“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
Read the interview on Fabiana Borges, born in a favela in Rio, moved to San Antonio Texas and is cleaning up in the women's division. She has just opened her own school. If she wasn't doing BJJ she says she might have been a veterinarian.
The place where you continually return for love and acceptance—that's home.” - Richelle E. Goodrich
Fabiana Borges began training BJJ not knowing that she would be one of the best in the world throughout a very prestigious career. After 20 years in many careers people look forward to retirement but Fabiana is one of a long list of BJJ practitioners that seem to be just getting warmed up.
Professor Fabiana Borges is one of Gracie Barra's top female athletes. She started her career in BJJ at 11, earning six Brazilian National Titles, simultaneously receiving her blackbelt on the day she earned her sixth title. Professor Borges is a standout competitor and highly regarded in San Antonio, Texas her home away from her native of Brazil. Professor Borges talks to BJJLegends about her journey in BJJ, her return to San Antonio, and what plans she still has for the future.
BJJL:How did you get your start in BJJ?
FB: I was looking for a sport to do by my house. I tried soccer, basketball, and many others but I didn’t like any of them. Then, one day I went to try BJJ by my house. It was a social project offered by a politician and free. I loved it after my first class. My instructor at the time Fabiano Gaudio said I was really good and those words made me feel good. I was 11 years at the time.
BJJL: Describe your first competition.
FB: I was 11 years old and a white belt. My uncle took my cousin and me to the tournament. I did very good. I won first place by an armbar.
BJJL:Why did you decide to make the U.S.A your home?
FB: My original plan was to come to stay six months, train, and learning English. Everything started to go well, I started to teach, train at Gracie Barra, and I decided to stay. I didn’t feel confident going back to Brazil to live off of BJJ. At the time I was going to school to be a Veterinarian, I was 20 years old and made a decision to come and see what the USA would bring to me.
BJJL: What is your favorite part of instructing?
FB: I love teaching. I like when I see someone learning and changing through BJJ. I love to see people getting confident and falling in love with Jiu-Jitsu. I feel very blessed to be able to help people through Jiu-Jitsu.
BJJL: What is your day-to-day training regimen like?
FB: I am always training with my students and working out. I train BJJ at least one time a day. When I get closer to competition I train BJJ 2 times a day and do conditioning training 2-3 times a week. I try to eat very clean on a daily basis, so I don’t have to suffer cutting weight.
BJJL:Talk to me about your charity work.
FB: I came from a really poor neighborhood from Rio de Janeiro and my family is still living in the favelas. So, whenever I go back I try to help as much as I can. I try to take used clothes and give back to the community or even some BJJ social projects that I have friends teaching. It’s hard, I travel by myself with 3-4 bags or boxes, I have to go through customs and sometimes they can tax me for bringing so many clothes to Brazil. But it’s worth it and whenever I go back home I try to do that. It’s working very well.
BJJL: Who or what is your inspiration or driving force for achieving your goals?
FB: My family. When I was younger and brought home medals or magazines, my dad used to show everyone in the favelas, he still does. My goal is always to make them proud.
BJJL: When is your grand re-opening, where is your new location?
FB: My grand opening was on August 15th, I had friends coming from all over, Mexico, Houston, Austin, Brazil, to train. I was really happy to see how I could make so many friends through BJJ. Gracie Barra San Antonio is located at 20711 Wilderness Oak suite 109, San Antonio, Texas 78258. You can find more information at www.gbsanantonio.com
BJJL: What will your school be offering in terms of training, classes, and hours of operations?
BJJL: How do you determine what tournaments you will compete in?
FB: I usually compete in Pan Ams, Worlds, and some IBJJF tournaments in Texas. It all depends if I will have the time to dedicate myself for the tournament.
BJJL: So many young woman look up to you, do you see yourself as a role model?
FB: It’s weird to see myself as a role model. I don’t feel like I do anything special to be a role model, but I know a lot of people look up to me. Sometimes I get messages/email from people saying thank you and it makes me really happy.
BJJL: Where do you see women’s BJJ headed in the next 5 years?
