Who Is Sheila Bird?

528_lgName sound a bit familiar?

If so, you’ve probably fallen into one of her signature flying armbars. I got the opportunity to meet Sheila back in 2009 at the Arnold Gracie Nationals in Ohio where she had dominated her divisions. After that, you can take a look back and see that she has taken the gold in some of the most prestigious tournaments out there! FILA, Worlds (Ibjjf), ADCC, etc. That’s pretty amazing! Who is this woman? Well, we got a chance to take a closer look:

CB: Thank you for taking the time to allow us to learn more about you. It looks like you are there in Calgary, AB; what’s the training like?

SB: I train out of BDB Martial Arts. The classes are intense and I feel pushed everyday in my training. I feel you need 3 things in a club to make it great. A facility that is consistent and has lots of times to train, training partners that help you and push you to be better and lastly a great instructor and coach. I am lucky to have all of those things.

CB: What was it about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that caught your interest?

SB: I started BJJ in 1998 because after years of being a practice dummy for my boyfriend (now my husband) I figured I might as well join in classes, instead of just watch. From them I liked it because I liked to be pushed physically and I find BJJ brings out my competitive side. I have always preferred individual sports and as a bonus, I like the social aspect of BJJ as well. (Sheila received her Black Belt in May 2009 by Roy Harris from San Diego.)

CB: From the looks of it, you are now a black belt. Congratulations! Well deserved I’m sure. Has anything changed; such as game, expectations or training of some sort?

SB: The training really started to change after I got my Brown belt. Luckily at around the same time, our club finally started making us money and I could then afford to travel and getter tournaments in that pushed my skill. I feel that at the top level of competition it is also good to have an extra edge, for me it is wrestling and conditioning/strength. The higher the level of women I fight the more these two aspects have made a huge contribution to my success. Some of my competitors refer to me as “the wrestler”. It is a nice compliment but it makes me laugh because it is very far from the truth. I have never competed in a wrestling tournament and don’t even understand the rules. I am foremost a BJJ girl, but like I said, I like having an edge.

CB: What has kept you motivated all these years? Is there anyone that you look up to?

SB: I have two people I look up to. The most important is my coach and husband Brian Bird. He puts an unbelievable amount of effort and time into his BJJ techniques and coaching skills. I admire his depth of knowledge and ability to find solutions to any problem. If it were not for his dedication to BJJ, I would not be where I am today. The second person I look up to is Nick Ring. He is our (BDBMA) Muay Thai and MMA coach and is on this season of The Ultimate Fighter tv show. Nick is a warrior, he is relentless and he exudes confidence. Nick pushes every training session or fight to the end and never shows if he is frustrated or tired, perfectly composed killer. Nick is an unbelievable fighter and instructor who leads by example and I respect him for that. Before I walk on the match before a fight, I say to my self, “I am Nick Ring” and to me, that is a guaranteed win.

CB: In all of the experiences you’ve had while in the sport, what is your most memorable?

SB: I would say the 2008 Fila Grappling World Championships. I was the most prepared mentally and physically for this tournament more than I had ever been before. It took place in Lucerne, Switzerland. I had received a huge amount of sponsorship money to help me get there so I really wanted to produce a strong result. About 25 countries were represented at the World championships and I felt proud to be on the Canadian team. I won all my matches and became the World Champion. Standing on the podium, hearing the Canadian anthem played, was an amazing feeling. The entire weekend for me is crystal clear in my mind. It was an unforgettable experience.

CB: When training for a big tournament, what’s training like? How do you find your focus?

SB: Training before a big tournament is always physically and mentally difficult but my focus comes from wanting to be at my best. Mental toughness training is all part of it, believing I am prepared and that I will win. Whether I win or lose, you will never hear me make an excuse about my performance at a tournament because I always come prepared.

CB: You’ve competed in a lot of tournaments; Do you for see anything happening in the future or something that you would like to see more of?

SB: I am really hoping that grappling makes it to the Olympics. Other than that, I am happy with all the different tournament organizations out there now with different rules. I enjoy competing in all of them. They are all doing a great job at making the sport grow.

CB: What are your goals for 2010? Anything long term set in mind as well?

SB: I have two tournaments left this year. The Pro Gi ADCC happening in Abu Dhabi April 15-17 and then The World Combat Games in China in September that I had to qualify for. Likely I will jump in a few others as well.

CB: Now aside from IBJJF Competitions, we’re seeing a lot going on with submission wrestling and/or no-gi competitions; especially FILA and ADCC. How do you find the tournaments run and how the competition stacks up?

SB: I enjoy all the tournaments. The rules vary from one to the next but that just makes it more interesting. There are many competitors that compete in all of them so I don’t find the quality too different. You never know who is going to show up at any given tournament, so I always prepare for the best.

CB: Is there anything you’d like to say to the upcoming female grapplers/MMA fighters?

SB: I think so long as you are always enjoying what you are doing, you will see great results. I think we should all set goals for ourselves and take chances so we can feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. It is much easier to stick with something if you have something to work towards whether that be a belt, tournament or to get in shape.

CB: Thank you for your time. We look forward to seeing you at more and more in the sport. Good luck in your future events. Keep it up!

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