We are excited to share our interview with Sijara Eubanks, seven-time (yes, 7 times!) Jiu Jitsu World Champion and Pan American Jiu Jitsu World Champion. Let’s hear what Sijara recommends to parents who are trying to get their kids to stick with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Where, when, and how did you start practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
I started training BJJ in 2008 when I was 23 years old. That was at a club in Washington, D.C. called Capitol Combat Sports, but after a few months I switched to Team Lloyd Irvin where I’ve been since. I got into BJJ because I was looking for a fun way to lose weight in my spare time after work.
Who were your first coaches, and what about their teaching styles stand out in your memory?
My first coaches were Lloyd Irvin, Donald Achnick, and Paul Greenhill. They all had very different coaching styles, which really helped with my development as a white belt. Lloyd Irvin brought a hard-nose, old-school type of approach that I liked (it made me tough and resilient), while Achnick and Greenhill were more technical with their approaches.
Which club do you go to now? What are some aspects of your current coach’s teaching approach that stand out?
I’m currently with Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs, MD. The aspect that stands out the most is the hard work. We believe that hard work beats talent if talent refuses to work hard. So you don’t have to be naturally athletic in Jiu Jitsu. You can work hard, train, focus, and still get results.
What are some things that have influenced your BJJ practice?
There are many things that have influenced my training. My family, my loved ones, my partner, and my teammates have all influenced me in positive ways.
What brand is your BJJ gear?
I don’t wear any brands anymore. I don’t have any gear sponsors, so I wear blank Gis and order directly from the manufacturer.
If you could have a training session with any one person, who would that be?
Wallid Ishmael – he’s my favorite Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter and fought back in the day in Rio. I think Wallid was a fearless, loyal, and aggressive fighter. He challenged the Gracies at a time when they were thought to be unbeatable. I admire his style of jiu jitsu: strong passing and good scrambles. He also competed in MMA, so that’s cool.
Can you give us a glimpse of your current training schedule?
I train every day except Sundays and twice a day Monday though Thursday. Not every session is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu though, since I also train in MMA. I drill technique and spar at every session and pretty much only do conditioning and circuit training during fight camp (or Worlds champ), meaning I drill for conditioning specifically for the match rounds I’ll be competing in. On the regular, my sessions are usually 2 hours long. I’ll drill low intensity for 1-1.5 hours, and then move onto the live sparring rounds the rest of practice.
What was the most memorable tournament in which you participated?
I’ll say the Brazilian Nationals in 2011. It was the first time I had competed in Brazil, and I fought in the famous Tijuca Tenis Clube. This was a very memorable tournament for me. I won my division, so that was super cool. I was in a new beautiful country, so the whole atmosphere was amazing. The most memorable fight was during the finals of my weight class. The girl I was fighting was super big and intimidating, but I took it to her and won a tough match.
What inspires and motivates you?
My desire to learn and grow as a martial artist motivates me to train and work hard.
What are some of your interests outside of BJJ?
I train MMA as well. I also like traveling and trying new food. My most memorable travels would come down to Rio or Abu Dhabi. Both cities are incredibly beautiful and the people are amazing. I really admire how they love the art.
Do you teach Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
Yes, I teach beginners Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Team Lloyd Irvin. What makes Team Lloyd Irvin different is the attention to detail during instruction. Our kids participate in self-defense, a little judo, and striking as part of the Masters Club curriculum.
What is your advice for parents who are trying to get their kids to stick with BJJ lessons?
As a parent, I’d say that BJJ is the most useful sport for self-defense. And just like any other martial art, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can improve your child’s confidence and physical health. But keep in mind that they’re kids and may want to try other sports as they grow.
What is your advice for kids who are getting into BJJ?
Have fun! Lots of kids get wrapped up in the competition scene and focus on winning a lot. Winning is awesome and so is competing in general, but remember: the pursuit of mastering the art is the goal, not winning small tournaments along the way.
Photography via InvictaFC and Sijara Eubanks’ social media.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is aspiring to some of the same things you’ve achieved?
I’d say be prepared to stumble. I don’t like to say fail, because the journey is never a failure unless you give up. To achieve great things, you must work hard and stay focused and be absolutely determined to reach your goals. You must really, truly desire to pursue this kind of journey because there will be setbacks, losses, and other struggles. However, the experience, the wins, and the glory are all worth it.
In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of being a BJJ athlete?
Perseverance. The beautiful thing about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is that anybody can do it. Lots of people start training, but lots of people quit too. It’s an amazing sport that will bring out the best in you, but it’s challenging as well. I always encourage new students to stick with it and BE PATIENT.
Thank you Sijara! We wish you well and continuing success!
We’d love to recommend a book
Jiu-Jitsu University by Saulo Ribeiro, six-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion. Ribeiro shares his system of grappling, mapping out more than 200 techniques that carry you from white to black belt.