Interview with Swedish IBJJF world black belt champion: Maxine Thylin

Scandinavia has one of the best BJJ scenes in Europe with great competitions and great athletes. One of them is Maxine Thylin. Although Maxine moved to California in 2015, her roots remain in Sweden where she is from, and Nacka Dojo (Stockholm) where she started her BJJ Journey. Maxine is without a doubt one of the top world female Athletes at the moment, having conquered numerous titles in the last few years in the purple and brown belt division and most recently the prestigious IBJJF World adult black belt title in 2017, becoming the second swede to ever win it after Janni Larsson in 2014. BJJ Scandinavia recently interviewed Maxine about her journey, juggling BJJ and her studies, her training under Leticia Ribeiro and her ascent to the top of the IBJJF adult black belt podium!

1. Hi Maxine, please introduce yourself to our readers
My name is Maxine Thylin. Im a black belt under Leticia Ribeiro. Training at gracie humaita southbay in San Diego. My major achievements are Ibjjf world champion black belt 2017; Ibjjf world champion brown belt gi (2015) nogi (2014); Sjjif black belt world champion 2015; 2x bronze black belt medallist ibjjf nogi worlds 2015 (category and open weight); Ibjjf nogi worlds back belt silver medalist 2016; Ibjjf nogi European champion black belt; Silver medallist at both Europeans and pan ams this year at black belt; European champion brown belt.

2. What is your Jiu Jitsu story
I started with Japanese jiujitsu when I was around 10 years old. Competed actively in that for years. When I was around 16 years old I started training Brazilian jujitsu, first to improve my ground game for Japanese jiujitsu but then I fell in love and after a while it was all I wanted to do. So I chose to step back from Japanese jiujitsu after winning the junior world championship at 18 years old and focus on Brazilian jiu-jitsu instead. All this time I was training at Nacka dojo in Stockholm Sweden. A year later in 2010 I met Leticia Ribeiro and was so impressed with her jiujitsu and the female team she had that from then on I would go to train a couple months at a time in San Diego and then back to Stockholm. I kept going back and fort for a long time until I finally moved to San Diego in 2015. In between that time I competed and trained as much as I could. I competed and trained in Europe and US and Brazil. I got my black belt from Leticia in 2015 after winning my division at worlds that year and have continued competing and learning since then.

3. You won the IBJJF worlds at black belt this year, take us through the event, which was your toughest match and how did you feel winning this prestigious title
It was my first worlds as a black belt since I for health reasons couldn’t do worlds the year before. I felt nervous but good. I had a really tough fight against Arae from loyd Irvin. I played my game throughout and was attacking her legs most of the fight and she defended. It was a close fight but it felt like my fight. I closed in the final with my teammate and it really felt unreal for the longest time. I’ve worked towards this goal for sooo long and then to get to close out your division with a friend felt even more unreal. It felt great but unreal. And life goes on as normal and then you start looking to the next challenge.

4. You left Sweden 2 years ago, how is your new life in San Diego and how does the training compares to Sweden
Well my life here in San Diego is similar to my life in Sweden in many ways. I train, teach, study and work just like I did back home in Sweden. Balancing work, training and school is tough but its all things I like so it’s good. San Diego is a lot warmer though so there is more of a beach life here. Plus I have my husband here which adds a lot to my life here in San Diego. Training here in San Diego is amazing. Training in Sweden is getting stronger everyday,and it’s strong, but here in San Diego it’s like a mekka. In Sweden i didn’t have as many girls to train with as I do here. Also a lot more big competitions here which helps make the training better because everyone brings the competition lessons to the mat. Plus having many other female higher belts your size that also compete at your academy makes training super good and I didn’t have that in Sweden. Like here in San Diego before worlds we were 20 girls on the mat and many higher belts, we had 5 or 6 black belt girls on the mat during camp. Pretty much all competitors and many times I didn’t even have the time to train with all of them in one training. In Sweden the years closest before I moved I had 2 good girls I trained mostly with, but sometimes our schedule wouldn’t add up and there would be training where I was the only girl. Training with guys is great, I have a lot of really good training partners that are guys, but nothing will ever be as real as training with same gender, same size, same level. When people say “oh training with guys must be better because they are stronger so then you get used to fighting stronger” I don’t agree. You wouldn’t train for a marathon by doing mostly short distances. The best way to train for something is to prepare for what you will meet at the tournament. I do think training in Sweden is getting much stronger all the time though which is great.

5. What are the things you miss the most from Sweden?
My family, a white Christmas, Swedish treats like lussebullar and also just regular food like Swedish yoghurt, bread and cheese. And I miss my friends and my home academy nacka dojo. I miss the way the sun is up so long in the summer. Man I miss a lot of things but when I’m in Sweden I also miss San Diego. I wish I could combine the two places. But it’s nice that I can go visit every now and then, that makes a big difference.

6. Being also a Psychology student, what is a typical day in your life looks like?
Well I wake up and I either work on the computer or I study. Then around noon I go train. Come back home and eat and do whatever chores I have to do. Then I study more or I on some days I go back to the gym to teach. If I have time in the afternoon after training and studying I take a nap. Sometimes if Im studying something really complicated i might nap right on top of my books… Then I do the night training and after I either lift weights or do cardio or just go home depending on which day it is. And then I eat something tasty while watching Netflix with my husband. Some days I manage to get some yoga classes on too, to keep my body and mind healthy. And then throw in a bit of laundry and doing dishes and other adulting in there and you’ve got my everyday life.

7. Who are your female BJJ heroes?
Man I have many. Leticia Ribeiro more than anything. But also Leka Viera, Hanette Staack and Venla luukkonen. and I also really admire women who train for themselves. Some of the heroes to me are the women who come to get an hour to themselves on the mat. The competitors I get. I’m a competition myself but some of the jiujitsu women I really see as heroes are the ones with kids or a job or school and they keep motivation up to keep training and being good role models for those around them.

8. What are you BJJ plans for the next year
I’m planning to compete in Europeans and pan ams and worlds and compete as much as I can. However I will also be writing my thesis for school so I will focus mainly on the big tournaments. Then I’m also planning to do some travelling and teach some seminars. And just train and enjoy my time on the mat.

9. Thank you and feel free to send a message
Thank you! If anyone would be interested in booking a seminar you can contact me on Facebook. I also share a lot on instagram, you can find me there as maxiiinemachine