It has become an annual tradition for me for me to write a blog post about jiu-jitsu on the anniversary of my first-ever class in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Today marks four years since I first walked into the basement of 36 W. Broadway in South Boston for my first class and never looked back.

There are many things of which I am proud of myself with regard to BJJ in the last year, in particular, including but not limited to:

  • Staying in some degree of fighting shape during the pandemic.
  • Placing in an Adult Grand Slam competition and winning my…

There are some days that will stick with you, that you remember exactly where you were and who you were when it all happened. A few particular days come to mind for me, approaching the one year anniversary since America began its pandemic shutdowns.

When 9/11 happened, I was in my first week attending a middle school just over the bridge from New York City. I heard the news via my sixth grade Spanish class. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. There would be no summer reading group discussion in the afternoon. Our parents would be picking…


It’s hard for me to believe, but it’s been just about three months since I was in Mexico City. When I look back, I do so fondly at the trip and at the person I was in Mexico: loving the opportunity to travel, to train with other people after being locked in a pod of ten, and feeling a sense of freedom both inside and outside of jiu-jitsu that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. Possibly ever.

Prior to Mexico City, I was burnt out on jiu-jitsu, as I mention in previous posts, but I was also burnt…


My take on love, loss, and what I wore. Inspired by a letter to a friend about the loss of a parent.

On this day, two years ago, I signed my offer with my current employer, a shoe company, and began planning my exit from my previous employer. With my new manager at the shoe company imminently going on maternity leave, I didn’t have terribly much time in between bidding adieu to my old gig and starting the new one, but I knew those few days in between the jobs demanded a visit home to my family.

It had been…


Finals. Just over a minute on the clock. The score is 0–0. The triangle choke I almost finished in the first minute gives me a 1–0 advantage that would call the match in my favor were the time to run out with the score as is. But this is not the way I want this match to end, with my opponent being able to say, “Oh, I lost, but only on an advantage.”

Setting up the triangle choke I almost finished. Screenshot from Flograppling. I’m the one on the bottom.

Advantages are tie-breakers that are one step above a referee’s decision in determining the result of a match. Advantage points are awarded when one grappler has made…


It’s easy to write about the wins. It’s hard to write about the losses. It almost becomes harder to write about the losses when the pain from them has dulled — any visceral, tear-jerking, fist-throwing, red-faced emotion loses its edge over the course of a day, a week, a month. The kind of fiery or tsunami-like gush of feeling that makes for good writing is something I’m afraid of when it’s at its hottest and most forceful. It easily overtakes me. I’m not sure if it’s pretty on paper — then again, I’m not sure if it has to be.


Recounting what I actually did on the trip. Many pictures ahead.

I’ve come back to Boston, to work — and to winter, and the delightful 2-week Mex-Tex adventure is in the rear view mirror. There’s a dog to feed, a regular training schedule to observe, and my work station is no longer a clean, compact hotel desk but a cluttered artist’s corner of tchotchkes and pens and notebooks.

Many papers, pens, notebooks, and tchotchkes

When most of the coworkers and training partners who knew about the trip ask me, “How was Mexico?” and “How was the competition?” I keep it short since I figure most are being polite and making small talk. I don’t assume that people…


Here’s a glimpse into the morning of my latest competition.

The burly Brazilians gather in the lobby, talking in hushed bellows in a huddle, eating just enough breakfast to make weight in the hours to come. They look at me in passing, likely not thinking that I, too, am fueling up for a long day of fights ahead.

I don’t look the part yet anyway. I’m still in the dress I’ve worn as a nightgown the entire trip and have yet to don my “armor” for the day: a quality Hyperfly or Lululemon sports bra, a tight-fitting tanktop and spandex…


Stakeholders change their minds on what they want. A big project requirement is missing in the final deliverable. A vendor misunderstands the specs and builds something different from what was briefed. Something gets lost in translation with a team member overseas. The site goes down on the biggest sale date of the year.

After five years of working full-time in retail technology and being at the mercy of larger corporate dynamics as well as smaller team dynamics, you’d think I’d be more unfazed by sudden changes and comfortable with ambiguity. I’m not.

To use a less business-example: my whole Tex-Mex…


Tales of [Watching] the Tape

Often the thing we want to do the least is the thing we should be doing the most. For many people I know, it’s exercising more, eating better, drinking less caffeine or alcohol, and sleeping more. In my non-jiu-jitsu life, that list is pretty much the aforementioned one (with the form of exercise being rehab/mobility work/yoga, in particular). When it comes to jiu-jitsu, the list of things looks like this: core work, grip strength training, and, last but not least, watching my own tape.

One of the most important things that has entered my jiu-jitsu learning experience over the last…

Erica Zendell

Writes about tech, business, jiu-jitsu, and personal stories worth sharing. MIT MBA+Princeton alumna. Former baker and podcaster working in product management

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