April Parks

where are you from/where do you train?
I am from Syracuse, NY and I train with Inner Circle BJJ, an affiliate of Team Jucao USA.

How long have you been training and how did you get into Jiu-Jitsu?
I have been training BJJ since 2011. My fiancé had been training for a few years and we thought our son might like it. He ended up hating it, lol, and the instructor asked why don’t I give it a try? From the moment I stepped on the mat, I was in love.

 How much time do you spend training every week? What does an average day look like for you?
Although my weeks vary, depending on whether it’s competition season or not, I typically train three to four days a week. On an average day, it’s up at 4:45, to the gym by 5:30, and drop my fiancé off at work by 6:30. I then go home to get each of my four children up, dressed, breakfast, and on their buses by 7:00, 7:20, and 8:05. I walk the dog and get myself dressed somehow in that time, and arrive at work around 8:20. I work until 4:30 or 5:30. As soon as I walk in the door, I get lunches made for the following day, dinner prepped, and clothes set out. I get my children to gymnastics, wrestling, soccer, and basketball, dinner between six and eight, depending on sports, BJJ from 6:30 to 8:00, then it’s an assembly line of showers and brushing teeth. Bed time for the children is 8:30 and 9:00. My bedtime has never deviated from 9:30. When I cannot go to BJJ, for whatever reason, I train on a 6X6 mat in my living room.

What are your biggest accomplishments in jiu-jitsu?
3 X  IBJJF World Champion

What are the ages of your kids?
15,12, 10, and 6.

Did you have kids before or after you started training?
Before I started training.

 How do you balance the training schedule of a competitor with the responsibilities of being a mother?
I try to include my kids in my training whenever possible. Even if they are there with me doing homework or playing, I enjoy their presence. Also, when traveling for competitions, I bring one along in rotation, so they all get special one-on-one trips with mom and alone time.

Have you had to make any tough choices due to being a mom, and how do you feel about them?
All the time. When my children have events and I have training or a competition, I cancel to support their success. At this time actually, I believe that I could win the Brown belt world championship, but the BJJ community might not see that as my daughter Ana is recovering from knee surgery and needs me here. I am missing a lot of training, but my family will always come first. Additionally, I am working towards a doctorate degree which in the next few years will demand more of my time.

 Did you ever have any doubts about whether you could be both a mom and a competitor? If so, how did you overcome them?
I did have doubts, a lot of them. Then I just learned to look at the benefits of being able to effectively manage my time and still find success. I felt overwhelmed thinking about people who had no kids and trained full time, etc. Then it just clicked one day that I cannot control that situation, I can only control my training and my success. My time spent training became more diligent and focused.

If you competed before having kids, do you feel like you can still compete the same as you did before?
I was actually a world class track and field athlete prior to having children. After having children, I feel that I train just as hard, if not harder, train smarter, and bring more wisdom.

What is your mindset when you go into a competition? What is your motivation?
I don’t care for motivation…. it fades. Discipline lasts. My mind set is made in the days/months leading up to the competition. I rest my fate in God’s plans and trust that my Jiu-Jitsu is better than that of whoever I am about to step on the mat with. I like to have fun during competitions, that’s when I’m at my best.

How, if at all, has motherhood made you a better grappler/training partner/teacher/coach?”
It makes me understand everything in a balanced way. Too much focus on one area of your life is never good.

What do you love about being a Jiu-Jitsu mom?
I love the fact that I’m able to be successful with a relatively minimal effort, and just a masterful balance of time management. I hope that this motivates other women to follow a similar path.
What would you say to a mom who is interested in training competitively?
Balance, balance, balance. If you think you’re training too much, you are. If you think you are missing too much time with your kids, you are. If you miss your spouse, spend time with them. If you haven’t spoken to your friends, call. Constantly evaluate your schedule and manipulate it until you create what makes you feel balanced.

BJJ-wise: quality, not quantity.

Follow April:
Instagram: brazilianjjgirl
Facebook: @Aprilparksbjj

by Nikki Sullivan

Victory Admin