The London BJJ Women’s Open Mat is moving to an exciting new phase! I am resigning as the group’s coordinator and passing that honour on to Hayley Carter. Hayley trains with Kevin Capel, Roger Gracie black belt, at RGA Bucks in Aylesbury, and also attends classes taught by her boyfriend, Stuart, at RGA Bucks Milton Keynes at Total Dojo. She earned her blue belt from Kev Capel and Roger Gracie in November 2012 and has been practicing and competing in BJJ for about 3 years. In her own words, she is ‘well and truly hooked!’.

Hayley Carter Sparring
Hayley Carter (white gi), RGA Bucks Blue Belt

I am really proud to have begun the London BJJ Open Mat with the support of Dartford BJJ back in July 2009, helping to kick off a global phenomenon of women’s open mats that continues to this day. The London BJJ Open Mat has so much unrealised potential beyond its great use as a regular get together for like minded BJJ women looking for a sisterly, non-hierarchical, non-competitive, safe space to train and chat with other women in the art. As a parent and co-founder of a growing business, Sproutee Solutions, my circumstances prevent me from capitalising on the Open Mat and really nurturing and growing the group’s potential. Enter Hayley! Hayley, represents a next generation of BJJ women in the UK and Southeast and she’s keen to put together a committee of BJJ women to build and expand the London BJJ Women’s Open Mat in exciting new ways.

Hayley Carter Open Mat
Hayley Carter (centre), London BJJ Women’s Open Mat

I look forward to seeing how Hayley and the women of the Open Mat move things forward and I hope to continue having a supporting role with group, in particular in launching a new website for the Open Mat and helping with the group’s online tech needs. My great thanks and love to the women who have supported and grown with the Open Mat over the years. While I’m sorry to be stepping aside, I know that Hayley will do the group justice and take the Open Mat into the future. Let’s start by getting to know Hayley a little in her own words.

Meg: Why did you start training?
Hayley: I started kickboxing and MMA initially just to keep fit and have some sort of hobby. I moved on to BJJ to improve my MMA but ended up enjoying it so much that now I only train in the gi.

Meg: Why do you still train?
Hayley: Now, jiu jitsu is more of a religion than just a hobby. It’s had a massive impact on my life on many different levels. It has changed my attitude towards the way I think. My diet and overall health is now my top priority. Not forgetting that I have made some incredible friends and met my partner through the sport. This is why I still train, and will continue to, for as long as I can.

Meg: What makes you love the Open Mat?
Hayley: I love the Open Mat because I can share my BJJ experience with other women. I love training and rolling with other girls, there are no egos, they’re always a good laugh and I always come away from them having learnt something new. Since attending my first one in 2012 and meeting Esther Tang (one of 4 female black belts in the UK) I was inspired to host my own straight away. I can’t wait to see how much bigger and better the open mats will be in years to come as the female BJJ population keeps growing. I’m looking forward to organising the future Open Mats and hearing from everyone who wants to get involved.

BJJ Women Bring the Smiles, (Hayley centre right)
BJJ Women Bring the Smiles, (Hayley centre right)

You recognise her in yourself, don’t you? Passionate, excited, dedicated, and totally in love with BJJ and how transformative it can be for one’s wellbeing. I hope the BJJ women of London and the Southeast will throw their support behind Hayley as she embarks on this new role and seeks to build a network of BJJ women to evolve the Open Mat in line with the wishes of its participants while remaining true to the sisterly, noncompetitive core values of the Open Mat.