By winning the gold at the IBJJF World Championships in early June, Ana Carolina Schmitt has created a ripple of applause throughout the BJJ community and has become known as one of the top ranking female jiujiteiros.
This, however, is no accident – throughout her short career, she has stacked an impressive amount of wins and has placed in the top three at a vast number of important tournaments, doing it all with a unique mindset and with eyes set on becoming her best self.
We were keen on hearing what she had to say about her BJJ journey, her tips for female jiujiteiros and other equally amazing things.
BJJEE: Ana, thank you for being a part of this interview. Firstly – congratulations on winning the gold in the featherweight division on the World Championships a couple of days ago!
We assume that you are still ecstatic? How did winning the title feel like?
Ana: First of all, thank you for having me for this interview. I appreciate it very much.
Well, as of right now, my emotions have already come down (laughs), but yes – I felt everything I could. It was just amazing, I have no words to explain how it was. Like, my mind has never felt better, so much so that I fell on my knees out of happiness… And I am just so grateful for what I’ve been able to show myself that I was capable of doing it, and that I’ve done it. So, it was amazing (laughs)!
So, the main thing for me was that I was able to show myself that I could do this, you know? To be confident with myself – and that is priceless.
It was the best feeling ever and I was so happy with myself. You know, I didn’t have anything to prove to anyone else; I only wanted to prove it to myself and to those who love me, to those who have been with me all the time. And it was perfect.
BJJEE: Superb, we’re all very happy for you! And, it might not be a question asked all too often, but did you always feel like a world champion? Meaning, did you know from the beginning of your BJJ journey that this is something you can achieve and become one of the world’s best jiujiteiros?
Ana: No, I didn’t always feel like a champion. Especially because when I started training jiu jitsu, I didn’t know about World’s, I didn’t know how big jiu jitsu was at all (laughs). When I was a young teenager, around 14 years old, I started with jiu jitsu in my small town – and I didn’t realize how big jiu jitsu is. So, just after many years – when I was a brown belt – when I started to compete more, especially with some of the girls who were good, and then winning against and beating them… Only then did I realize I could do it and become a champion.
When I moved to the US, and when I started training at the Gracie Academy in my town, with the best girls in the world – that’s when I realized that yes, I will do this. That yes – I will be a world champ one day.
So, just to give a bit more clarity to that: in the beginning, I didn’t know how big jiu jitsu was because my city was so small. But, after I started being more professional about training and competing, I started feeling like I could become a world champion. Especially because I was training with the best.
I’ve always worked hard and I was always disciplined with everything I did. And I knew that they would come, the big wins and medals, and then they caaaaame (laughs)! I am so happy.
BJJEE: So you’ve had quite a jiu jitsu journey. But, not a lot of people know that you were also one of the top Brazilian athletes in rhythmic gymnastics as well, the first sport you got to train.
However, an injury stopped you in the further pursuit of rhythmic gymnastics, which ultimately led you to starting BJJ – fortunately for us, in this fashion.
Could you tell us, how do you usually deal with injuries? Do you have some sort of a mental approach that you think is helpful?
Ana: Yes… I have always been doing sports, you know. And I was always disciplined, always did my best… But, unfortunately, injuries have been and are a part of my life (laughs).
So, how I handle my injuries is by trying not to make them into a big deal. I try not to make injuries into something that will influence my mind in a negative fashion, but I try to make them into a growing thing, one that will make me better. You see, injuries are not going to end my life, they’re not going to make me quit sports – it’s just another obstacle or a barrier that I have to face. And for some reason or another, they happen, and they happen because I’m „going after it“.
I try to be positive about my injuries, even though I’m not always successful in that (laughs). Sometimes it’s really hard and painful, but… My advice is to always seek to see the positive.
To always have a positive outlook on anything that happens in your life. If you see it that way, you will be so much better off.
And, of course, you cannot turn an injury into an excuse for not training. You have to continue on training and do so at the best of your abilities, you know? If you cannot do something, then you have got to find a way around it.
Like, after one of my knee surgeries, I had to change my game a little bit, because I wasn’t able to do a lot of moves. And this was not a problem, you know? I was capable of becoming a world champ despite a very bad injury. So, this is possible if you just try to see the positive side in everything. In everything in your life, doesn’t matter what it is – it’s the positive outlook that makes a difference and that says that you can handle everything. Don’t use excuses for anything. Just do your best.
