Dragonwing Girl Blog
I never planned on becoming a “swim mom” but my daughter had other plans. She played rec league soccer and was a good goalie but quit early on because she said, “Mom, I get too sweaty.” I thought that was the end of her sports participation because I couldn’t think of a sport where you DON’T get sweaty. And in addition, she wasn’t very coordinated. Anna was the kid that tripped over lint in the carpet. Literally.
But she always loved the water. When Anna turned seven she decided to join our summer rec swim team, mainly because her friends were doing it. And that was my initiation into the culture of swimming. Swim meets are different from other sports competitions in that it is not a “drop off” experience. Rec league meets require LOTS of parents volunteering—timers, starters, place judges, scorers --you name it, it’s done by a parent. And I was that parent. At the end of the season she won the “most improved” award for her age group. With hindsight I believe it was a testament to her hard work.
Fast forward to middle school. Anna was still swimming on our summer team but the stress of 6th grade was taking a toll on her. She had high expectations of herself and no way to release her anxiety. She was a walking ball of stress. She would do cartwheels and handsprings until 10 or 11 pm every night trying to burn off her anxiety. In desperation, I found a fall rec swim league through our city that her friends were also joining. The pool was close, the price was right ($60 for 8 weeks) and it was a good middle step between summer rec and a full year-round program. Her coach was a former college swimmer who had all kinds of creative workouts and worked the kids really hard. At the end of every practice my anxious, tense daughter would be tired, relaxed, and happy. Swimming was her “miracle drug.”
I couldn’t say no to something that made her so happy. And as an athlete myself I knew all the benefits of training and competition—camaraderie, friendships, challenging yourself, making a commitment and sticking with it, dealing with disappointment, taking care of your body and honoring its strength and power.
Thanks to Anna there are damp towels and swim suits all over my house and my car proudly sports the “swim mom” magnet. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Many of our customers wear Dragonwing girlgear (sports bra, spandex short or cami) under their karate uniform, which is called a Gi. Lisa’s daughter Jordan wears our sports bra and compression shorts under her Gi.
There are many types of martial arts, so Lisa recommends exploring a couple until you find one that fits your personality. I interviewed Lisa recently to learn more about her interest in practicing and teaching martial arts to people of all ages. Below are some excerpts of our conversation.
How did you get into Karate? A friend in New York invited me to an Aikido class 25 years ago. It was fun, so I tried a few different types of martial arts. Karate is the one that stuck! Today, my entire family practices karate: my husband is a 3rd degree black belt, and my children Jordan (18) and Nick (16) are both 2nd degree.
At Dragonwing, we’re all about empowering girls to be strong and confident in sports and life. How can karate help empower pre-teen and teen girls? Girls face body image challenges, bullying, and other stresses, especially beginning around age 11. They want to be their own unique selves AND they want to fit in. I use karate as a way to tell girls to be vibrantly you. Karate makes girls feel stronger and safer and improves their mental health.
I see it in my students: as girls gain confidence in class at the dojo, they take that confidence with them into the world. They learn more than physical skills; they gain mental toughness and the strength to stand up for themselves.
But isn’t karate a very standardized athletic activity? How can you make it uniquely you? Karate allows for a safe space to be strong, for big, strong, personal moments. Especially in sparing, karate can give you space to be you. You feel strong, capable, and proud. I think that applies to all sports. You can be completely different in your sport than you are at school or at home.
What are the benefits of karate? Karate is good for focus, agility, brain balance, strength, and community. Being part of the dojo community is so important during this time of social distancing. Practicing together, even when we’re physically apart, helps us feel connected to something bigger.
How do you recommend people choose a dojo? It’s about personality and fit. If possible, try a couple of different places and see which one works for you. There’s a lot of variety in martial arts so there’s something for everyone. At Bushido Karate Dojo here in Maine, our students range from 3 to 60 years old.
How can doing karate benefit athletes who play other sports? Karate is three dimensional: it helps with kicking and posture alignment, teaches body movement, and, at a basic level, releasing kinetic energy – what I call, the kinetic chain. When our body is well aligned, it makes the most efficient use of energy.
Karate also is great for cross-training because it works different muscles – or uses the same muscles differently – than your main sport. For example, we worked with a lacrosse team on how to roll, pull up, and still have the ball – all using karate movements!
Tell us about the free online karate class you’re offering? We’ve got a fun, high energy class every weekday (Monday – Friday) at 11 a.m. (EDT). Anyone can sign up on our website, Bushido Karate Dojo, scroll down the page, enter your information, and we’ll send you the link for joining the class.
How to contact Lisa
Our girls need strong examples of women that aren’t afraid to stand up and blaze a trail. Women who took the brave step forward to break a barrier, not just for themselves, but for the generations of women that come after them.
In 1977, three women came together and did just that. Each with their own personal superpower, they found a way to bring something into existence that would change the face of women’s athletic wear and women’s participation in sports forever At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller, and Polly Smith were honored for their invention of the Jogbra and will be inducted into the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame on May 6, 2020.
This brainchild initially came from Lindahl, an avid runner from Burlington, Vermont, who discovered that conventional bras lacked the support and design needed for the level of physical exertion running required. She wanted a bra with stable straps, breathable fabric, compression...and comfort. Lindahl asked Polly Smith, her childhood friend and costume designer for assistance in creating something that could meet the need.
Polly referenced the world of men’s athletic wear and sewed two jockstraps together, which Lindahl wore on her runs. After real-life testing, Smith modified the prototype, adding non-chafing seams and an elastic band for support. Lisa Lindahl partnered with Hinda Miller to co-found Jogbra Inc. in 1977. The garment, created out of necessity and passion, was patented in 1979.
Jogbra, which grew into a multi-million-dollar business, is credited with helping millions of women run in comfort and with confidence. The impact of the Jogbra on women’s health and the growth of women’s sports is undeniable thus earning Lisa Lindahl, Hinda Miller, and Polly Smith their historic membership in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Keep in mind, the National Inventors Hall of Fame only started inducting women in 1991 and to date, of 603 inductees, only 47 are women—less than 8%.
Dragonwing’s beginnings were much like Lisa Lindahl’s. Founder MaryAnne Gucciardi repeatedly found herself and her athletic tween daughter at a loss when shopping for appropriate and supportive sports bras, athletic camis and compression shorts designed specifically for young girls.
Much like Polly Smith, MaryAnne focused on creating a highly functional sports bra. A major pain point for girls are straps that slip, droop or chafe. Another is a sports bra that rides up because the bottom band doesn’t have enough support – or a bottom band that digs because it is too compressive. Dragonwing’s sports bras address these issues with a wide bottom band which is essential for support and straps that don’t droop, slip or chafe. As well, Dragonwing has zeroed in on the amount of fabric on the back of their sports bras. It’s a crucial element often missed by other teen athletic wear designers and serves an important functional purpose—it helps prevent back problems as active girls grow.
With a line of athletic sports gear like Dragonwing, girls can embrace their femininity and their athleticism without sacrificing the quality of the gear they wear and feel secure in the support their developing bodies need.