Dare to dream by Gina Hopkins

by Ben ~ posted June 4th, 2015

Dare to dream…..

Gold and Bronze comes to the U.K., comes back to female fighters, comes back to my community, comes back to my supporters, comes back to my sponsors. Gold and Bronze…..

I genuinely don’t know what makes me more proud, helping to pull off this amazing tournament orbringing fruition in everyone’s investment in me.  I went to this tournament with a lot of my own investment and with a lot of investment from my local community, I went to make my point for disabled women in combat sports.  Being the only female and weighing in under the lightest category I went to fight for my principles, pride and respect, not daring to dream of bringing home medals.  I still wonder if I was dreaming everything that happened in New York.

With so much invested in this tournament and with my ‘’support crew’’ in tow (family, friends and sponsors), I was incredibly calm. It was one of those surreal moments where you don’t know what to expect, so what emotion can you express.  Being task orientated I just wanted to focus on my logistics, getting the right food and nutrients, going over my game plans and being crystal clear on the rules I was fighting under. I was the first competitor to arrive and the atmosphere soon became electric and we quickly all became one family.

Renzo Gracie academy, eagerness to compete, all proud to be representing our [disabled] population and ready to support everyone else.  What an atmosphere… we’re all on a mission!

Although we had a friendly, positive and supportive atmosphere, it was clear we were all there to compete and compete hard.  It was a beautifully liberating tournament, there was no judgement, no presumptions, no “taking it easy”.  It’s commonplace for able-bodied people to refuse to roll or fight with us disabled, it has been said that it’s a lose-lose situation for the able-bodied person. They either beat a disabled person or they get beaten by someone with a disability.

My mother always said “People either get it, or they don’t” in regards to disability.  My mother is very perceptive, I don’t think I need to expand on how this relates to that perception of fighting a disabled athlete.

This is, however, exactly why we need to have tournaments like Grapplers Heart. To showcase how we adapt and to show how disability can be an advantage. We saw so many awesome examples of this successful adaptation at the tournament.

Even though I won my Neuromuscular category, it was far from easy. These guys were strong, stronger than any able-bodied guys I’ve rolled with! Sorry lads!  These guys were beasts in terms of strength, unfortunately with myself being the one of the few who walked unassisted, this worked as a disadvantage as I was just not as strong.  Luckily, I have some teammates who like to pummel into me (in a controlled but fabulously fun and brutal way!), so I was prepared and I had a game plan!

Incredibly, my teammates will know how hard it is to choke me out, but the raw strength of one the guys with a Spinal Cord Injury was too much for me!  I escaped a few attempts of chokes and I got some good positions but that arm strength was amazing, even the toughest guys I know would have been envious at that applied strength he had.I would dare anyone who thinks they wouldn’t tap to a choke to roll with Brian! The guy who won the absolute was even scarier (sorry Shannon!) his arms were massive.  I didn’t feel nervous about any of my fights but if I’d of had to fight Shannon, I think I may have been apprehensive!  I would have certainly played a very tactical game of “give nothing away, under any circumstance”! It would have been fun though…

I had the time of my life, I enjoyed every minute, loved everyone, made lifelong friends, learnt a lot and have a lot of homework… for next year!!

Please remember if you’re fighting someone disabled, on the whole we have something over you and not the other way around. We have learnt to adapt and can surprise the best of you.

Fight us if you dare!


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