“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” -Stephen King
Professor Emily Kwok has a career in BJJ that is beyond enviable for multiple reasons. What sets her apart are the goals she set in the beginning because she didn't set any. She came to class simply to be better than she was the day before. So many want to be number one, so many expect to be nothing but the best, so many strive to always win nothing less than gold., And while Professor Kwok honed her technique, it is her attitude that garnered her win after win, gold medal after gold medal, title after title. This is why Professor Emily Kwok is a not just a hero but a legend. Heroes do get remembered but legends never die. BJJLegends talks with Professor Kwok about her very prestigious background, her take on proper technique, and maintaining a healthy balance in the BJJ world.
BJJL: Where did you grow up, what was your childhood like?
EK: I was born in Japan, but immigrated to Canada when I was a baby. I spent my formative years growing up in Vancouver, BC. I suppose I had a pretty pleasant and quiet childhood. My parents were immigrants so I was raised speaking Japanese, and had to learn English as I assimilated into Canadian culture. I made friends pretty easily, we moved around a lot but I learned how to adapt to my environment very quickly.
My teenage years were pretty wonderful and terrible at the same time. I had an idyllic high school experience, great friends, lots of sports, extracurricular activities, good grades etc. but a difficult time at home. My father and I butted heads a lot, I think, around my westernized sense of independence and his old school Asian ways.
BJJL: Why BJJ?
EK: Why not? Lol. Well, actually, it was supposed to be boxing but I sucked at it. Then it was sambo, but the instructor wasn’t into teaching chicks…so, BJJ was there for me.
BJJL: When you began, did you have any idea what impact you would have by becoming the First Female Black Belt in Canada?
EK: I had no idea what I was doing. Haha. Like, no expectations, no dreams, no visions, no nothing. It was after my first competition as a white belt (6 months in) that my best friend Roy Duquette (who introduced me to BJJ and helped coach me) told me, ‘You’re going to be a World Champion one day!’ and I think I told him something along the lines of ‘Yeah right, whatever.’
I honestly just always loved training, I loved the challenge and went along for the ride. Any medals or accomplishments were gravy.
BJJL: Pet peeve as an instructor?
EK: You mean something that bothers me when I instruct?
1. - Know-it-alls, arrogant beginner students who just think they know better because they have a blown up ego and don’t know how to humble themselves, or occasionally a douchebag male student that doesn’t respect what I’m saying because I’m a woman.
2. - I don’t enjoy watching or training with people who don’t want to tap when they should because they refuse to believe you caught them.
3. - Students who go really hard with you after they’ve just gone on for 5 min about this injury and that injury and wanting to roll light.
4. - Stinky students, students with bad hygiene. Wash your damn clothes! Cut your toe nails!!
BJJL: You are excellent at teaching proper technique. You emphasize the importance of skill over brute force. What event ultimately led you to fine tune your own skills against extremely large opponents?
EK: Getting my ass beat! Lol. Having access to great instructors! I didn’t train smart when I was coming up in BJJ. At the time I think it was also just a little more barbaric and people didn’t know how bad it was for your body to just let big people beat the crap out of you. The way I used to subject myself to horrible training conditions – I did it because if I didn’t I had no one to train with…you simply just didn’t have enough bodies in the room to train with people closer to your size. My training partners were all nice guys, but that’s just it, they were nice 185-250lb guys.
Since pulling back on the competition, I’ve been really feeling the abuse I put my body through all those years. I don’t want my students or future practitioners to feel the same way. Training BJJ your whole life is just not a possibility if we abuse our bodies senselessly – so I started thinking there has to be a better way.
BJJL: Smackgirl, how did you get involved with MMA and will you go back to it?
EK: I still giggle every time I hear SMACKGIRL! I always say I’ll try almost anything once. I was living for a year in Tokyo, and after winning a lot of BJJ competitions there, I was offered the opportunity to do an amateur women’s MMA fight. I was always curious to see what it would be like, so I did it. I won my first amateur fight, then they turned me pro and sent me to Korea for my first pro fight. It was an intense experience!
