Black Belt Lisa Pages on Starting Jiu Jitsu, Competing, and Inspiring Women
By Danny O’Donnell
One of the hardest parts of Jiu Jitsu is walking through the door for the first time and committing to training. It can be scary stepping on the mat without much knowledge as you’ll quickly learn about the physical and mental challenges. Physically you will have to endure fatigue and injuries, while mentally you’ll be confronting fears and dealing with failures. If you wish to achieve the rank of black belt, these are challenges you’ll have to overcome for 8-12 years, on average. Black belt Lisa Pages describes herself as “the epitome of the word “struggle” in Jiu Jitsu.” While she was introduced to the martial art through her then boyfriend and now husband Jay (owner of Jay Pages Jiu Jitsu Academy in Tempe), it wasn’t until watching Jay compete at the 2008 Pan Ams that Lisa decided to take that first pivotal step.
When Lisa first started watching Jay train and compete, there weren’t many women in the sport. “Although I watched Jay train and went to support him at tournaments, I never really thought about doing it myself because I didn’t see any women training. One of the other wives had just started doing Muay Thai, so I ended up joining that and I loved it and stuck with it for many years. I always caught myself watching the BJJ classes and wanting to do it, but because it was all men I just never did. In March 2008 my husband signed up for the Pan Ams, so I went with and watched him compete and cheered him on. While I was watching, I saw women’s’ matches and I was in awe and was inspired. I told my husband that I was going to start training on Monday and one year from that date I was going to do my first tournament at Pan Ams. He encouraged me and stood by my side and helped me obtain that goal. One year later at the 2009 Pan Ams, I competed as a white belt at my first tournament ever. There weren’t very many tournaments back then let alone women, so this was a good one to do. I had 8 women in my white belt light feather adult division and I lost my first match but was hooked from that point on. I couldn’t wait for the next tournament which was about 6 months away. I have since continued doing BJJ and made sure to empower and encourage women to join throughout my whole journey. I continue to this day supporting anything and everything I can for women’s Jiu-Jitsu.”
Having gone through the struggles of beginning her training with few female counterparts and dealing with setbacks in competition Lisa has learned many lessons from Jiu Jitsu that she now passes on to her students. “I struggled and overcame a lot of obstacles. I was a woman, I was older, and I was always the smallest and not the most athletic. You have to come in and expect to have to overcome obstacles. But I always look back at all the amazing moments, all of the people I have shared the mats with, and everyone I have met along the way. The best part of my life ,next to having my daughter and marrying my husband, was stepping on those mats for the first time.” Because of the adversities Lisa has faced in both training and competition, she has great advice for those looking to add Jiu Jitsu training to their lives. “I always encourage but never force my girls to compete. To me they already won just by walking into the academy doors and signing up to do a class. Competing is just a way to test your skills. The only way to test yourself and what you have learned is in a tournament against someone in your own weight, belt rank and age division.”
In 2017 Lisa had a major knee injury requiring multiple surgeries, which prevented her from competing. Although she was forced to take a break to let her body recover, Lisa stayed positive and worked her way back to competition. So far this year she has competed in 3 tournaments, including the 2019 Pan Ams. At the beginning of the year her only goal was to “step on the mat and survive,” which she has already far surpassed. “I am going to do my best to get into as many tournaments as my knee will allow and enjoy my first year as competing as a black belt. I can’t wait to see what legends I may get in my bracket now that I am black belt. This will be an amazing experience. I hope to just continue training and inspiring women to train.” If you want to learn from Lisa be sure to stop by Jay Pages Jiu Jitsu Academy in Tempe.