Black Belt Suzanne Ramsden of Maverick Training Center shares her experience in priorities, perseverance and passion
Elevate readers want to know what inspires you to reach your goals?
My inspiration has always been my mother, who passed away about five years ago. She was a very good person who was always there for anyone. She even lived in a convent for awhile before getting married. My Mother never changed; she never let the world affect her. And that is a huge inspiration for me and I strive to be more like her.
My inspiration has evolved in the way I want people to see Maverick. I want it to be known for excellent instruction and high standards, but also to be a positive force in the community as well. When you leave a positive atmosphere, you spread that feeling to others.
Tell us about the evolution of Maverick Training Center and how it originated?
In 2004 I began teaching Muay Thai and Boxing, which I learned from training at a local gym for a couple of years and from Richard Bustillo. In 2005, I began training with Helio Soneca when I was just over 40 years old. I would practice the techniques I learned from him on my students. My Academy grew from that. I decided to devote myself to Jiu-Jitsu and I kept records of what I learned from Soneca. I also had him here many times. I soaked up everything I could learn from him. I received my black belt in December of 2014. I concentrated, and still do, on quality and environment. So we just kept growing, slowly and steadily. I have students that have been with me for many years and I will have my first black belt soon, my son.
We know you’ve been a mother throughout this process; can you tell us how you balance the demands of family life and the pursuit of your Jiu Jitsu goals?
Oh man, looking back I do not know how I did it as I would drive three and a half hours (one-way to a different time zone) to train with Soneca. I had to get up really early to get to class on time all while making sure my kids were in school. Then I would train and rush back as soon as class was over so I could pick them up. It was extremely difficult. Of course, there were times that I had to miss practice because my children came first. Like times when they were sick or sometimes I could not afford to travel. It was a whole lot of work. While building Maverick, I was able to bring them in with me. Thankfully they took to these martial arts and they are very good at them as well. They grew up at this gym and with the people in it. That is why I wanted a family atmosphere. Both of my kids are great at Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. You know, it has been very hard to balance, but your family has to come first. I always made sure that the bills were paid, the children were taken care of and what was left over went toward my training. Sometimes I had to miss months if I just could not swing it, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I kept working. I didn’t have a set goal, like my goal wasn’t to become a black belt. My goal was to just keep moving forward. Just as long as my kids were fine, I would keep moving forward. Sometimes I would have to take a little pause. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it because it was really hard, but here I am. I DID IT. [laughing]
It seems that you must have really had an internal drive to learn Jiu Jitsu?
For some reason I was so driven; Jiu Jitsu just got under my skin. I was like, I have to know this. I would be exhausted, but I would train and feel great because I learned a little bit more. I was excited to see if I could use it. I really did not do this for belts; I did it for knowledge. In fact, I told myself it’s going to be a long time before you get to any belts so I put it out of mind. I would think thoughts like, I am going to be behind most people; I am going to show up and this person I am training with is going to be ahead of me because they train more than me. So, I thought, don’t worry about it. I was driven – I just had to do it. Every time I went, it was like getting food. It was like I needed it, you know what I mean? I just needed it! I still need it.
How do you feel the community has received the idea of a female owned and operated gym?
Well, now I do not get a lot of flack so it is pretty easy. Occasionally, someone might say something, but in the early days it was not so much fun. I have had some very unpleasant and embarrassing things happen. For example at tournaments, where my students won and the coach of the opponent would not shake my hand or was embarrassed because his student lost to a student trained by a female coach. I have had people say some stuff online and that sort of thing but I just believe in focusing on what you want to do and staying positive. I did not react to these things. If I did, it would take my focus away from moving myself forward. I have this thing where I need to keep moving forward in some way. If I had wanted to retaliate, complain or go after somebody, it would take away my focus. My feelings would be hurt, yes, but I would just keep moving forward, and ignore it. And now, you know, I feel I have respect from some of the community I hope.
What attracted you to the Atos affiliation and how do you see that translating for your school in the future?