I don’t think I’d go back to MMA at this point. Actually I didn’t continue on with it because when I moved to the Northeast in 2006, I had started training MMA again to see if I could pick it up in the states. This was pre Gina Carano days and man, the ladies fighting out here were super tough!! I had been lined up a few times for fights, but a lot of the women who initially agreed to fight me were 1-2 years in training MMA, then they would find out I had been training BJJ 7 years and won the world championships, and back out. Even if our MMA records were similar, they didn’t want to take a fight against an experienced grappler. It was very difficult to find a fair fight. By the time they gave me an opponent that wouldn’t back out, it was Michele Tavares, who is a BJJ black belt champion in her own right with a 10-1 record at the time…so that wasn’t a good fight for me – hence – I said goodbye to MMA.
Now I’m about to turn 35 with a little one to look after and another on the way. I co-own a school, travel for seminars and camps, and work full time in consulting…I don’t have time to get punched in the face like that! Also, I have to give it to MMA fighters. MMA training sucks. It’s not fun. lol
BJJL: You are a BJJ Legend. A first. Sexual Harassment is something women have dealt with since the dawn of time and as a first you have fought on vastly different playing fields. Do you have any advice you can offer on dealing with such a sensitive issue in these not so sensitive sports?
EK: I’ve had some female students tell me that they want to learn BJJ as a form of self-defense because they’ve either been assaulted or want to know how to protect themselves against it. One thing that I impart to them is that a single session/a seminar/learning without really doing…isn’t going to save you from anything. Even if you train for a long time – really hard – you may still find yourself in a terrible position. But, I believe strongly in empowering women to assert themselves, to teach them to exude the type of confidence from within that wards off predators. I also warn them that you can’t learn to defend yourself from an attack if you aren’t willing to be attacked – in class…so though we may ease into the process of sparring/rolling, I try to make them understand that they have to be willing to confront and handle their fears of being attacked if you ever expect to be able to do something about it if it ever happens. I guess it’s really about teaching women/people to be comfortable with being uncomfortable…to reach the other side, where you may feel in control of a bad situation.
BJJL: You are a pioneer. You did MMA and BJJ when no one else was really giving women the credit they deserved for either sport. You truly have paved the way, what was going through your mind when you started each of your unique journeys?
EK: I was just a stubborn chick who loved to challenge myself in different ways. It was thrilling, alive, present. I never competed or did anything for recognition, and in many ways, had no idea that it was a big deal that not a lot of women were doing these sorts of sports. Maybe it was all for the best – there was no pressure, no precedent, no history for me to look up. I just did it. Those were some of the most liberating years of my life, formative too…in my early-mid-twenties. The scene is really different now!!
BJJL: The idiot sweep, I absolutely love it, where does it come from and that name, who coined it?
EK: Marcelo had taught it to me early on. I think one of the most brilliant things I’ve learned from him is simplicity and efficiency. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been taught or witness techniques where me and my peers would giggle and say, ‘what? That’s it? That’s actually a technique?’
One of the benefits of being able to have trained with him and just witness his movement is that he’s trimmed the fat off the game…he’s practiced and embodied effective movement that isn’t complicated or overly flowery…it just works. And at the end of the day that’s what we all want right? BJJ that works.
BJJL: You have made what appears to be a seamless transition from constant competitor to business owner, wife, mother, and mentor of up and coming talent. How do you maintain a healthy balance?
EK: I just do as I do. I don’t act based on what I think I should be doing or what people expect of me. This is pretty much how I’ve been since I was a teenager. I know life will hand you bumps from time to time, but those bumps and flaws are what makes life beautiful and worth living. So I don’t worry about how to handle any potential problems, and I just live through them. I try to be transparent and honest with myself. I’ve always tried my best to trust my gut, trust my life…and it’s never steered me wrong. Ugly or pretty as it may be, I just let it all hang. Lol. It’s the only way I know how to be, and to be frank, a lot of people around me don’t know how to handle my honesty. But I don’t want a brain or a life full of baggage and weird shit, so I roll with the punches every day, and hope that I come out the other side ok.
BJJL: Would you like to see BJJ return to submission only?
EK: I think I’d like to see BJJ be a sport where athletes fight to win, not fight to not lose…not sure what that entails for rules, but I think the best matches are the ones where the athletes leave all their hard work and artistry on the mat.