FB: I think women’s BJJ has grown a lot. I believe we will see more ladies owning their own schools and it will help to have more girls training, more girls competing, and getting more space in the BJJ scenario.
BJJL: Do you see yourself venturing into the MMA world or starting a career as an MMA fighter at some point?
FB: Nope. I never dreamed of it. This isn’t one of my goals.
BJJL: What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?
FB: I don’t know! Maybe when I had knee surgery in 2009. I was away from my family and luckily had my friend Mirian Cardoso to help me. I didn’t speak English very well, I was only 21 years old. It made me grow.
BJJL: How has your game grown in the last year?
FB: My game has changed a lot since I come to the Gracie Barra Team. I used to play a lot of closed guard and fast submission. At Gracie Barra being around Kayron Gracie, Otavio de Sousa, Marcio Feitosa, and Ana Laura Cordeiro I started to have a better open guard game and my top game definitely changed a lot. I am much more confident passing guard now a days. I believe I am more technical too. Our fundamentals curriculum helps you a lot to understand the basics of Jiu-Jistu.
BJJL: Would you like to see BJJ return to submission only?
FB: That would be fun. A lot of tournaments are doing it now.
BJJL: You competed at the Five Super League this summer, how were you selected as a competitor? How was the competition?
FB: Mike Calimbas was the first one to mention this tournament then I spoke to Ricardo. The competition was phenomenal. They treated us very well, very organized and a big structure. I loved to be part of it.
BJJL: Will you be competing at No Gi Worlds?
FB: I don’t have plans to compete this year. I did all the tournaments and traveling that I wanted in the first semester. I knew I was going to be very busy with my school. I want to focus at Gracie Barra San Antonio in this second semester. I want to build a very solid team and then we can get ready for tournaments, travel, and compete together. Gracie Barra San Antonio is my priority now.
BJJL: How does your tournament prep differ from your normal training?
FB: I believe my mindset changes. I always joke with my students that I am in competition mode and they know that the training will be very intense. So, they don’t ask me questions in the middle of the training and I am always focusing on points and submissions.
BJJL: What has been your proudest moment since you started BJJ?
FB: When I went back to Brazil in 2013, after 5 years without seeing my family. It made me realize how much I achieved in my life. Also, on my Grand Opening on August 15th. I was very happy to see all the important people supporting me on that day. You could see happiness glowing from my eyes. I wish my family was here to see it.
BJJL: What are your plans for the future? What goals do you have left?
FB: Well, now I am 100% focused on my school. It is growing very fast and I want to make sure I take good care of it. I want to help my students achieve their goals and help the community however I can. I am still planning on competing in 2016 and getting gold medals. I have a lot of personal goals and goals towards my family. I am looking to take some college classes to help me with my business and I am always looking forward to improving.
BJJL: Are there any matchups that you haven't had that you want or would like to redo?
BJJL: If you couldn’t do BJJ what would you be doing?
FB: I would probably be a veterinarian. That is what I was studying before my move to the USA. I am sure I wasn't going to be as happy as I am now.
BJJL: Is there anyone you would like to thank that you have never had the opportunity to thank for helping you get to where you are today?
FB: There are many people/angels that helped me to be where I am right now. My family, my first professor Fabiana Gaudio, my good friend Miriam Cardoso that encouraged me come to USA, Professor Marcio Feitosa, and Master Carlos Gracie that had helped me to grow as an athlete and women, giving me the opportunity to have my own school and live for Jiu-Jitsu and all the Gracie Barra family for being the greatest BJJ Team/Family in the World.
Professor Fabiana Borges has had a career spanning 15+ years. The only competing female black belt in San Antonio, her deparature a year ago left a bit of a void in the female BJJ scene. Professor Borges is a role model, a formidable opponent, and a beloved professor to faithful students. Her infectious personality is one that permeates a room and makes each encounter with her all the more enjoyable. The return of Profesossor Borges to San Antonio is just what female practioners are in need of. The San Antonio Open is on the horizon (first time ever) in December and she came back just in the nick of time to prep a brand new team of worthy opponents. Professor Borges has achieved goal after goal. She has had a career in which many would aspire to. Her work in the BJJ world is far from over.
