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
Follow Professor Alves, Hunter, and Pinnacle MMA/GFT at:
The last five years in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been phenomenal for Girls in Gis. A grass roots effort started in 2009 by Ashley Nguyen (Elite MMA, Houston TX) has expanded to Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nevada, and Oklahoma. The purpose behind Girls in Gis was for women to have the opportunity to train in a “non-competitive” setting. Ashley spent a considerable amount of time trying to get Girls and Gis off the ground with only 15 participants at the very first event. Thanks to her hard work and determination, events in Texas alone now have up to 90 participants per event. This year GIGs success was evident with the release of a limited edition rash guard designed by Meerkatsu and produced by Da Firma Kimono Company featuring the lethal plant Atropa Belladonna. Belladonna is the perfect descriptor when it comes to the various women of war represented by this beautiful yet deadly vine. Belladonna can be one of the most effective medicinal remedies for insomnia, hay fever, even as a pain killer. Also known as "Beautiful Lady", it is lethal. Poet Christina Murphy wrote, “atropa belladonna there is no place for me to hide,if I were to tuck myself insidethe marrow deep within your bones, you'd break each one to get to me and suck it dry, the whole supply you'd exhaust your every resource in my pursuit.”
Shama Ko of (Gracie Humaita, Austin TX) the Program Director and Lana Hunter of (Pinnacle MMA/GFT San Antonio TX) are probably some of the biggest supporters and ambassadors for GIGs. The mission according to Ko is to, “provide experiences that foster and encourage females to participate in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, thereby paving the way for equality and change. To Empower and unite females in their martial arts training, as well as in life, while simultaneously bringing recognition to the BJJ community for women and girls.” Hunter reflects upon her experiences. “I have definitely been inspired, touched, and identified with some of the stories. Women come together and share what an impact BJJ has had on their lives and the reasons they are motivated to train. I would never have learned any of this if I hadn’t been to a GIGs event. These events provide an environment conducive to this process and I think it is a truly special thing that happens!” Each event begins with an introduction that leaves many touched in the most profound ways. If you walk into the event with the mindset that it will be just like all the other seminars you have attended, you will leave knowing that that GIGs is on another level. You may walk in apprehensive and full of doubt but you will walk away feeling reassured that you are not alone in those doubts and with a new perspective on your journey in BJJ.
GIGs five year anniversary is rapidly approaching (21 Sep 14, Austin TX gym TBD) and it is easy to see why it continues to grow. The motto “Strength in Solidarity” seems to keep this bullet train gliding right along. The presence of the participants and the support of the BJJ community where GIGs is concerned speaks volumes about how far the sport has come and how much further it will continue to go. A thought was realized and has grown into a powerful movement five years later. If you are looking for an environment where you will receive hard core training along with some excellent words of encouragement a GIGs event is THE PLACE to be. You will train with some of the best of the best women in BJJ and take away much more than a highly effective technique. If you haven't heard yet how beautiful a journey one has in this martial art, at these events, YOU WILL. Christina Murphy describes the Night Shade adorned essence of these world-wide beauties precisely, “I have become your madman shackled,the prey your hungry eyes have tackled, you are a flower ever blooming...looming...growing towards me, wide-eyed on the chase,I am the most alluring poisonyou did ever taste. For me your stomach's achingand hands are coarsely shaking.The demons you are wakingare taking every toll on me.Til I am gone and you are weakyou'll seek my nectar ever sweetno matter what the price will be.”
Deneatra talks candidly about shutting down and fighting back at her first Worlds. Deneatra suffers from PTSD stemming from a brutal assault.
If you have never been disoriented, a hyped-up athletic competition certainly can get you to that point. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the Worlds is like the Olympics for all other sports. The best-of-the-best come from all over the world to compete for the opportunity to say I am the World Champion.
The moment I stepped onto that mat at the Pyramid Arena, I couldn't hear a thing. In that split second, I withdrew. All these thoughts of ‘firsts’ started rushing through my mind. My competitor and I shook hands…Combatchee. The next thing I know, I was flat on my stomach and completely disoriented. I wasn't sure where I was or what I was doing there. I felt pressure thrust into my back and I had a flash of me training for the very first time, no confidence, no desire, no idea where the journey would lead.
All of a sudden, a familiar voice brings me back to the room. It was faint but I could hear someone shouting to me and I couldn't quite make out what was being said. A flash hit me again and I was seeing my very first competition, so clumsy, so unsure, and not able to tell which voice I should listen to. I feel a shift as I turtle and the voice became clearer. I heard my professor guiding me. I was back in the room and begin to realize my competitor was attempting to set me up for an arm bar. At that moment, my face got scratched and again I was gone, back at my home based gym attending my first competition training. I was preparing for Worlds. I was focused; I was confident. I am borderline psychotic about my training regimen.
Once again, I heard a familiar voice. This voice was different; this was the voice of a teammate. This was the voice of the teammate who had consistently helped me train since I began my journey in BJJ. She had trained with me daily, prepared me for every competition, and helped me get to Worlds. The moment I heard her voice it was as if all the what-ifs began to subside. I fully returned to the room and back to reality. I was able to capitalize off my competitor’s arm bar attempt and passed her guard. The moment that happened, it was as if no one else was in the arena. I could hear two voices and only two voices.
By now, my competitor and I were standing. I attempted a single leg take down; she stumbled but did not fall. We were evenly matched position for position and then.... TIME. It was over. I let out the biggest sigh and smiled. When I began BJJ, I had no idea where it would lead. I was proud of what I had accomplished. A year has passed since I took my first step in BJJ and little did I know my first step towards Worlds. I am 31 years old. I started BJJ at 30. I attended Worlds as a one stripe white belt and I lost. My loss was a victory to me. I showed up, I utilized my training and I know that I left everything out there on that mat. I have NO regrets.
Deneatra M Terry is a white belt at training under 3rd Degree Black Belt Bruno Alves. BJJ Legends is excited to welcome Deneatra to our family of bloggers.
Deneatra & team at Worlds Lana Hunter and Deneatra Terry