BJJL: If you could change anything the IBJJF mandates (including the fees) what would it be?
EK: I think there should be more cash prizes awarded to the competitors, and I’d like to see something like, black belt champions receiving free entry into competition and perhaps round trip airfare for the following year – to defend their title. They’ve given up their lives to showcase the sport, if they achieve a gold medal at the highest level, I believe they deserve to be recognized for that. How many professional sports exist where the best athletes have to pay to compete in?
BJJL: I’ve seen a few unofficial polls around asking if integrated (male/female) categories should be allowed in tournaments. I can’t think of a better individual to ask for thoughts on the subject.
EK: NO. Lol. Men and women are different species, size and strength do matter, and we are NOT physically equal. I’ve fought men in tournaments before, I know a few other women have, but I don’t think it’s progressive for the sport.
BJJL: Any Non-profits that you support?
EK: Not specifically in BJJ. I get asked to do benefit seminars etc. from time to time, or to donate something else to their cause, and I always try to help out – but nothing with a long standing relationship.
BJJL: Do you have any camps in 2016 we should be on the lookout for?
EK: We will undoubtedly have women’s only and co-ed GGC events in 2016, so stay tuned!!
BJJL: Women’s Equality Day was 26 August, what are your thoughts on the Equal Pay issue in BJJ?
EK: Needs to happen…like, yesterday! Women’s BJJ has grown a lot, and women’s competitive fights are as exciting and dynamic as they’ve ever been. These elite ladies deserve to earn as much as their male counterparts. They’ve put just as much work in, and defied the odds of surviving in a pretty hostile, male dominated sport.
BJJL: Proudest Moment?
EK: Each moment is pretty great. Some life highlights…Losing my first match at ADCC 2007 in overtime. I had not been able to train well for the event with a compound fracture on my middle finger, took the cast off 2 weeks before the tournament…over trained in my first week and gave myself a 102 degree fever for 3 days the week I was supposed to fight. I fought the 2005 runner up in my first round on sheer will and determination. I was incredibly proud of that fight even though I lost. I don’t know that I’ve ever believed in myself more than I had to in those 15 min.
Getting married and the birth of my daughter – signified a new chapter in my life. I always wanted a family and wanted to settle down but I always put myself first. I was very happy to settle down.
Opening Princeton BJJ and promoting our first black belts. We have a really wonderful culture in our school, I’m incredibly proud of our students and the community we’ve created.
BJJL: Long term goals?
EK: Stay healthy and continue to follow my heart. It’s never been wrong yet! I’d like to eventually get back to painting, I'm educated in the arts and originally came to the east coast to become an ‘artist’.
Travel the world, grow old with my husband, teach my children about the world and watch them grow and thrive. I’d love to see them follow their dreams and stay true to themselves – I think that’s incredibly hard to do these days.
BJJL: Any regrets?
EK: No. Every positive and negative experience has led me to where I am today and I wouldn’t trade my life for anything.
BJJL: Is there anyone you would like to thank that you never had the opportunity to who helped you during your journey?
EK: My husband – Gerry Hurtado, My best friend – Roy Duquette, My business partners – Art Keintz, Val Worthington, Hannette Staack, My coaches/teachers – Marcelo Garcia, Tatiana Garcia, Josh Waitzkin, My students and fans!! – I would not have a career without their support.
She came, she saw, and she continues to do everything exactly on her own terms. Professor Emily Kwok began her BJJ journey never considering what impact she would have on the entire community. She came to class one day and hasn't looked back. She is a woman that is willing to put it all on the line for the sport she loves, it makes her so much more than a legend. She trained BJJ before it was mainstream for women and became the first female black belt in Canada. She was a success in MMA before it was mainstream for women and was a success internationally. Professor Kwok is a pioneer, a go-getter. What she has done since she began her journey has been PURELY for her love of BJJ. She put her heart and soul into what she loved and because of that she has been unstoppable.
"Just seize every opportunity you have, embrace every experience. Make a mark for all the right reasons."-Chrissie Wellington
In this interview we learn more about twenty-year-old, world champion, female black belt Dominyka Oblenyte and her fight for equal pay for women in Jiu-Jitsu competitions.