“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”-Pascal Mercier
For every Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner there is a kimono. From blood and sweat absorbed after a training session to the patches we decorate that gives our fight wear a distinguishable appearance, each individual’s kimono tells a story which reveals their purpose in the art.
Equipped in his trusted kimono for two years, BJJ blue belt, Ren Costantini’s life changing journey carried with it many challenges centered on the love/hate relationship he has with his kimono. In this reflective narration Costantini uncovers the truth of what his kimono means to him in his thoughtful biography “Killer Kimono.”
Ren Costantini: Have you ever been told “keep your friends close and your enemies closer?" Seemingly most of us have heard the expression uttered at some point in time. Till recently, however, the expression did not fully resonate. Friends have always had their way of staying close due to the mutual affinity for one another in a mutually beneficial relationship - they are, after all, friends... but keep your enemies closer? This seemed oxymoronic. Why would I keep my enemies closer than my own friends? Then, one day after a grueling training session at Evolution Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I found myself exhausted. Slowly removing my Gi, and tossing it on the mat, I promptly fell next to it. It was here I had my revelation.
After every class I lie on the mat and try to the best of my ability to recollect what events transpired during the session. That evening I recall being particularly frustrated with my kimono. My opponent utilized grips that prevented me from a particular pass and, being the hard headed blue belt that I am, I continued to bang my head against the wall, expecting it to crumble. The wall did not crumble, and my pass ended in me being choked with my Gi.
Staring at my Kimono, I was astonished. My companion, my favorite clothing if you will, had turned against me - it had betrayed me. I felt a feeling of minor grief overcame me. Maybe… just maybe this friend was never really a friend. Absorbed in thought, time passed and the owner of the school began mopping the mats, and it was then that my thought process was paused.
At my next training session I found myself in New Hampshire at Port City Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. College had begun and reluctantly, with severe remorse, I was faced with the unavoidable truth that Jiu-Jitsu cannot be my major. However, it was after another gruesome training session I stripped off my gi and threw it to the mat reluctantly, my limp body following in a less serene fashion. Here the initial process of contemplation was revisited. That night I executed a few techniques that required me to use my opponent's gi against him, and vice versa. Admiring my kimono, the same feeling of aforementioned grief reappeared. “How can you do this to me? I thought we were close!”
Then it hit me, almost as hard as the lack of oxygen due to a bow and arrow choke. My gi is my enemy's friend. At first I felt cheated. “How could you choose to help him/her over me? I wash you! I occasionally dry you! I put nice patches on you! What did I do wrong? Tell me - I can change! I’ll be better, I swear!” Needless to say there was no response or remorse. That night my gi chose to leave with me if it's any consolation.
While getting my gi to leave with me was a subtle victory I began to reminisce about all the good times before my recent epiphany. This article of clothing felt as if it were armor and provided me with a sense of protection. The Kimono represents a part of me. All the sweat, blood, and tears that have been shed in these wonderful pieces of armor make it impossible for me not to be attached. So much time spent together - we have a relationship. One built on mutual respect and an absurd amount of hard work. Looking across my rotation I chuckled. How funny. The gis we wear are our enemies.
What could be closer to our hearts than our gis? We spend enormous amounts of time with them, wash them, care for them, buy an obscene amount of them, and become rather intimate with them. Part of our being is quite literally being absorbed by these beautiful creations. While their aesthetics are usually the initial enticing factor, regardless of brand or look, they show no shame in their betrayal. This armor we dress ourselves in for battle is as great of an enemy as our adversary when rolling. Our Kimonos are undoubtedly classified as our enemies.
