*Due to editorial limitations, parts of this interview may have been abbreviated.
Black Belt+: You inspired so many, who or what inspired you?
Gabrielle: My family inspires me to become the best martial artist I can be. My parents are both successful martial arts school owners, so martial arts has always been a very important part of my life. They sacrificed a lot to send me to martial arts tournaments all over the world, and I want to make them proud. My 76-year-old grandmother competes on the national circuit to this day, and she inspires me in so many ways as well. Martial arts has always been a family affair, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Black Belt+: Black Belt+ was started to help students outside the dojo, what are your expert tips on training solo or remotely?
Gabrielle: I almost always train alone. A training tip that helped me exponentially is video study. I would often record myself doing my kata and see how I could improve my technique and how to train. Black Belt+ is an awesome tool to watch videos of world class martial artists and improve your own skills in the process.
Black Belt+: Oftentimes in our training we hit a wall, what’s your advice for students who lack motivation or want to quit?
Gabrielle: Whenever I hit a wall in martial arts training, I try to remember what my goals are and why I started this journey. Being true to yourself and connecting to the motivations that got you into this lifestyle are essential tools to pull yourself out of those inevitable low points in your training.
Black Belt+: Traditionally many martial artists start with one style, when do you recommend the best time to branch out and learn other styles?
Gabrielle: I think it is best to achieve the rank of black belt in your primary style first, then consider expanding. Expanding to a wide variety of styles too early in your martial arts journey could lead to confusing overlap between the philosophies and execution of techniques. Gaining a good depth of knowledge in one skillset before adapting your movements and mindset for another is valuable. I absolutely feel it is important to diversify, as someone who has trained in Jhoon Rhee taekwondo since I was two years old, now competing on the world tour predominantly as a Goju-Ryu karate specialist.
Black Belt+: What are some changes or developments in your art over the years?
Gabrielle: On the competitive scene in particular, there has been a great deal of evolution in the traditional divisions. About 15 years ago, traditional forms on the NASKA circuit were heavily modified. Some were completely fabricated, and others were hybrids of multiple forms from various styles. Today, it is refreshing to see that the vast majority of competitors who have success are performing kata that are more true to their original choreography and bunkai. There are still some adjustments made to maximize visual appeal for the judges, but it is much less adaptation than there used to be.
Black Belt+: Today, what is the emphasis of your teaching?
Gabrielle: I feel that having a solid foundation of basic martial arts skills is essential to set you up for success regardless of what your goals in the martial arts are. This being said, most of my content on BB+ focuses on giving the audience an in-depth understanding of those basics to help them progress as martial artists no matter their background or goals.
Black Belt+: What motivates you to stay passionate about your art?
Gabrielle: My love for martial arts will never fade, it is an essential part of my life. When it comes to staying motivated for competition, achieving my goal of being recruited to Team Paul Mitchell before the 2023 season was a huge motivator for me. Now that I have achieved that goal, I am motivated to represent the legacy well every time I step on the mat. There is no better feeling than having the black and white on my back with my teammates cheering me on. When you represent Team Paul Mitchell, you are competing for something larger than yourself and that means the world to me.Check out Gabrielle Rudolph’s instructional videos on Black Belt+ Download and subscribe directly from Black Belt Magazine at plus.blackbeltmag.com. Or download in the App Store or Google Play.
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