“We are sorry for the inconvenience, but this is a revolution.” ―Subcomandante Marcos
What do you stand for? What cause is worth fighting for? A 20 year old Lithuanian took her place at the top of the podium at Worlds as a Champion this year. Now she is challenging the BJJ community as a whole to take a stand with her on the issue of Equal Pay. That podium she stood on represented much more than the culmination of all the years of her hard work, she is using it as a stepping stone to promote worthwhile change.
Sometimes what you don't say on the isssue of equal pay is just as POWERFUL as what you do say. Not taking a stand speaks volumes however, it is clear EXACTLY where Black Belt Domynika Obelentye stands. At such a young age (20) she is already making her presence known in the BJJ community both on and off the mat using her position to push for progressive changes. It's inspiring. It doesn't matter which side of the Mason Dixon you stand on in this particular issue. Everyone has an opinion and is entitled to it but this young lady has started a movement. This is about much more than how she feels, it is about what she believes is right. Much like a Civil War, her Equal Pay Movement is something that many agree is the right thing, but they don't want to rock the boat over it, and they CERTAINLY are not going to put their two cents in on the issue. Regardless of what others don't say, Domynika has plenty to say.
BJJL: You are from Lithuania, is BJJ popular there?
DO: No. I definitely don’t think it makes it into the top three categories haha. Even though it is a small country, BJJ is surprisingly gaining traction over there. I know that there are at least three gyms currently operating there and I went to visit one of them run by my friend, Donatas Uktveris, when I went abroad this summer. There were almost thirty students present and all were super enthusiastic to train and learn. I think the one thing that makes me really proud of the small but determined Lithuanian BJJ scene is that the people involved have an unconditional love for the sport and a real thirst to learn more about it. Although these men and women don’t have a surplus of legendary coaches like Marcelo Garcia and world champion training partners their enthusiasm for the sport surpasses that of many BJJ die-hards I’ve gotten a chance to meet over my lifetime.
BJJL: Why did you began training?
DO: I first began training Japanese style Jiu-Jitsu, because the first elementary school I went to had a bit of a bullying problem and my parents wanted me to learn how to defend and stand up for myself. Then, when my family and I moved to New Jersey, my dad went on a hunt for gyms that were similar to the one I trained in prior to the move. He found an ad for a BJJ gym about twenty minutes from our house and after my first lesson there I was hooked.
BJJL: What’s your Lineage?
DO: So it’s a little complicated. The first gym I started out at was Performance BJJ, which at the time was a Gracie Humaita affiliate. I got my white, yellow, and orange belts there. I first met JT Torres and Jay Hayes at that school and I consistently took privates from both. They were almost like my main instructors. When they decided to leave and join Team Lloyd Irvin I followed suit. Unfortunately, while they had the freedom to make it down to Maryland I was still in school so I could only get down to train there a few weekends. Because of this, I trained in other schools around New Jersey and took privates with JT whenever he was home. It was JT that promoted me to green belt. I made my final transition to Marcelo Garcia’s Academy thanks to my friend Emily Kwok. Because I wasn’t able to go train at TLI very often and because JT was preoccupied with his own training I sought out other highly skilled BJJ practitioners in the area, and stumbled upon Emily Kwok. I took privates with her for a while and she facilitated my ultimate transition to Marcelo’s. Marcelo has promoted me to blue, purple, brown, and black belt.
BJJL: What is your first memory of BJJ?
DO: My first memory of BJJ is probably my first ever class at my first ever BJJ gym. I had no idea what I was doing, and I remember wearing sweatpants and a track jacket when everyone around me was wearing gis. I felt out of place and awkward, especially during the warm ups! The roll outs were tough, but the shrimping was even harder!
BJJL: What was your first competition like?
DO: I’m not going to sugarcoat it, my first competition was awful. I was a nervous wreck, and I sought out comfort from my teammates at the time. One of the guys was pretty confident in himself and he told me he won his first competition, the other told me he lost, and the third told me he threw up. Needless to say my nerves remained. I believe my first competition was a NAGA and I had two fights total. I lost both of them and was pretty upset with myself as I basically did no Jiu Jitsu when I was actually on the mat. I wanted to get out of the venue so bad that I didn’t even pick up the third place medal I had won for participating haha.
