10 Questions with Sally Arsenault

Sally Arsenault CombativeCornerI (Michael Joyce, CombativeCorner Founder) came across Sally when researching jiu-jitsu uniforms and rashguards.  There were 3 things that caught my eye: (1) She’s a passionate practitioner of jiu-jitsu and it showed in her writings. (2) She doesn’t hype herself up and honestly strives for improvement on and off the mat and (3) she’s the same size and stature of my wife, Jennifer.  It’s always exciting and empowering to see dynamos in action.  After catching up with her on Facebook, she agreed to give us an interview – and we’re overjoyed and honored to add her to our Combative Corner family.

[above photo credit given to Aggro Photography]

What brought you into jiu-jitsu?

There were a lot of different things happening leading up to my trying jiu jitsu. I used to get up every morning at around six to lift weights and it was never much fun. Then my training buddy moved away and it became more of a chore than anything. I used to read some of Tucker Max’s stories on Rudius Media and a couple of the blogs he hosted covered weight lifting and Mixed Martial Arts (a few of those writers cover MMA and for Bloody Elbow now including Ben Thapa and Tim Burke). There was also a blog called The Bunny Blog by Erin Tyler. She had been getting into Muay Thai and wrote about how satisfying her training was so I began developing an interest in martial arts. Around that time I was robbed at gun point a couple of times and felt pretty vulnerable so everything kind of came together. I tried Muay Thai first but quickly switched to BJJ. Where I’m so small, it made sense to learn a martial art that a small person developed to defeat a larger person using leverage and strategy rather than strength.

Tim Burke [website]

Ben Thapa [website]

Tucker Max [website]

Erin Tyler [website]


How does jiu-jitsu add to your life off the mat?

Jiu-Jitsu has gotten me into the best shape of my life.  I’m much healthier now at 38 than I ever was at 28 or even 18.  I also met my boyfriend at jiu-jitsu, but aside from him, I find that spending my free time among people who work so hard to improve themselves has motivated me to consistently improve my life in every way.


If you had to name them right now, what would be your 3 favorite submissions?

My three favorite submissions are the triangle from guard (vide0), the belly-down arm bar (video) and the arm triangle (video).


You’re also a writer for Breaking Muscle.  How did you get that gig and what is your role there?

I injured my knee a couple of years ago and started reviewing some of the gear I had around the house.  BJJ is a sport that’s been primarily practiced by men and where I’m 5’0 and about 105 lbs, there wasn’t a lot of gear that would fit me back in the day.  I wasted a lot of money on ill-fitting gear and wanted to prevent others from doing the same.  I also started interviewing my teammates and other people in the martial arts community that I wanted to learn from so my little blog started accumulating content.  I’ve been a big fan of Breaking Muscle for a long time and when I saw that they were looking for martial artists to contribute, I submitted my blog for consideration.  MY BLOG

Initially I was a guest contributor but eventually I was kept on as a weekly contributor.  That’s actually another thing I learned from Tucker Max.  In his article, “How to: Find a Mentor (and Succeed Even if You Don’t), he said, “To earn a position, start by giving lots of work away for free: If there is a person you specifically want to work for, learn about them, figure out where they need help, do it, then give it to them.  FOR FREE.”  I feel very fortunate to be a part of the Breaking Muscle team and considering how many talented writers and athletes are out there, I’m still kind of surprised they chose me!

Tucker’s article: [link]

One of the articles that I eventually wrote for Breaking Muscle talked about life lessons I had learned.  One of them came from talk show host Kelly Ripa.  On their show one morning she was telling Regis that she was going to be on the cover of a magazine.  Regis teased her, saying wasn’t she special?  Kelly’s response was “Why not me?”  Why shouldn’t she be on the cover of a magazine?  I never actually thought they would say yes when I asked to be a contributor at Breaking Muscle but I remind myself of Kelly’s words in those situations.  Now I always ask for what I want even if it’s likely I’ll be rejected.  You never know who will say yes! Enthusiasm goes a long way.

Life Lessons article:  [link]


What do you like and dislike (if anything) about competing in jiu-jitsu/grappling tournaments?

