Women of Washington State, Part 3 Sonia Sillan
Sonia Sillan is the sole owner-operator of Combat Arts Academy of Seattle – a highly successful gym in the Seattle area – as well as a second location in Burien. On top of running a business, she teaches, trains, competes, and supports other women and people of all ages and genders. In the words of one fan, “She’s a force who definitely deserves acknowledgement!”
Sonia first got involved in Jiu Jitsu in 2009 when she realized she needed to lose weight after reconstructive hip surgery. One of the boot camp instructors at 24 Hour Fitness used BJJ moves, which intrigued Sonia enough to sign up for a trial Jiu Jitsu class. Although she “failed miserably” her first day, Sonia fell in love with Jiu Jitsu and continued training.
Nine years later, training Jiu Jitsu hasn’t changed Sonia’s life; It IS her life. There were many times when she sacrificed school, sleep, and family for the Gentle Art. In August of 2012, her path changed. Instead of going to graduate school, she took out a loan, signed a lease, and began what is now known as Combat Arts Academy.
Since then, she’s continued making sacrifices to chase a dream that has become a reality, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. This process has taught Sonia that if you want to be successful, you have to keep going, no matter how many people don’t believe in you, and no matter how many times you fail. It’s taught her to believe in herself, follow the pursuit of happiness, step outside her comfort zone, take risks and chances, and embrace the uncomfortable and awkward moments in life.
There were moments where she wanted to quit jiu-jitsu out of frustration, feeling like she’d never be good enough. There were even moments where she thought she would have to close her doors. She continued to put all of her energy into her community, which began to thrive. Sonia is now a full-time coach and businesswoman who builds CAA not for herself, but for the growth and progress of the people who walk through the doors.
Some words of wisdom for other women: avoid comparing yourself to others, because every single journey is different. Be you. Compare yourself to YOU the day before. Trust your intuition (and this applies to everything in life, not just on the mats). Also, you (may) have to fail an absurd number of times before you reach your goal, so if you want to attain that goal, don’t quit. Find a mentor; if you have a consistent female coach (especially one who coaches co-ed classes), you are lucky and you should take advantage of it. And finally…believe in yourself. Have the confidence to be the badass that you have the capability to be.