BJJL: You are a VERY tall young lady, as you ascended the ranks was it difficult for you to find comparable training partners that were your gender (skill wise)?
DO: I don’t know if I ever sought out specific training partners throughout my BJJ career. I never really had that luxury. Since I started so young, most of my training partners were boys who were my age or older. When I started progressing, I joined in with the adult classes. Those were rough. I was a really young kid, maybe ten years old, and there were adult male blue belts that tried to kill me with no remorse haha. I think my main training partners for a long time were the people I was taking privates from, namely JT, Jay Hayes, and then Emily Kwok. Although they were adults, they didn’t have a whole lot of ego, and knew how to really train with me without crushing me or my spirit. When I joined Marcelo’s there was a plethora of training partners of all shapes and sizes available, but not a whole lot of women. I was around twelve when I joined so I mostly trained with blue belt men, and with Emily, and Marcelo’s wife, Tatiana, who was training at the time. Nowadays, I really train with everyone. I don’t try to train with only people I can beat, and I don’t exclusively train with black belts or anything. I have a few female training partners that I roll with, the majority remain to be guys.
BJJL: You are a young and gifted black belt, you are also very sharp. You attend Columbia University. KUDOS!!! Ivy League is not easy to get into. Now I will say that your peers probably can’t say that they were able to train, obtain their black belt at 20, and attend an Ivy League University. How in the world do you keep up with your studies and your training?
DO: It’s really difficult to do well in one thing without sacrificing the other. I am managing now, but this coming semester I will cut down on my training a little since I am taking a pretty full course load. It’s a hard balance to maintain, but what motivates me is my fellow female competitors that also hold careers, are mothers, and still manage to fit in time for training. They should be receiving medals for their efforts haha.
BJJL: The men and women of BJJ are not offered equal prize money and this irks you, when did it really begin to be something that you could no longer stand by and be silent about?
DO: I guess I really decided to break the silence after I won double gold at worlds. Without sounding arrogant, the spotlight was on me for a bit, since a lot of people didn’t know who I was/didn’t understand how someone that’s not necessarily a brand name could win, and I thought this was the right time to speak out. I also thought that the IBJJF would have improved the Pro prizes this year, since last year was the introductory year for those competitions. When I noticed that nothing had changed, I decided that somebody had to stir things up about the lack of fairness in the BJJ community regarding women.
BJJL: You are using your voice and position as a black belt in a proactive manner. You are a professor, and you are speaking out on something you are very passionate about. Are you hoping that you will be heard?
DO: Haha well of course I am hoping to be heard. I have gotten a lot of support as well as a lot of criticism from the BJJ community. I take it as a sign that I am still making people aware of the issues at hand and if the movement gains enough speed maybe we can facilitate the change that so many want but are afraid to fight for.
BJJL: I read an article where you mentioned some of your colleagues agree yet not many (if any) female black belts have been so vocal on the issue of equal prize money. Do you hope that if you keep speaking about this more of them will begin to do the same?
DO: I actually think many black belt females have been vocal, such as Gabi Garcia, Angelica Galvao, and Mackenzie Dern. I do believe that many more could be. I think at this point, there may be some people unwilling to get involved, not necessarily because they don’t agree with the cause, but because they may be afraid of the consequences attached to being so vocal against the IBJJF and other organizations. I do hope that more women and men get involved in vocally supporting the cause, though.
BJJL: Why do you think the prize money after all this time still isn’t equal?
DO: Well right now, I believe it has something to do with the concept of “waiting things out.” It seems like the IBJJF may just be waiting until things settle down so they can continue running tournaments as they please. At this point I am unwilling to settle down and I don’t think I’ll stop fighting for this even if I am alone in doing so haha. I do have to commend the IBJJF on introducing the equal rewards for top ranking male and female black belts. I think that was a move on their part to appease our cause, but the Pro prizes remain the same. I don’t want to stop until they have been changed as well.
BJJL: In BJJ, for the most part, those that hold the tournaments have the final say on how much they pay to who. Do you think it comes down to what they believe the athlete is or isn’t worth?
