Don’t lose your breath

Lately, my main goal in martial arts sparring was not to lose my breath. It wasn’t to submit, to win, to dominate, it was simply not to lose my breath. If I could finish each 5 min round and talk clearly and calmly I was satisfied. It doesn’t mean I didn’t fight, it means that my breathing rhythm was a priority. Since it was my focus it wasn’t hard to achieve, it basically meant to be in full control of myself, not to muscle up, not to get angry or agitated.

It brought amazing results. I could see how my partner would be sweating and spasming towards the third minute and then make mistakes. Mistakes I could take full advantage of to advance without much effort, since he was dead tired and couldn’t pay attention to details. And I felt like I was just starting and could be as technical as I wanted to be. It is hard to explain to those who never were in a sparring match how much advantage the power to breath can give you. I only got it after I did it over and over again, day in and day out. Every day when we shook hands at the timer start I would tell myself (and sometimes tell my partner) that my only goal was not to lose my breath by the end of the round.

I can’t say I won more often. I didn’t. But I didn’t lose more often either. The results remained the same as if I went full force and gave it my all. However I got much more out of each match by knowing where I am and what I am doing and why. This clarity at all times made fighting more meaningful. Those who have done it will understand.

Yesterday morning I had to spar with a new white belt, a tall and heavy guy (probably twice my weight) who just was set on pinning me to the ground. I didn’t fight for the first half of the round, I just made sure he couldn’t do anything to me (i.e hurt me or submit me) and then he was spasming so badly that it took no effort to sweep him to the ground and have a bread-cuter choke set up on his neck by the time the timer rang.

The same in business. I read somewhere today a good quote that said, “never allow someone get comfortable disrespecting you”. A lot of times I take side projects as a contractor helping with strategy and growth hacking. Today I was working on changing themes on a client’s website and I needed to access a file on a server to which I did not have access. The client connected me to the person who helped him with hosting and after asking for one file I got a reply saying, “This is a major screwup. I don’t trust that working with you is not going to cost me a lot of uncompensated time.” He cced people I didn’t know on that reply (possibly others from the company or the board). Totally out of the blue. I felt uncomfortable, because the client and myself went in written through all the steps of what was going on and what I was doing on the site. The client agreed on all the changes proposed and explicitly said to go ahead on each change.  In any case the guy’s (and it was “he”) reply was disrespectful and ungrounded. Even knowing that, it still shook my confidence for a few minutes. “Why is he saying that? He has no idea what is being done. I checked with the client on every step, on every detail that was added to or removed from the site.” These were the first thoughts I had. And I felt crappy. I was spending my Sunday working on this project and probably billing less hours than I actually worked, because it was a non-profit that I wanted to help.

And then I said to myself “Don’t lose your breath. You did everything right. He is just being disrespectful. He is being an asshole. You don’t have to take it.” And then I remembered the quote of never letting anyone become comfortable disrespecting you. I got my breath back. I emailed the client on a separate thread. Here is what I said:

“Hi [client’s name],

I don’t think [guy’s name] is being respectful. I am not ok with the way he is talking to me.
I know what I am doing and I have done other websites before. These are normal procedures and it always took a few back and forth tickets between support team and us (client) to instal the website theme properly. 
I don’t want to be looped in the emails with him if he doesn’t change his attitude.


In the following few hours I didn’t hear from either of them. I am not worried, because I know I will do my part of the job and the new upgraded site will look good. Also, it is Sunday. The whole point is don’t lose your breath and don’t allow others to disrespect you. And yes, it does feel crappy when others behave like that.

Yesterday night we had a gathering with a few bjj people from the martial arts dojo and my coach, a black belt who I highly respect, said to me, “I saw you rolling with this new white belt this morning who just went full force on you with zero technique. You shouldn’t even roll with these people. The first moment they start going like this on you, you should tell them “I am not rolling with you, you are going too harsh.” You train hard, you’ve been training hard for years, you’ve earned your belt, you have the right to say “no” to those who don’t have the skills and will just hurt you. You should say “I am not rolling with you.”

And he is right. It takes courage to say “no”.


Our awesome Saturday bjj group, Feb 9th, 2019

Men & Women


We are standing in the changing room after training. All of us tired. But also lighter and “happier” than before training. Smiles. And our faces look easier. Today we were about 12 or 14 people, all men and myself. And I say that I decided not to lose weight. And Dave says that I should not, that I look great. And I say “Thank you” and explain that I meant for U.S. Open.  That I am exactly in between weights. 135Lbs with the gi. The cuts are 129Lbs and then 141Lbs for women.

