It’s hard to keep up with Livia Gluchowska. Now a black belt and one of Australia’s leading female jiu-jitsu stars, the 2016 IBJJF brown belt world champion began her athletic career as a rhythmic gymnast when she was just seven years old in her native country of Poland. After moving to Australia at age 12, she continued her gymnastics career for another seven years before retiring at age nineteen. But rather than dropping her athletic dreams altogether, she just switched her focus to sprint cycling for the next six years. “I was good, but not quite good enough to make National teams,” says Gluchowska. “So I decided to stop elite sport, get a university degree and a proper job.”
While studying for her degree, Gluchowska watched a jiu-jitsu class at the gym she attended, and then decided to try it out for herself. But she had no idea how much it would change her entire life. “I met my fiancé/coach/business partner [Lachlan Giles] at around the same time, and he had just received his brown belt and absolutely loved training (and I probably wanted to impress him),” she says.
Still, Gluchowska says she initially didn’t have any plans to complete at the start of her BJJ journey. She claims that she gets “obsessive” with her athletic endeavors, and since she was still in the process of getting a degree, she knew she had to focus on studying and “be an adult for once.” Of course, she couldn’t hold herself back for too long — her coach at the time convinced her to compete just three months into her training, and there was no going back from that point on. “It pushed me to train smarter and better. I haven’t looked back since,” says Gluchowska, who somehow always manages to balance her busy competition and training schedule with a full-time work or study schedule.
Like most elite BJJ athletes, though, Gluchowska’s journey forward has been mostly uphill. She says she lost “a lot” during her first year of training, and it wasn’t until she was a blue belt that she “got serious” about training. “I’ve been an elite athlete for years, but you can’t learn BJJ in 6 months,” she says. “Lachie and I wrote a plan of drilling and specific training, and I stuck to it for a year.”
That dedication paid off when she experienced what she claims was her favorite moment in her jiu-jitsu career: winning Worlds as a blue belt. “It was the first time I believed I could, and it changed the trajectory of my career,” she says. Just five months later, she became a purple belt no-gi world champion, but she wasn’t done yet. She and Giles traveled the world for seven months and training at Alliance Sao Paulo in Brazil, where she “got her butt kicked every single day.” After winning silver at Worlds, Gluchowska received her brown belt and hit the ground running, winning Worlds the very next year after a difficult cut to rooster weight.
Unsurprisingly, Gluchowska’s black belt journey (which began two weeks before 2017 Worlds) has thus far brought her triumph after triumph — she won silver at 2017 No-Gi Worlds and 2018 Euros, and she competed at Fight to Win Pro against Pati Fontes.
While Gluchowska is part of only a handful of female Australian jiu-jitsu athletes who have gained worldwide recognition, she says participation and support of female grapplers in the country is “moving in the right direction.” She claims that her academy in particular, Absolute MMA, has at least ten women on the mats each night, and she teaches mixed adult classes and gets requests to teach mixed seminars. “We are still yet to see equal prize money and opportunities to compete at bit shows as women, but it is slowly changing,” she says. “We have so many amazing female fighters out of Australia who are making waves internationally and medaling at major events.”
Next week, Gluchowska will once again represent Australia at the Abu Dhabi World Pro, where she won bronze at the brown/black belt level last year. The stakes are high, but she’s hardly the type to break under pressure — and a lot of that inner strength has come from the challenges she’s overcome through jiu-jitsu. “I used to be extremely claustrophobic and tap from non-submissions all the time, which used to make me extremely upset. I started seeing a sports psychologist and got it under control — it’s helped me immensely, not just in BJJ, but in everyday life,” she says.
The problem-solving skills and confidence Gluchowska has applied to everything from sports to her business (She’s part-owner of Absolute MMA, where she runs Physio Lab Melbourne) are now once again going to be put to the test against some of the best competitors in the world. And she’s ready for whatever may come.”You can never relax fighting black belts, so I’m expecting everyone will also bring their best A-game,” she says. “If I execute my plan, I can do very well. I have maturity and experience, and I absolutely thrive under pressure. I can’t wait to get to Abu Dhabi next week!”
Keep following the Jiu-Jitsu Times for continued coverage of the 2018 Abu Dhabi World Pro.