‘My Bruises Are From,’ An Organization Within the Jiu-Jitsu Community Seeking to Help Victims of Abuse

Because of its nature, because of the fact that it empowers people who are physically smaller to overcome brute force with technique, Brazilian jiu-jitsu has been a symbol of triumph over domestic violence for a long time.  An individual who trains learns to value their own body, develops confidence, and learns skills that allow them to potentially protect themselves against an assailant.

One individual who trains, Nicole Mae-Ling Beach, had an epiphany on this subject that sparked her movement, My Bruises are From, an organization that seeks to empower victims of abuse.

For Nicole her initial motivation was in her own words:

I had trained for a couple of years and had noticed the funny looks I’d receive whenever someone noticed my grip bruises or occasional natural eyeliner (black eye). Just like most women who train, I got used to explaining myself before they would ask. Sometimes I would even wear a jiu-jitsu shirt specifically as an explanation for strangers who would notice and wonder.

One such instance stuck with me though, where a man paid for my drinks at a gas station when I made a road trip pit stop with my boys. He didn’t say a word to me, just told the cashier to tell me, “Please take care of yourself and your boys,” because he thought I was abused.

For months, I thought about why he didn’t say anything to me, about how his gesture was kind – but probably wouldn’t have really helped. I noted all the jokes, like the Barbie meme with the black eye saying, “I just train jiu-jitsu,” and I kept thinking “but it’s really not a laughing matter.”

In October, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the marketer in me decided to use my knowledge to try to make a difference. So, when I learned that my county was the largest in Ohio without a domestic violence shelter, I created the logo, patch, and tank top, and decided to donate the proceeds to the fundraising effort to open a shelter through Turning Point.

Photo Credit Nicole Mae-Ling Beach

Nicole’s grassroots organization has already attracted the attention of some greats in the sports of MMA and jiu-jitsu.

I started the effort October 30th 2015 when I realized I had the chance to get the message in front of Mackenzie Dern in a seminar she gave on Halloween of that year. I quickly created a logo, used an iron-on printable design I picked up at the local craft store, and had decided I didn’t want to miss the opportunity with her on the last day of Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Photo Credit Nicole Mae-Ling Beach

Basically, the marketing part of my brain went into action so I created what a marketer does… a logo and a photo opportunity.  Other than that, the growth has all been due to the awesome people in the jiu-jitsu community who have supported the mission.  With the help of BJJ Tees, I have more than half of the cost of all “My Bruises Are From” tank tops going to domestic violence shelters. With the support of the American Grappling Challenge, I was able to reach a large community of tournament competitors and attendees, where I raised funds through the tank top sales, a raffle of Origin Maine donated gear, and awareness in my region skyrocketed.  NHB Gear does my patches and more than half of those sales go to domestic violence shelters as well.

My Bruises Are From is based on the idea that some people have the ability to determine where their bruises come from, like jiu-jitsu practitioners or people who get involved in other high intensity sports.

I don’t know of any who are doing the same thing. If there are others, I would love to connect and team up.  I have had an outpouring of support from the community from academy owners, event planners, and other jiu-jitsu practitioners who have held fundraising events and partnered with me to benefit domestic violence shelters local to them.  All proceeds go to charity, and I have covered bank fees and shipping costs with my marketing business.

Moving forward, Nicole has simple but lofty ambitions for My Bruises Are From:

I want to see the effort expand beyond what I can do as one person. Most of my initial supporters were out of the Midwest because I’m in Ohio. The great people in the jiu-jitsu community have helped me reach supporters on both coasts and even internationally who are willing to spread awareness and help raise funds, so I’m working toward organizational growth to support change on a larger scale.

That guy at the gas station paid for my drinks but he didn’t really help me. He didn’t tell me to go get help, to get away – he didn’t even talk to me because it’s not something people talk about. It’s more common and affects more people than you think. You probably have people training in your academy who are survivors of domestic violence. Had I not started the organization, I may not have known of a friend who suffered abuse as a child, another who was almost thrown out a window by an ex husband. I’ve met people through the charity effort who had family members murdered, who escaped death in a murder/suicide situation, and several who are still struggling to leave or to help loved ones leave abusive relationships. This is what keeps me going. These conversations must happen to shed light on the problem. It’s why we need to #SubmitTheSilence to #EndDomesticViolence

Nicole has the following shout-outs:

My home academy and training partners for support, Dustin Ware and AGC, Nick Mitria with BJJ Tees, Sam Kim with NHB Gear, Brian Littlefield with Origin Maine, Keri Wittekind with Queens of the Mat, Kim Freeman with Hoosier Open, A.J. Clingerman with IBJJA Women’s Camp, Jessica Eye for donating her prize money that first tournament day at the AGC State Championship and making me cry realizing that this effort would indeed make a difference!

If you are interested in following or contributing to My Bruises Are From, check out their website at www.mybruisesarefrom.org



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