I met Andrea through the Martial Arts Knitters group on Ravelry. She’s a crafter and practices martial arts. Her blogs can be found here and here. She’s known as StickPixie on Ravelry. She practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Sudbury MMA.
Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts: What crafts do you typically do?
Andrea: I’m mostly a knitter, and have been for about 20 years, although recently I started messing around with the drop spindle. I used to be quite the little cross-stitcher, but haven’t been able to find the time to do it lately.
MMAaC: How did you get started/who taught you/where did you learn?
Andrea: I was four years old when my mom taught me to knit. It was something to keep my little hands busy, something we could do together. She taught me English knitting (she calls it Canadian-style) rather than Continental, which is her preferred method, because she thought that it would be easier for me to learn. I sort of messed around with it until I was about 15, when I started taking it seriously again. I wanted to knit a scarf for a boyfriend. Well, the boyfriend didn’t stick around, but I revived my interest in the craft the next year when a good friend became pregnant, and I made her a blanket for her little one. Once I started university, it became necessary to knit because a) if I didn’t, I’d go crazy, and b) I didn’t precisely have the funds for expensive Christmas gifts, so I made people things.
I started spinning last July, at an informal “spin-in” at the home of one of our SnB members. For the first little while, I just made the most hideous lumpy single-ply handspun. Then I went to a spin-in at the local spinner’s guild last month, and got some smarts smacked into me! That day, they featured a movie about drafting techniques for different types of fibre, and it really helped me to understand what to do with my fluff.
MMAaC: Spinning is next on my “to learn” list. What are your favorite things to make? Andrea: Mostly, I like to focus on hats and baby clothes. Hats are great because they’re small, you can take them anywhere, and they’re quick to complete. The same applies to baby clothes, with the added bonus of the cuteness factor. I guess I’m at the age now where all my friends and family members of a similar age (early-mid 20′s) are having babies, so I’ve been making a LOT of baby clothes lately. None for myself though…yet.
MMAaC: Tell me about your favorite project?
Andrea: My favorite project would have to be the sweater I made my husband for our first anniversary. Well, it was supposed to be for our first anniversary but I never finished it in time. “Besides,” husband-of-mine said, “our anniversary is in August. I don’t need a sweater then! Make it for Christmas.” So I finished it on time – at ten minutes to midnight on December 23rd – blocked it, sewed it up, and had it ready for him on Christmas Eve. My other favorite project would be the Selbuvotter gloves I made for my dad. These were also supposed to be an Xmas gift, but turns out I finished them in March. Heh.
MMAaC: Not every project can be a winner. What’s been your worst or least favorite project?
Andrea: My least favorite project was a garter stitch scarf I started making for one of my aunts when I was 12. My mom bought me the yarn, a forest green acrylic – and told me she wanted me to make it for said aunt, whom I didn’t like – she had married my uncle that year and was really an unpleasant person to be around for extended periods of time. So I grumbled through the making of the scarf, which never grew beyond 6 inches in length because I kept getting frustrated with it and ripped it out multiple times. Finally, I told my mom I wasn’t going to do it because it was driving me crazy, and if she wanted it done she would have to do it herself. I recently used that yarn to make a bunch of hats for the homeless.
MMAaC: Tell us more about Andrea. Who is she and what is she into besides knitting?
Andrea: Whenever I’m not knitting, I can usually be found at school learning various bits of nursing knowledge; at home, cooking up a storm and cuddling my two crazy Labrador girls; or at the gym, rolling around on the mats learning some jiu jitsu and throwing around boys twice my size. I recently achieved silver and bronze medals at a BJJ tournament in Toronto.
MMAaC: What is BJJ for those readers who don’t know? What level are you at?
Andrea: I am a practitioner of Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ), also known as Gracie jiu jitsu. I currently have a white belt with three stripes, having just received my third stripe this week!
(For those who are not familiar with the grading system in BJJ, before one can attain the next level of belt – blue, purple, brown or black – one must first attain four stripes on their belt. In our club, it takes a minimum of two years to attain a blue belt, but that is only a guideline and attendance alone is not a guarantee of promotion.)