What I really like about competing is that it’s the ultimate reality check.  No one is going to go easy on you at a tournament and if you have a skilled opponent, they will help to identify the weak areas of your game.  Training with the same people all of the time, you get into a lot of the same battles over and over again, so it’s a great way to get a fresh perspective.  I’m not a huge fan of competing but I would like to go and compete in New York or Boston at some point.  I expect that there would be more women in my division at those tournaments.


Do you supplement your jiu-jitsu training with anything?  If so, what might that be?

Yes, I supplement my BJJ training with strength training and cardio.  My training outside of BJJ varies but I basically read Joel Jamieson and William Wayland’s work and do what they say.  Joel Jamieson has coached UFC Champions like Rich Franklin and Demetrius Johnson.  He actually wrote a book called Ultimate MMA Conditioning and just came out with the Conditioning Blueprint DVD that helps athletes understand energy systems and build a training plan tailored to their performance needs.  I also use Jamieson’s BioForce HRV system to evaluate my fitness level and monitor recovery to prevent over-training.

Joel’s site: [website]

William Wayland is based int he UK and has helped guys like UFC fighter Luke Barnatt to develop knock out power in their hands, in addition to overall strength and conditioning.  He’s the author of Powering-Through and contributes regularly to Scramble’s blog.

Book: [website]

Scramble: [website]


What is your message to women in regards to studying the martial arts (or jiu-jitsu in particular)?

My message to women is to be authentic.  If you want to learn jiu-jitsu, learn jiu-jitsu.  Remember why you are there.  Be a good student and the rest will follow.

BJJ classes are usually made up of 90% men and 10% women, if you’re lucky.  There is so much content available online about women and jiu-jitsu, I would recommend they carefully consider what they buy into.  I feel the most self-aware and well-articulated insight and advice regarding women (and men) training in jiu-jitsu has been contributed by Valerie Worthington on Breaking Muscle.

Val: [website]


Are you a fan of the mixed martial arts? Why or why not?

I love mixed martial arts.  I’ve always been impressed with the innovation and heart shown by the athletes.  The UFC is coming to Halifax in October and I can’t wait!

What are your short-term martial art goals?

I teach a women’s beginner class at Titans Fitness Academy in Halifax, NS.  My short term goal is to perfect my own basic techniques and help the students in my class to do the same.  It’s so fun to learn slick, new techniques but I’m really enjoying drilling the basics again with them.  I did a study on the most common finishing moves since the inception of the Invicta Fighting Championships and it turns out that they’ve been sticking to the basics too! [link]

My women’s class info: [link]

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of the gym/dojo/mat?

I actually don’t have a lot of free time.  I work full time, I write my articles for Breaking Muscle and Jiu Jitsu Style if I have something lined up, I train and teach a few times a week and on weekends I go to visit my boyfriend and train at his club.  I’m also resuming Certified General Accountant certification classes very soon.  It’s hard to find the time to do much else.  I like to shop online if that counts.

Bonus Questions
If you were an anime character, what special power would Sally have?

I don’t know a lot about anime but I think if I had a special power it would be to make myself twice as heavy as a I look so I could squish people at BJJ.

I’d like to give a shout-out to my sponsors, if you don’t mind.

Thank you Jesse Bellevance at Killer Bee Kimonos for the amazing custom gis! You can save 15% on any custom gi with code CUSTOM15.  People can also save 10% with code FACEBOOK10 on all other Killer Bee products.  Bill Thomas at Q5 Combat supplements has also been so supportive, keeping me healthy with their amazing products. The ones I use the most are the Amass Whey Protein, Krill Oil, Joint Armour, Warrior Green, BP8 Stinger and Vitamin D3.  Shipping is free in the US and you can save 10% with code SALLY10.  Finally I’d like to thank Martin Blaise of Aggro Photography for the amazing photos he’s provided me with.

Interview with Jesse at Killer Bee: [link]

Custom Gi Preview (Women’s):  [link]

Killer Bee Gi Reveiew: [link]

Thank you very much, Michael! I wish you and your readers all the best!

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