Meet the Bristol Uni student who won gold at the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championships

Injana Goodman won the championships only a month after capturing the European title

When we were younger, many of us dreamt of competing at the pinnacle of a sport, whether it be, as is often the case, as a professional footballer or in a more niche sport at the Olympics. For most, a lack of talent, application, or, in some cases, both prevented that dream from ever coming true.

However, for some, such as Injana Goodman, a third-year zoology student at Bristol Uni, the dream of becoming an elite-level athlete seems to be coming true. Two weeks ago, Injana won gold in the female, purple belt, middleweight division at the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) World Championships in Las Vegas only a month after having captured gold at the European Championships in Rome.

Beginning her journey to BJJ gold five years ago, she fell in love with the sport after her brother convinced her to attend just one class. Now training twice a day, six days a week at Bristol’s Roger Gracie Academy or Grapple Collective in London, her dedication to the sport cannot be doubted.

BJJ is a notoriously technical and tight sport, as illustrated by the number of matches Injana won by points, which are incredibly difficult to gain, throughout both competitions. In the Europeans, she won her first three matches through points and the final by an advantage, whilst the Worlds saw three wins by points and one through an impressive rear-naked choke submission.

However, the point-scoring system created a major issue in her second match at the World Championships. While wrestling with her opponent, Injana fell back and gave up two points for a takedown, which forced her to “pick up the intensity as the gold medal was gone if [she] lost, [she] had nothing to lose and had to give it [her] all.” Fortunately, she regained composure and won the match despite this initial setback.

During training camps, elite athletes often track and control their calorie intake to reach certain weight goals. However, this remains something Injana refuses to do; she said: “I generally eat healthily. I refuse to track calories since for me it remains mentally unhealthy, and after competitions, I allow myself to indulge in sweet treats.”

In order to get herself in the right zone to secure victory after victory, Injana psyches herself up by listening to Eminem and wrestling pre-match with her coach. Coaches and teammates are incredibly important for Injana; her coach travels and competes with her, meaning she is always around a “friendly, supportive face whilst training in the lead up for competitions,” which “helps to settle any nerves”.

However, her coaches are not the only friendly faces at competitions, Injana said: “I recognized people I faced at the Europeans at the Worlds; the smaller community of female competitors means I face the same people all the time, and some of them have become great friends. When I started out, the lack of women was slightly isolating and intimidating, so it’s very important to have a female community.”

The strong friendships Injana has developed within the community, and the continual competition with the same women means that others have begun to recognise her game plan. This forces her to constantly adapt different aspects of her game, meaning there is a “constant learning curve at tournaments”.

Injana, who funded herself through each championship by coaching BJJ and holding a two-week self-defence course for girls, openly admits that she has struggled to find a balance between her sporting and academic lives: “Having a balance between the two is something I’ve had to work on. I usually plan out my days, and I think my training schedule will have to change as exam season approaches.”

Injana spoke of the luck involved in competing this year as she was not required to obtain a certain amount of attendance, and her university supervisor was “really accommodating”. Despite such good luck, there was a moment the week before the World Championships when Injana was so “stressed out because of a deadline that [she] couldn’t train.”

However, the stress of university work and back-to-back training camps has not ruined her love for the sport; instead, she pointedly speaks of the importance of having fun: “Whilst competing can be really stressful, making sure you have fun during training and on competition day is really important. I’ve learnt when to switch off competition focus and have fun with less pressure to perform.”

Injana also has to balance her studies and training with her social life, which she finds rather difficult; she said: “I have a mental game whereby I should be training instead of being out with friends. I am very lucky that my friends outside of BJJ are understanding and try to make plans around my training. For example, for my flat Christmas dinner, they made an effort to check that I was available and it worked for me.”

For Injana, inspiration has come in many ways. While she particularly looks towards women at the top of the sport, such as two-time World Champion Ffion Davies, she is also inspired by her coaches and teammates, as well as by the kids whom she coaches, who are incredibly excited about her successes. She remarked that “it is extremely cool to have become inspirations for them. I didn’t think it was possible to win these competitions; winning has internally encouraged me to compete in higher-level competitions.”

Looking towards these higher-level competitions, Injana is now focused on winning the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) World Championships. In order to compete at the event, athletes must first win regional trials to qualify before being invited to the finale at the T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas. Winning these championships, which are considered the pinnacle of the sport, would allow Injana to achieve her dream of “becoming the best in the world.”

If you wish to follow Injana’s journey, her Instagram can be found at _indii.x_

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