Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Rebecca Gruitza Interview
Rebecca Gruitza has yet to compete in her first MMA fight but has competed in kickboxing and jiu jitsu tournaments. Someone who has put in a lot of work, hard work at that, Rebecca is someone who has potential to be really big in the sport. What I like most about Rebecca, is even before her first MMA fight, she is someone who is a great representative for the sport and example of what is good about the sport.
Q: First, Rebecca I want to thank you for taking the time to do this.
A: You're quite welcome...thank you for the opportunity!
Q: Can you start out by telling a little about yourself.
A: Well, I grew up in a small town called Hermitage in PA,an hour north of Pittsburgh just outside of Youngstown OH. I had a good childhood, and lots of great opportunities throughout my youth. I went to college at IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) and majored in Fine Arts, I went on to earn a Masters Degree from Pratt Institute in NYC in Arts and cultural management. I’m married to a wonderful man, who I actually met through training. He was my first instructor in the sport. When we started dating it was in both of our best interest, and in the best interest of his other students, if I took another instructors classes instead of his. I have 2 children, a 10 year old boy named Jacob who also trains (although lately he has been taking a break from it) and a 3 year old daughter named Willow, who has pretty much been raised at the gym, and can do an amazing arm bar! I have a sales job I sell 401k plans, with a big company which is very high stress…and demanding.
Q: Were you especially athletic growing up? Play any sports?
A: Hmmmm….yes and no. When I was really young, I took ballet, and gymnastics…I was actually pretty good at ballet and was put on Pointe at a young age. I got burnt out and that was it for me and ballet! When I was in high school, I was definitely NOT considered a jock…I was really girly, and scrawny…I got teased A LOT! I was a cheerleader (and proud of it) and I was a track star! I was the first female at my high school to Pole vault. It wasn’t an approved event for in Pennsylvania for girls, so I went to a Pole vault camp at a local university, and learned how to do it. Pole vaulting was the closest I ever came to flying. I think the only reason I wanted to do it, was because they said I wasn’t allowed. I competed in the National Jr. Olympics and placed 6th. The year after I graduated, the PA athletic commission approved pole vaulting as an official event for high school girls.
Q: What initially got you started training for MMA?
A: When I was living in NYC, with my 3 year old son…he was bouncing off the walls of our small brownstone apartment. So I opened one of those free papers “The Big Apple Parent” to an advertisement for Tiger Schulmann’s martial arts. They had a program for small children that looked fun, so I took him in to their Manhattan location and signed him up! He was taking his classes for about a month when I thought maybe I would like to try it as well. SO I signed up for a month trial, and fell in love with it. I took 2 classes on my first day, one of them was a grappling class, and I LOVED it! About 2 months into my training, I was actually on my way home from a private grappling lesson…I was in NYC in the Chelsea neighborhood when I was violently attacked in broad daylight by a deranged homeless man. Without hesitation I was able to defend myself, and fight him off. I weigh 125 lbs, he weighed probably close to 220, and was a good foot taller than me. Suffering only a slight black eye and some scratches, it was then that decided that this sport was a VERY important part of my life.
Q: Was the training something you picked up fairly easy?
A: For the most part it did come easily. However, the first year of my training I trained for about 4 hours a day, 6 days a week. I found that in the beginning, repetition was the best way to put things into my muscle memory. Especially with the grappling, since it’s so technical. I would take an hour long grappling class, and then a few hours later, take the same class…just as a way to really reinforce everything that I had already learned.
Q: How long did you train before your first fight?
A: I have been training for 7 years, and just fought for the first time a few months ago, it was a full contact kickboxing match, and I did not win. Although, I have been competing in kickboxing, and grappling tournaments for the past 7 years, I’ve won some and lost some. I probably trained for about 4 months before I did my first grappling tourney. My MMA Debut should be this March. I think it’s really important to wait until your really ready before you fight…but after 7 years I think I’ve waited way more than long enough.
Q: Was fighting something your family and friends supported?
A: Haha! Well, I have a handful of friends who support it and some who can’t stand it because it scares them. My family supports me as much as can be expected, my mom understands it more than my dad, but they help me out by watching the kids so I can train and fight. My husband used to be a Sensei for Tiger Schulmann’s MMA which is how I met him. SO he is by far my biggest supporter, he definitely puts my training before his…and sometimes even trains me at home in the garage or backyard. All in all I’d say I have a great support system, that gets stronger the more people get to know the sport.
Q: Where do you train at now?