Well, what attracted me to Atos is their professionalism and reputation. They have a great reputation. I have a really good friend at Atos, Tim Sledd. He is one of Andre Galvao’s black belts. Tim had been to Huntsville before for a business trip, and while he was here he visited Maverick and we stayed in touch ever since. This was around four or five years ago. I was looking for a professional team with the ability to create and innovate the Jiu Jitsu. I was looking for some really good people. When I was looking for a team, it was very important to have people behind me that were professional and supportive. When talking to Tim I saw that that’s what Atos is. So, I began the process of becoming a part of Atos and I worked a lot with Professor Angelica to become affiliated.
As far as what Atos affiliation has done for my gym, it has energized my gym and me personally. I can’t say enough about Atos as far as the Jiu Jitsu goes; it is great for my gym because their Jiu Jitsu is beautiful. They have solid fundamentals all the way up to great creative Jiu Jitsu, which are our principles here. The fundamentals have to be a certain way and then you create. Andre Galvao has that mindset. Also, it does not hurt having Atos on your window as far as people knowing you are working with someone who is well respected. It helps the school because it helps me. I feel I have a really good friend in Professor Galvao as well as a great instructor because he legitimately wants me to succeed. He asks me what he can do for me, which is so generous. It’s so nice to have this. I am even more excited about Jiu Jitsu, which translates into Maverick’s energy. Maverick is growing because Andre is funneling his great personality and his zest for life into us. He wants to see us succeed. That translates through me here. I am so happy and Atos has done a great deal for the gym and for the vibe in here. We had a really good vibe before but being a part of the Atos team has really picked us all up. I am so excited to go to San Diego and train with Andre and bring back his knowledge to share with my Maverick family. It is a pleasure to work with Andre and Angelica – they are amazing people.
You have overcome and accomplished a lot. What are your future goals for Maverick now?
Well, I want Maverick to keep growing. I want the gym to grow to where my children, Evan and Julia, can continue the gym if that’s what they want to do. I want to have more instructors in my gym. I currently have a non-family brown belt here who is a great instructor. He is extremely technical with wonderful Jiu Jitsu. My goal for the gym is to grow more people from within. If they want to be an instructor here one day,if they want to help me run the gym, or they just want to be a great hobbyists, they can. I want the gym to grow in a purposeful and deliberate way with really good solid students with really good solid Jiu Jitsu.
Another goal I have for Maverick is to work more in the community. I have a social project called Champions In Life. I would like to teach children who cannot afford to come here for free. As Maverick grows, I would like to be able to devote more of my time to that. Julia currently teaches Muay Thai and Evan currently teaches some of the Jiu Jitsu classes. My hopes are, at some point, some of my other high ranking students will start to teach some classes so I can back away a little. This would allow me more time to work more on my social project. That is something that I am interested in doing more of, but right now I am so busy with running Maverick it is hard to do both. So, I do it on a small scale. In the future I would like to do it on a much bigger scale for example get some donated gis for the kids, etc.., and just really go for it!
How has Jiu Jitsu elevated your life?
Jiu-Jitsu has given me a way, as a single mother, to make a living. Even more importantly, Jiu-Jitsu is a vehicle for me to reach people in a positive way. Here is the final line from our mission statement at Maverick, “we truly hope that our positive spirit of shared discipline can spread outside the gym and help to make our community and world a better place.”
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers that we have not mentioned?
I would like to tell the Elevate readers this – just keep moving forward. If you are passionate about something and you have felt like, ‘I do not have the money’, ‘no one else has done this before’ or ‘it’s too hard to do it’, keep looking ahead. Don’t get caught up in what I call the noise and the chatter. instead keep listening to what’s inside you. In the past if I had told people, I am a white belt who would like to own a school and one day have my own black belts under me all while being a single mom without any money, people would say, you are not going to do it. I have done it! The idea that you can accomplish anything sounds a little cliché, but you can. You just move one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward toward your goals. Do not listen to anyone else. It is important to surround yourself with good people. It does not matter if you are a woman or a man. You can do anything you want to do. I am really excited about the future here. I am happy.