DO: I don’t know if the organizers are that devious haha. I think most tournament organizers are really self-interested, and they care a lot about the money their tournaments earn, so maybe they want to cut down on cash prizes so that it doesn’t hurt them as much. However, the IBJJF is an organization that has been around a long time, and the money they make from their tournaments is more than enough to finance equal prizes for men and women in their BJJ Pros. I don’t know if they conscientiously made the decision that women are inferior fighters and deserve less prize money, but I do think they maybe tried to cut costs by doing this, assuming that no one would make a big stink about it. I am in big support of the tournament organization Five Grappling, though. They are in support of the movement and offer equal prizes for both male and female competitors. In fact, they just had their Super League competition, with plenty of talented men and women, and it’s been commended by many of my friends and training partners. If you haven’t gotten the chance to check it out, you can order a 50% discounted replay here: fivegrappling.com/superleague.
BJJL: In the vast majority of professional sports the pay between men and women is not close. Why do you think BJJ should be different?
DO: Haha I don’t think BJJ is the only sport that should be different. Professional tennis commendably offers athletes equal prize money, and I don’t see why other sports should be different. Equal pay for equal work.
BJJL: I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. In some of the competitions women have no one in their division or only one fight whereas the men’s divisions have the decks stacked. Don’t you think that makes it more of a draw for the event organizers to pay the men more money? Don’t you think it is a bit unfair to pay someone who didn’t even have a fight a substantial amount of prize money or maybe one fight? To some degree it is about putting on a show.
DO: This is true in some respects but not all tournaments are like that. In fact, this year at worlds I had more fights to win absolute than the men’s black belt absolute winner. Last year, one of the Pro divisions had only two male black belts sign up and they ended up getting $5000 combined. It works both ways. I really believe though that by offering the opportunity for only one woman to win some prize money at the Pro the IBJJF is devaluing their female athletes, and is giving them no reason to book a plane ticket and a hotel, and exert time and energy into competing at these events. The prizes for the men are lucrative. Men from around the world may be interested in getting a shot at the money which will of course boost the amount of competitors willing to sign up. If you give women no reason to compete and spend money then why would they even sign up?
BJJL: In what way do you think change should be facilitated?
DO: I have talked about this before, but I think the best way the IBJJF can institute change is by putting a minimum requirement for competitors signed up to do a division before offering them prize money. The current minimum for men is four competitors. They should offer women competitors the exact same deal.
BJJL: It would probably help if someone that commands a great deal of respect in the BJJ World would come out and back the equal pay movement. Any thoughts on that?
DO: I wholeheartedly agree, but again, I think a lot of people are afraid to voice their opinions or show their support for the cause and somehow end up on the bad side of one of Jiu Jitsu’s largest tournament organizations. For example, if the entire Gracie family teamed up to support the movement, of course changes would occur. Unfortunately, that is not the case today, but I hope that it can be in the future.
BJJL: Someone told you to stop complaining, do something about it (regarding how you feel about the gap in pay). What all have you done so far since that moment?
DO: Haha absolutely everything I can to bring about awareness of the issue, and work for some sort of negotiation to give female athletes the equal prize money they rightfully deserve.
BJJL: Who in the BJJ World have been your major supporters of the movement?
DO: Definitely my female training partners, big names like Gabi Garcia, Angelica Galvao and Andre Galvao, my own instructor Marcelo Garcia and his wife Tatiana, my good friend Jay Hayes, a lot of the European black belts like Shanti Abelha and Ida Hansson, and even more women and men that aren’t huge standouts in the BJJ scene.
BJJL: Is there anyone that is fighting you every step of the way and thinks that equal pay is crazy?
DO: There are certain people and some of them are even people I am close to so it was even more heartbreaking when I found out they didn’t support the cause. I just try to tell myself that it is not a personal attack on me our ideologies just differ. I hope I can get these people to see the same way that I do in the future, though.
BJJL: If you could make an appeal regarding the equal pay movement to the BJJ Community, what would you say?