A: Team Bundy MMA in Niles OH. Owner and Head coach is Jim Bundy. Assistant coach Micah Bender and Assistant Coach Rob Hileman. The gym is also affiliated with Pedro Sauer Brazilian Jiu-jitsu
Q: Can you give your overall record so far?
A: Kickboxing 0-1 MMA 0-0 I’ve won several kickboxing tournaments and about a half a dozen no-gi jiu-jitsu tournaments
Q: Which fight so far is the one you are most proud of?
A: A few months ago I had a kickboxing fight, I didn’t win. But I overcame some mental barriers that I had been struggling with, and I’m proud of that. I’m not really a fan of moral victories, but I was really proud of that.
Q: What would you say is your biggest strength and the one thing you most want to improve?
A: My stand up is probably a little stronger than my ground game at this point. Although my grappling/jiujutsu is good…I’ve been used to either kickboxing…or grappling…so transitioning after 7 years of keeping them separate is a challenge. But I am improving this, and plan on continuing to do so.
Q: What is the best and worst part of training and competing in the sport?
A: The excitement of the sport is awesome, and how it makes you grow as a person, on and off the mat. The worst part is that sometimes being a woman in the sport, we are not taken as seriously as the guys. But I think the way the sport is rapidly moving, that will become less and less of an issue for us ladies!
Q: Are there any fighters you are a fan of or love to watch?
A: I’ve always been a huge fan of Munah Holland of TSMMA. The first fight I ever went to see, was her at the Golden Gloves finals at Madison Square Garden, she has always been an inspiration to me. I also really like Felice Herrig.
Q: In your opinion, who are the top five female fighters in the sport pound for pound?
A: Hmmm In no particular order,top five….Zoila Frausto, Tara LaRosa, Marloes Coenen, Sarah Kaufman, Meisha Tate.
Q: Do you ever see a major U.S. women's only company being viable?
A: Yes! And I think it’s going to happen sooner than some may think, Like it or not…it’s here!!!!!
Q: Often you watch a show that has one women's fight. Somehow that fight always turns out to be the most exciting fight on the card. Why do you think that is?
A: I think that recently, matchmakers and promoters have done a good job of choosing quality women fighters who take the sport seriously, and have the skills to put on a good fight, not just a “mud wrestling” match. Woman fighters are constantly having to “prove” themselves worthy to be on the card, and in the gym. It’s that extra push that definitely contributes to a lot of the exciting fights seen recently.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about female fighters?
A: That we are mean, or angry, or hate men, or don’t hit hard. Or that we have to look a certain way. At my last fight my opponents friends and family were chanting “knock out the cheerleader”! Looks can be deceiving!
Q: If another woman told you she wanted to train for the sport, whats the biggest piece of advice you would give her?
A: ENJOY IT! It’s fun, it’s whatever you want it to be…whether to just use as a workout, or to take it to another level. And don’t try to use it as a way to “take out aggression” or “relieve stress”…that’s what jogging is for. This is a sport that needs focus, and a clear head.
Q: Outside of training and fighting, any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
A: I am also an artist, although lately I don’t seem to have the time for it. I used to really enjoy making the kind of art that made some people smile, and pissed others off!
Q: Can you describe a typical day in the life of Rebecca Gruitza.
A: Well, after pressing snooze for about 45 min, I throw on clothes, grab my starbucks and commute an hour to work, meet with clients all day, get home in the late afternoon/ early evening, play with the kids, visit with my husband, then head off to the gym for usually about 3 hours of a combination of heavybag, technique, sparring, jiu-jitsu, and anything else my coach may have up his sleeve for us. Get home around 9 or 10, struggle to unwind, eventually fall asleep, and wake up and do it again!
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I am an “Etch A Sketch” Master.
Q: Describe Rebecca Gruitza in five words.
A: Relentless, Loyal, Strong, Weird, Exuberant
Q: So whats next for you? Any idea when you will be fighting again?
A: Lots of stuff coming up! Plan on competing in a grappling and jiujitsu tournament in mid January, and It looks like I should be fighting in March sometime.
Q: Anything you want to take this time to plug or promote?
A: The gym I train at! We need more ladies to workout with! Team Bundy MMA in Niles OH! Great coaches, and teammates…Come check us out sometime!
Q: Are you looking for sponsors? If so, how can they reach you and what are they getting in Rebecca Gruitza the fighter and person?
A: Yes!!! My email is Rgruitza@hotmail.com I am the same in both regards, and what they would be getting, is a strong, confident woman who is proud of herself and what she represents. Win or Lose, head held high.
Q: Rebecca again, I want to thank you for doing this. Any last words before you go?
A: Thank you again for the opportunity. And for all that you do for women in this rapidly growing sport!