fights!

Lakeshia Williams
Dense Houle @thinderbird_fitness