BJJEE: Thank you. Now, what advice would you give to our female readers that have just started training BJJ? What do you think is important for them to know in order to both start off well and to excel in training?
Ana: So, for our female readers that just started with jiu jitsu, I would like to say: if you just started training and you want to go further, then just keep moving, keep doing your best. Train hard and enjoy it – be in the present and try to focus your mind on the process.
And just try to do it for yourself. You don’t need to prove anything to anybody, you just need to try to improve for you and yourself only.
And I think that is the best thing to do – to live in the present, to concentrate on doing your best and proving to yourself what you are capable of. To focus on yourself, to aim to be better every day. I think that is „it“.
Also, try not to get frustrated. Jiu jitsu is really hard, and the beginning can be a little bit difficult. But, just try to take it day by day and aim to be positive. It’s the best way to excel in training; and in tournaments as well, if competing is your goal.
BJJEE: Now that you mention competing – if you had to choose, would you say that you prefer competition over training? Why?
Ana: I am so happy to be beside the mats, either when competing or training. The training is so good because you do your best during it. You open up your game and you try to do your things – it’s amazing how you get better each day, during the process. The process of training, both the bad and good sides to it, are so amazing.
Sure, some days you simply feel like a punching bag, whereas on the other days you just become so much better. So I think that the process of training is very good.
But competing is good too. For, in competition, you can show to yourself what you are capable of. You just try to be your best self in the moment. And you need to try to do what you practiced during training.
I know that competing is so different. There’s always a chance that you will start doing something that you didn’t actually train to do (laughs), but it is still an amazing experience. There’s a mix of feelings that gets into you, plus the challenge of competing against the other side that has trained as hard as much as you did… It’s for those reasons that I think that it is important to work with both your mind and your whole body, so that they end up working together during your matches.
BJJEE: So, the mutual work of both body and mind is a very important lesson that leads to success. But, what would you say is the most important lesson that you got out from training BJJ? Be it a sport-related or a life one?
Ana: The most important lesson, I think, is that you should put your ego aside. Your ego is not good for you. You should try to become a better person, both on and off the mats. To be better each day; I mean, even if you grow a little bit each day, it’s amazing. And jiu jitsu is something that makes you better, that is a fact.
What you learn in the academy is that which you bring with yourself, into your life as well. Put your ego aside, and just try to aim to be the best that you can be, each day. The things you learn here, they’re applicable to your life. I’m always learning about my life while I am doing jiu jitsu; and while I am learning about my life, I am learning about jiu jitsu as well. I think that it is all connected.
And another important thing that I have to mention is that training jiu jitsu is like meditation. It’s a piece of time that you have for yourself and, during it, you’re „all there“ – you are living in the present moment.
The goal that I have for my life is to be present during all of the time available to me. That’s the most important thing of them all and I think that jiu jitsu helped me out a lot with this.
Also, another thing and another important lesson that I have to mention is that you must learn how to deal with being defeated. How to deal with the losses and the bad days, with the suffering.
Of course, there are a lot of good things, but there will be a lot of painful things as well; and how jiu jitsu teaches you to deal with this is priceless. You have to look at the positive side of things when something bad happens. You should not complain, instead you should just try to look at the positive.
Those are the lessons that you can bring with yourself and into your life. You have to enjoy the process, not just the finish line. Train and be happy while you are training, just do your best every day – and the results will come.
BJJEE: Awesome! That is the mindset of the champion that most certainly made you as such yourself.
For the final question, we’d like to ask you: what are your plans for the future? Is there anything exciting that we should keep our eyes on?
Ana: Something exciting that you can look forward to is that I’m going to be opening my own gym! It is going to be in my city this year.
I have so many plans – I want to keep training, to keep growing, to keep trying to be better every day. And as far as competing is considered, of course, I want to compete in the IBJJF Opens, in the Grand Slam, and to focus on the next year’s 2020 World Championships. I want to fight it even better and keep my title (laughs)!
BJJEE: Good luck with achieving your goals, Ana! And thank you for being a part of this interview.
Before we conclude it, is there anything you’d like to share with our readers?
Ana: The one additional thing that I’d like to share with everybody is that you should never give up. Just trust yourself and believe in yourself. Try to be a little bit better every day. Try to be positive and try to send good energy to everyone around you and be happy. That is the most important thing.
Thank you for this interview, I loved answering the questions!