The main revelation was not simply that our kimonos are our enemies. No. It can never be that transparent and simple. The true pinnacle of this thought process is that I truly love my enemy. Maybe it's the way it challenges me, chokes me, and stops me. Could it be the times we have shared? The battles won and lost? It could have something to do with a large amount of blood and sweat now permanently ingrained in the fabric. Above all I realized my enemies have always been my greatest teachers. Wearing my gis I have experienced a world most will never experience. I have traveled through battlegrounds undiminished and emerged a new man. This particular enemy has inspired me to reach beyond disdain or even frustration to view the nature of the thing itself. An enemy is simply a form of adversity, and adversity is prosperity of the great. In order to become great my enemies remain close, in fact they're hanging right next to me.
Bio: Ren Costantini is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Blue Belt Training out of: Evolution Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Port City Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Nostos MMA. Jiu-Jitsu has had such a profound impact on his life. He couldn't even imagine not being a part of such a wonderful community that practices a beautiful art form.
Follow Ren Costantini on Instagram- @essencejiujitsu
A high quality, low cost Gi that looks equally at home on the mat or in the workplace.
Tatami is one of the front runners in the ever growing BJJ Gi Industry. It is tough in any industry to remain consistent and stay ahead of the game; however Tatami have reinforced themselves as a true leader of the Gi game with the release of the Zero G V3. The 3 stands for the 3rd model in the series and is a sturdy, lightweight IBJJF approved Gi.
A snippet from the Tatami website:
Tatami Fightwear Australia Eat, breathe, sleep Jiu Jitsu
Tatami Fightwear was established in 2009 by Gareth and Lee to address a need for good quality BJJ equipment at affordable prices. Gareth, a brown belt in BJJ was involved in teaching children and adults in deprived areas and found it increasing difficult to find good quality equipment at prices his students could afford. That's when Tatami Fightwear was born. Since then Tatami Fightwear have worked tirelessly to build a good brand reputation, get better quality products and support academies and shops around the world.
Let’s get to the review.
WHAT YOU’RE GETTING
Tatami Zero G – Version 3
I will be reviewing the A3 White Gi
I am 92 kgs and 184cm tall, or 202llbs and 6’1
475 gsm Pearl Weave Rubberised Collar to stop moisture absorption. Single Piece Jacket for reinforced strength and comfort Tapered Fit White w/Light Blue Contrast Stitching and Tape
11 oz ripstop cotton Double reinforced Woven Patch Light Blue Cotton Stitching
FIRST LOOK IMPRESSIONS:
At first look I instantly loved the Gi with its bright white with light blue contrast instantly drawing me in. (I actually seen my coach training in one of these and decided I would buy it on looks alone) They also make a Black with Blue contrast which has equal sex appeal to its white counterpart. Upon opening the bag and feeling the Gi for the first time I was supremely surprised to feel the softness of the Gi and could not wait to put it on, so much so that my wife was embarrassed when I went to put it on to go to the supermarket.
FIRST WORKOUT AND ROLLING PERFORMANCE:
The “tapered” fit of the Gi was extremely comfortable. This was the first Gi I bought in A3 after a bit of weight loss, I was still sceptical about how it would fit, worried that it would be a little on the tight side, however there was no issue and the Gi fit nicely with plenty of room to move. It quickly became one of my favourite GIs and was quickly patched up as my competition Gi. The weight of 1.5kgs also aids when weighing in.
Rolling in this Gi was a pleasurable experience its light weight and ability to breathe meant I didn’t find myself overheating or sweating as much as normal. The feedback from my training partners was also all positive with the softness of the Gi and collar being noted time and time again. In my opinion there is nothing worse than gripping a collar and coming to the fast realisation that there is some type of sandpaper hidden in there.
FIRST WASH AND FIT:
I have read a little bit about this Gi and despite the comments that people have dried it in the dryer with no shrinkage observed I still couldn’t bring myself to risk it. Being winter here in Australia means that most of my Gis I own take up to 24 hours to be completely dry so when this was dry in 4 I was pleasantly surprised. I wash all of my Gi according to the instructions on the tag and with this is states 30c wash. This Gi has come up like new after ever wash and looks exactly as it did the day I got it, I have even spilt blood on the Gi and was upset at the fact thinking my pristine white Gi was destined to have a blood stain on it but too my surprise it came out with no evidence left behind.