MMAaC: Have you tried any other forms of martial arts? How is it different from what you’re doing now?
Andrea: When I first started, I did some Muay Thai on the side as part of some beginner MMA classes. It’s definitely different from BJJ in that it’s the striking aspect of our MMA program, whereas BJJ is focused on grappling. I think what lead me to focus on BJJ was the fact that although muay thai is a crazy cardio workout, the punch-kick routine was starting to bore me a little. (That, and I can’t do pushups to save my life! Nobody ever asks me to do a pushup in BJJ!)
MMAaC What do you love most about BJJ?
Andrea: I love the physical challenge of it, and seeing how the body mechanics of it work. I love watching the flow of movement between two practitioners who are mutually involved in demonstrating the moves, not intent on killing each other. I love using simple motions to have great impact on someone larger than me. And I especially love how even when I’m dead tired, my limbs are heavy and full of bruises, and my hair and gi are plastered to me with sweat, I can still feel myself smiling from ear to ear. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Prior to joining Sudbury MMA, I had gained about 25 lbs and was horrified that my inactivity had led to such a radical gain. I didn’t feel as though there was anything I could do; I worked a lot of shift work and was just beginning college, so I imagined I had no time to engage in any kind of physical fitness. Luckily, the club has a really flexible schedule – 6 days a week – and I could train whenever I wanted in whatever discipline I wanted. Within 6 months, I hadn’t budged the numbers on the scale much (about 5 lbs lost), but I definitely had lost some inches off my waist – 3 to be exact. Plus my entire body felt stronger and looked more toned. Over the last few months, since I’ve been training for competitions, I’ve lost another 10 lbs.
I have definitely gained a great deal more confidence. If I hadn’t, I know I would not have had the strength of mind to stand in front of 2000 people and fight another human being two weeks ago. I used to have such terrible stage fright as a child, but now I find I can more easily do things like present in front of my class at school, confidently walk into patients’ rooms during my clinical placement days, and yes, even help teach some of the classes at the club.
I think sometimes that being in BJJ has given me a bit of an “attitude”, but then I realize that what it has done is given me what I need to learn to open my mouth and my mind. Now it’s kind of hard to shut up.
MMAaC: How did you get started?
Andrea: A friend of mine was advertising on Facebook that the martial arts club she attended was offering a 2-week free trial. She said that they offered beginner MMA classes, and I thought to myself, “Hmm, I wonder if I could do that?” So I signed up and did 2 straight hours the first night – almost passed out – and decided I was hooked. It was hard going at first, because not long afterward, the friend who got me started decided to leave the club – her boyfriend was one of the instructors and it turned out they had broken up – so I’d lost my training partner. Also, I initially found it hard to be around so many boisterous, sweaty boys I barely knew. Eventually though, I started making friends with the guys at the club, and yes, some of the girls (we do have the odd girl thrown in the mix!).
MMAaC: My mom hates that I spar but my husband loves it. It seems like most people are either OK with girls fighting or not. What are you opinions on girls fighting professionally or even on an amateur level?
Andrea: I don’t know if I would ever have the opportunity to fight at a professional or amateur level, considering that I live in a somewhat small, Northern Ontario city. If I decided to move to Ottawa and train with the black belt whose club is affiliated with mine, I still think it would be hard to gain recognition or be taken seriously. I also think it’s probably like that for female BJJ practitioners everywhere, not just here. It’s truly sad that in the 21st century, women still do not have the same opportunities as men, and that includes martial arts. It sucks that the only time you see a girl in the UFC is when she’s prancing through the octagon holding up a card. I’m aware of other avenues women can take to fight professionally, but even so, I find that most guys just get off on the novelty of chicks fighting rather than taking them seriously as athletes.
That’s my long-winded way of saying: let’s buck this misogynistic crap already and get more women in professional fighting!
Amen to that! Thanks for the interview Andrea!
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