DO: I would say what I have always been saying. Women put in the same amount of blood, sweat and tears into training as men do. We pay the same fees for tournaments, plane tickets, hotels and gear. We work just as hard but we get rewarded less for it. It is time for change. Please sign the petition at: https://www.change.org/p/ibjjf-give-woman-athletes-equal-prize-money-2
Again, whatever your thoughts are on this issue or any issue you have to commend such a bright young burgeoning black belt just for taking a stand. She has stepped out and stepped up and that in itself takes just as much if not more courage than to set foot on that mat. When you decide to be a voice and a loud one on an issue that can be devisive, you can set yourself up for undue criticism and an overwhelming amount of grief. Your supporters will give you strength but those that are against you can make things unbelievably difficult. The August 18th, 1920 the 19th Amendment won women the right. On June 10th, 1963 the first Equal Pay Act was signed. Perhaps Obelente will receive her very own equal pay act for women's rights in BJJ and sooner rather than later.
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit in with the core belief.” ―Frantz Fanon
Sofia Amarante wrote on her donations page, “I have a great chance to become the First American Female to win the Jiu-Jitsu World Championship as a black belt.” It is 2013 and there has never been an American to win gold in the Female black belt division?
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championship came to the US from Rio de Janeiro Brazil in 2007. This move helped make the sport much more accessible to American athletes male and female. In 2007, Emily Kwok won the middle weight black belt division. Emily, “Japan, to be more specific I was born in Aomori, Japan.” She is the first Canadian to win the worlds and one of the first non-Brazilians. “I was 19 when I moved to the US. We immigrated to Canada when I was one and a half years old and I was raised speaking Japanese only until I went to elementary. My father is Chinese from Hong Kong and tri-lingual.” She continues, “Try Penny Thomas or Laurence Cousins.”
bI was first introduced to 1-Leg X-Guard by Emily Kwok in her How To Defeat Bigger, Stronger Opponents DVD set. I played around with it and even though I pulled mount more often than not I didn’t give up. I kept working on it, asked questions and researched on my own. Fast forward almost a year and this is my go to attack when my opponents stands or posts his leg.
A few months ago we were approached by MGinACTION about collaborating and this article is the result. What you’ll find below is a downloadable PDF (and graphics file) that shows you my notes on all the instructional videos in MGinACTION that cover the 1-leg X-Guard. What you’ll also find is an interactive map that has links directly to the videos in MGinACTION so that you can watch the videos that were just mapped out.
Emily Kwok’s How to Defeat Bigger, Stronger Opponents was the first DVD series to focus specifically on what it takes for smaller jiu-jiteiros to not only survive but also to defeat opponents that are physically stronger and bigger than they are. For more on Mrs. Kwok I’d encourage you to check out her school’s website. Briefly, she is Canada’s first female BJJ black belt, a world champion (Mundials 2007), and has competed successfully at the highest levels (2nd place at American Nationals, and 3rd place at the Pan Ams). The mindmaps/flowcharts are meant to be used as a study reference and in conjunction with the DVDs, as well as personal instruction. The full set includes five DVDs but the maps are going to specific to DVD 2: Compensating for Strength, and DVD 3: Top Five Moves.
“Size doesn’t matter” is a common catch phrase in BJJ. Also known as the “gentle art,” Jiu-Jitsu has been touted as the art that can favor smaller bodies because of its finesse and leverage and lack of technique based on strength.
However, as a 5’3 female grappler, I’ve often found myself doubting this when the human equivalent of a Mac truck crushes me into the mat while rolling. Like so many in my situation, bigger and stronger people have long been the source of much frustration during my Jiu-Jitsu journey.
Enter Grapplearts.com’s newest DVD release How to Defeat the Bigger, Stronger Opponent, taught by black belts Emily Kwok and Stephan Kesting. Read More >>
Emily Kwok is a black belt and Mundials champion, a project manager for MGInAction.com, is putting together her own BJJ [social][/social][einset][/einset]program, and runs various grappling camps for women with other notable female BJJ practitioners.
She recently sat down and offered to shed some light for us about women in grappling.
BJJ Legends: Why is BJJ good for women? What can women gain from learning it? Emily Kwok: From a fitness standpoint, this sport has helped me integrate daily activity into a lifestyle. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been (at 30) and it’s made me appreciate how much our bodies are capable of doing.[bjj][/bjj]