1. Will not shrink on you after a wash allegedly even if put in the dryer.
2. Bright White with Blue contrast is eye catching and classy.
3. Priced well against the current market of lightweight Gis.
5. Remains white and doesn’t hold contaminations of you rigorous training sessions.
1. I am yet to find anything bad with this Gi
I have purchased a few different Tatami Gi and they have all been of the highest quality. This is the first light weight Gi I have tested out and am extremely happy with its performance. I look forward to training more in this Gi as the weather starts to heat up down under. Its Lightweight construction makes it great for the travelling practitioner as you will not take up half a suitcase and be forced to pay exuberant excess baggage fees. I purchased this Gi from MMAFightstore.com.au and the service I received from these guys was second to none which is very rare to find in the retail industry these days. A quick review of the website 5 out of 5 and recommend anyone to them. As for the Gi I will give my first 5 Gi review to the Tatami Zero G V3. 5 Gis out of 5.
If you haven’t already got yourself a Tatami Gi why not head over to www.tatamifightwear.com to take a look at the Zero G and everything this top brand have on offer.
Interview with Ohana Academy owner Jason Yerrington about his philosophy on running a gym, Cronh's disease and their up coming Ohana Award Ceremony.
“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think”-Socrates
BJJ is not always about being number one or how many titles you obtain. For some, the lives of the people positively affected while on the journey truly is THE POINT. United States Martial Arts Inductee Professor Jason Yerrington talks to us about his special journey. A journey that he needed a helping hand with and those that love him rallied. Tamo Junto (TMJ) means you can count on me and when he needed it the most, Team Ohana was there to be counted on. The Ohana Academy Owner discusses training with Crohn’s Disease, the changes that led to the Ohana expansion, new black belts, and how he still has a fighting spirit whether or not the odds are in his favor. He has had the overwhelming love and support of friends, family, and his students during the most difficult time of his life. Professor Yerrington is living proof that it really isn’t about how you start the race but how you choose to see it through to the end.
BJJL:Why BJJ, not baseball or basketball, what drew you to this particular martial art?
JY: BJJ was something that I decided to start doing after I had finished playing basketball. I played two years at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas and then transferred to the University of Incarnate Word where I red shirted my first year and finished out my eligibility the next two with them. When basketball was done there was a competitive void in my life. I saw the fight between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin. I was captivated watching those two guys put it all on the line. I knew right then and there I have to do that. Three months, I was the main event at a show in Waco, Texas. Needless to say, I got knocked out. I went back to the gym and started to really throw myself into Jiu Jitsu. Prior to that fight I had never trained in the Gi but as soon as I put it on and had my first roll, I was hooked for life!
BJJL:You are the owner of Ohana out of San Antonio TX. Ohana, what does it stand for/represent…why that particular moniker?
JY: Ohana is a Hawaiian term referring to family. The concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another! As I began to progress in my Jiu Jitsu journey I started to feel a sense of community and bonding with every one of my training partners. I chose to name our school Ohana because of this and the Hawaiian culture seemed to embody a lot of the concepts that I was becoming accustomed to from my experiences in Jiu Jitsu.
BJJL:How long have you been training, what’s your lineage?
JY: I started training in February 2006. I received my blue belt from a man named Jaime Miller. Shortly thereafter I left and enrolled at Marra Senki Jiu Jitsu Academy where Professor Sergio “Marra” Correra took me in. Once he awarded me my purple belt he helped me open my first Ohana Academy and he has been my professor ever since.
BJJL:How involved is your family?
JY: In the beginning my family (mainly my wife) was just a supportive and fan. Once my daughter Arianna turned three yrs old we started her in our Jitz for Totz program and since then my family has been very involved in everything we do at Ohana. Well that’s not totally true. My wife just recently started her journey on the mats a couple of weeks ago. My second daughter is two now but will also start training when she turns three. It makes my heart so happy seeing them on the mat. I know that I can feel comfortable as my girls grow up because they will be prepared in ways that the majority of people will not be. They may never ever want to compete and that’s fine. I know that the experiences they gain through Jiu Jitsu will prepare them in ways I never can as just their dad.
