“How can a woman be so strong? “
Elvira Karppinen is a Viking lady, who combines dance and wrestling
Some might think that show dancing and submission wrestling wouldn’t fit in the same picture. Still, watching Elvira Karppinen wrestle you’ll notice that the disciplines have a lot in common: Extreme postures, fluid movement, and precise body control. At its lightest, BJJ is quite like rhythmic rolling on the mat. Still the differences become quickly quite apparent. Suddenly, the rolling around has become a rough submission, which requires extreme technique, cunning, and strength. You won’t check yourself in the mirror then.
‘ I became interested in wrestling as a counterbalance to the superficial world of dancing. When you’re on the mat, you don’t have time to think whether your hair is fine or if your nose is running, you must concentrate on not getting choked,’ Elvira Karppinen says.
28-year-old Karppinen is a professional dance teacher, but also, among others, new European champion in No-Gi BJJ. She started wrestling less than three years ago, but has developed quickly under the coaching by her husband, Lauri Karppinen.
‘Dance has been part of my life since I was small, but during my youth, I played basketball on the national level. One fulfilled my creative side, the other my physical sportiness. When I found BJJ, I realised it combines both. I was sold straight away,’ Karppinen says.
Fast success in competitions has taken her around the world. The Scandinavian blonde has been met with astonishment particularly in the United States.
‘To them it’s incomprehensible that a delicate looking woman like me can have so much strength. So I have gotten a nickname straight out of the world of Vikings. Abroad I am known as the shield maiden.’
Previously Karppinen has sought strength – and also external body modification – from the gym. However, at the beginning of this year, she changed her training format to Method Makia.
‘ Although gym training was goal-oriented training, it never produced benefits like this to my physique,’ Karppinen says. ‘For example, I never have been able to achieve training like this to my midsection, even if it has been my strength. Almost all moves in Makia uses the midsection, “Elvira says.
She has also gained a lot of endurance and holding in extreme positions, as well as leg strength.
‘BJJ has given my legs great grip strength. Likewise, my shoulder mobility has improved, which also means better strength production. Strength and mobility go hand in hand.’
Increased mobility naturally benefits dancing too. And if you want to peek in the mirror, Makia training shows there too.
‘ I can highly recommend Makia also to those seeking only to modify their bodies. After a Makia session, the whole body is extremely pumped, and progress happens quickly.’
Elvira, like others who have doubted the effectiveness of bodyweight training, has noticed that your own body can be a very tough opponent. ‘Makia training always scales to your condition, so as someone in peak condition, my sessions are quite tough. Especially in the beginning I almost cried and was sore for days. But at the same time, you see continuous development. What used to be difficult, becomes easy.’
Compared to gym training, variation and training your skills on top of your muscles keeps the practice motivational.
‘You learn new tricks, which is pretty fun. “
There’s not much fun on the tatami though, when you’ve depleted your energy, but there’s still time on the clock.
‘In the European Championships, I was finished, by I still had to keep going for 30 seconds. That ended well, but I realized I need to improve that particular aspect.’
The help arrived in the form of Makia’s timed HIIT exercises.
‘They are the worst I’ve ever done. You can’t even speak after those,’ Elvira laughs. ‘But while doing them, I realized that they improve my attitude towards mental exhaustion; the situations where you have to keep going even if you’re exhausted. And now HIIT is part of my weekly program,’
Makia has brought goal oriented physical training as part of Elvira’s regimen, but it has also gotten others excited.
‘It’s been surprising to see what Makia has accomplished at our gym. One girl could reach her toes for the first time in her life. Another one, who has had a lot of issues with her body, has amazed her osteopath with her recovery,’ Elvira says.
Elvira got a chance to test her new strength and mobility in the European Championships in Rome in April. She returned home with a gold medal.