Tell us about the place, or places, you call home. These can be physical places where you have lived, or a community or group that is important to you. (250 word limit)

Like home, a community means feeling safe and supported. The first time I stepped onto the mat at my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu dojo, Checkmat, I was not only terrified, but also certain that I must be crazy. All five feet and one hundred pounds of ponytailed me standing there amid huge guys with huge muscles—even the other women seemed gigantic! However, I didn’t run away in terror and soon learned how to get advantage of my size by being strategic, applying leverage, and even getting creative. Besides my size, I was the youngest and the unfamiliar one. Although I saw how Ibrahim motivated Can when he was failing two classes in a semester and how Melis encouraged Busra to attend the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, I wasn’t sure whether I was one of them. The day Can voluntarily accepted to teach in my first high-school level BJJ club, I knew where I belonged.

A community also means tradition. We had traditions in Checkmat. On my first day, when everyone lined up in front of the mat juts after practice, Melis announced my name. She was holding her old GI, the traditional clothing in Jiu-Jitsu. I walked to the front without knowing what was going on. She handed me her GI and said, “It’s yours now. Tradition has been served.” Fast-forward one year and it was my turn to walk to the front of the class just after practice, hold my GI and announce, “Alara, it’s yours now. Tradition has been served.”



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