I usually train with men, just because there are more men than women at the gym and in this sport. The lightest one is probably around 165Lbs. This means I am so used to work against a heavier fighter. If I opt for losing weight I have to starve myself, and with all the work load and training it weakens me up. Thus, the weigh is fine.

I get into the car. My both kids, who were waiting for me to finish training, are with me. I feel bad that they have to spend all this time in the gym, but they always say they do not mind. I look at them and I feel this deep love in me. Love that translates into care. As I drive home I think about this recent spark of articles about how hard it is for women to work in tech or to get funding in tech or to be tech company founder. And I think that this is true. Or it might be true in many cases.

It is the same way that it is harder for a woman to train in a mostly men team, where all your opponents are at least 30 pounds heavier. In sports I never think of it. I am the one who wants to enter this game and play here. And I do not mind the difference, I do not think I am in a disadvantage. I might be, but I do not care. I am going to train and fight anyway, because this is who I am. And I like it. I like pushing myself till I can feel my muscles giving it all for a few seconds. I like the sweat. I like grabbing the gi and pushing the other person around. I like to sprawl and control his head. I like when I can get out of a bad situation, after thinking that I was done, but not giving up. I like the eyes of my partner right before my head will go into his shoulder. I love the physical concentration of our bodies. You are never sloppy when you fight. I love every detail of fighting. This is why I do it.

The same is true to building a tech startup. I started working on my project two and a half years ago and I fully went into it this July. It is hard. It is mostly a male dominated world where women are welcome but a few stay. Because it gets really tough along the road. Getting a team is hard. Raising money is very hard. Dealing with a lot of men and a few women who will meet with you and reject your project. For different reasons, because they do not see how it is going to monetize, because I do not have a male cofounder (yes, people said that, and then rectified, that they meant a technical cofounder), because I am a mom, because they do not see the product market fit, because they just do not feel it. My male advisors look at my deck and the MVP and say I should not have problems raising funding. And then when I go for it I have all problems I could ever have. I think many just want to see if I stick around long enough working on the project after I have been rejected hundred times. May be men just stick around longer and women quit easier. I do not know.

I believe in what I do. I know that ultimately my product will help hundreds of people get jobs and live better. It is a long road though. And my natural way to deal with it is how I deal with fighting. I am not going to focus on disadvantages. I will fight regularly with a heavier opponent. I will train. I will show up. No matter how hard things are, how sad I am or how sore I am from yesterday. I will fight my way into improving myself. I will become good. I can do this because I know who I am and what I care about.

You have to know who you are. Once you have it you will find the way to achieve it. I think the major disadvantage is not sex or weight, it is not knowing yourself. This is what makes us less resourceful, this is what makes us give up on things we try to achieve. I guess the question is “What do you really care about?”.

On human bodies & beauty

A real life editorial for a fashion company

A few months ago I got some dresses from the company I work for and gathered a small team to shoot an editorial about how beautiful human bodies are. I am not talking about models. I am taking about real women and men.

I see beauty in people that surround me. There are intense moments that transmit the essence of living. Confidence, purity, strength, ability, observation, silence, worry. Those moments are beautiful. And we are beautiful when we live through those moments. I wanted to be able to show those through one concise and finite episode of a woman observing men training.

A few weeks before I have seen the work of a San Francisco photographer Ted Glenwright. He did amazing editorial shots of Isaac during his boxing fight. I knew right away that he was the photographer I wanted to work with. Luckily Ted liked the idea.

I asked couple of friends from Marin MMA club to shot en editorial while they train and they agreed. I asked another friend to watch the fight. I asked her to wear the dresses as if those were hers. Nothing was staged. The result came out as real life fashion editorial (if such term exists).

Titles - Ted Glenwright

Titles - Ted Glenwright

Titles - Ted Glenwright

Titles - Ted Glenwright

Titles - Ted Glenwright

Titles - Ted Glenwright

Photographer: Ted Glenwright
Art Director: Masha Kubyshina (IGIGI)
Models: Camille Rose Schmidt, Arnaud Dupuis, Isaac Lappert, Marin Cabac
Dresses: IGIGI,
Shot at Marin MMA