Women are different than men. Women appreciate a different learning environment from men. When we look for a Jiu-Jitsu gym we’re looking for something more. We seek a nurturing place to grow. We seek a welcoming environment. We seek a place that helps foster a sense of security. We seek a second home. Ezra Taft Benson said, “The fellowship of true friends who can hear you out, share your joys, help carry your burdens, and correctly counsel you is priceless.” When we walk into an MMA academy, the intimidation factor can be overwhelming. Trying something new is frightening enough and seeing a wall lined with silent students doesn’t make a woman want to return.
Look no further, said environment is provided by, Brown Belt Lana Hunter, Sundays (noon) at Pinnacle MMA/GFT San Antonio TX. Blue Belt Terry Cutler (El Paso Jiu Jitsu Team Alliance) speaks on her first encounter with the then purple belt. “I love Lana! She was the first female I met that practiced BJJ at a GIGs [Girls In Gis] event 2 years ago. I had no experience, she was super nice. We became friends and she invited me to her event”
The stress free environment Hunter’s class fosters sets each attendee at ease. There is no pressure. One could have the technique of an octopus but you feel like a Prima Ballerina. The clumsiness one may be prone to in co-ed situations seems insignificant. One feels accepted be she a newbie with only days of training under her belt or a seasoned fighter with national/world titles. Fellow brown belt Katharine Harrison (Cooper MMA, Austin TX) has known Hunter since the beginning of her BJJ journey and is an ardent supporter noting, “Lana is awesome and anyone is lucky to be able to attend her class.” Hunter’s class teaches you not only about a sense of self-awareness during a technique but a sense of those around you and how it all connects in BJJ. Each and every session you attend builds upon the last and slowly but surely, your confidence level begins to grow. The co-ed environment starts to become less intimidating to you. Eventually, you are eager to try out your skill set in any setting with much more confidence.
Hunter is providing women the golden opportunity to train BJJ with partners their size, various skill levels and from multiple affiliations. Just 5 years ago, no classes like this existed. Girls in Gis paved the way. Still, it begs the question, what made Hunter want to do this? She answered with, “I volunteered to teach a women’s class at my academy to give women in the community an opportunity to train with each other and to provide a women’s-only environment to encourage new women to try BJJ. BJJ has brought so much good to my life. I wanted to give back to it and what better way than to share my passion with others and specifically, women.” The feedback Hunter has encountered thus far for her efforts has been nothing but positive. She makes mention of remarks students make after a session, “I know the classes have been a success because the ladies are asking me when the next class will be held. They also start recommending the class to their friends and encouraging them to come join the fun!
Hunter is well known in BJJ circles having competed since 2008 Gi and No-Go at Mundials and Nationals and consistently placing in the top 3 in her divisions. When encountering Hunter, you will know immediately, her goal in BJJ is not only to better herself but to help other women reach the level that she has in the sport that she loves deeply. Watching her seamless transitions with each technique from start to finish gives one the impression that she was born doing this. That is simply not the case. She also started from square one (losing two matches the same day in her first competition) before she could become the Head Hunter in Charge and lead her own group of Lethal Ladies.
Jess Zamora (Pinnacle MMA/GFT) is clear about what impact Hunter’s class has had on her, “I found out about Lana’s class from a family friend who attends Lana’s gym. I was motivated to go and learn ways to defend myself. That developed into a deep rooted interest and love for BJJ. I’m proud to say I’m affiliated with Lana’s gym Pinnacle. Lana is one of the main reasons I chose to stay and attend as a full time BJJ practitioner.” Like Zamora, Hunter’s initial goals were not exactly what they are now. She started out passionate about becoming an MMA fighter. Lucky for the women of San Antonio (I guess not her BJJ opponents) she was destined for something else. A knee injury took away her stand up game and from there her ground game was born. Hunter’s passion for this sport is clear by the way she instructs each student. No one in the class gets left out for any reason.
Hunter trains under 3rd Degree Black Belt Bruno Alves and it shows in her thoughtful teaching style. Her class continues to grow and she reflects upon this, “One of my most favorite and rewarding parts of teaching is hearing how much students enjoyed the class! Being able to lead a class that has been a positive and enjoyable experience for the student is definitely a huge reward. If I had to pick a 2nd favorite aspect of teaching, it’s seeing students able to execute the techniques that I’ve taught! The classes have achieved my goals of providing an environment for women to train with each other! Seeing the benefits of the class I do hope to make the class more frequent one day (see Facebook page below for exact class dates and times). This can provide more continuity from one technique to the next.
One might think, any women’s only class should be successful. Just put a female BJJ instructor in a room with other females ranging from all ages, sizes, and skill levels and the class will be a success. I’ll let those who may have their own up and coming women’s class be the judge of that. What I can say is that Hunter’s class is such a success because of her. She takes the time to get to know each and every one of her attendees. There is a genuine love that she displays with each technique. It makes you want to perfect those movements just for her. Hunter’s level of commitment and devotion is absolutely authentic. The environment is indeed amazing, but the HHIC is what keeps the mats packed. As a women looking for a place to train now or in the future where ever the road leads remember this, “The hardest choices in life aren’t between what’s right and what’s wrong but between what’s right and what’s best.” Jamie Ford
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