BJJL:A guy your size must have a difficult time finding the optimal training partner. You are in great shape, but you are what I call, a size extra. How do you compensate when training so that you don’t get hurt or so that you don’t hurt anyone?
JY: Being a big guy comes with its challenges and its pros for sure. It has always been my approach to training to try and move like a little guy. I never wanted to have a static strength type of game. I have always strived to have a flow more in tune with someone that is 150lbs or lighter as opposed to the kind of games that you see from guys 220lbs and above. Injuries will happen in training but I have found that there are three main philosophies when training jitz. Win/lose… lose/lose… and win/win… I strive to keep a 40% win/lose to 60% win/win ratio. A win/lose roll is a competitive roll. A win/win roll is more along the lines of catch and release or flow rolls. This way it allows me to explore and expand my game because of the investment that my partner and I put into our training rolls. You cannot however ever remove competitive rolls. If you do then what good would it be if you had to defend yourself on the street or in a competition.
BJJL:What aspect of your game do you think has improved the most since you began training?
JY: The aspect of my game that has improved the most would have to be my inversions and also my escapes. Movement with a purpose but never straying from the movement. As soon as you stop moving you start dying
BJJL:What do you try to instill in your students the moment the set foot on the mat?
JY: I try to instill in the students to invest in losing or as we call it learning. I try to let people know that the wall of China wasn’t built in a day. There are so many ways to answer this question but the truth is that it is different for each student. Everyone has an individual journey!!
BJJL: I don’t know how many people are aware of this but in 2012 you were inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Instructor of the Year. That is an AMAZING accomplishment. Talk about what that meant to you, to your family.
JY: That was a VERY unexpected honor! I do this because I love Jiu Jitsu and I love helping people. In a way I see Ohana Academy as a church, a church of Jiu Jitsu! Lol but that is the truth. Being inducted was a major validation and one in which I am EXTREMELY proud of!
BJJL:What are the various programs that Ohana has to offer?
JY: My first academy (the Central San Antonio location) offers it all and we still pretty much do. We have BJJ, Boxing, Wrestling, Muay Thai, No Gi, and of course MMA. My second location in Stone Oak we wanted to create a grappling only school where our focus was Jiu Jitsu!
BJJL:Ohana had a transition with its black belts. Gustavo Carpio moved to California and you were able to partner with Bruno Alves (GFT). How did that transpire?
JY: Gustavo had a great opportunity to partner up with some business men in California and open his own school, Connect Jiu Jitsu. I was sad to see him go but so happy for him and his family! We still text and talk all the time. That’s one of things that I love about jitz, every class is the opportunity to meet your next lifelong friend. Basketball never did that for me. The opportunity to work with Bruno Alves was like a golden egg falling into my lap. He is a great guy with great Jiu Jitsu and an awesome addition to our family. It has been a pleasure to get to know him and his wife Alessandra.
BJJL:What are your long-term plans for Ohana?
JY: My long term plans for Ohana are to always be a family environment that uses Jiu Jitsu as a vehicle for accomplishing whatever your goals are. Whether that is to be a world champion, lose weight, stress relief, self-defense, or open up your own school.
BJJL:You have had a rough year due to illness, will you talk a bit about that?
JY: This year has been one of the most trying years of my life. I was diagnosed in 2009 with Crohn’s disease/ ulcerative colitis. In Nov 2014 I went into the ER for lower abdominal pain. At the ER they diagnosed me as having diverticulitis. I then had another colonoscopy in Dec 2014 and it was there that the doctor said I was misdiagnosed and it was not diverticulitis but instead a ball of cancerous cells in my colon. This is the average for people with active ulcerative colitis.
The risk for cancer increases dramatically after 6 years of an active disease. Since being diagnosed with that I have undergone chemo infusions, steroidal treatment, tons of drugs. I literally can’t even list them all. I have had countless accidents. At times it feels like I’m trapped in my own home due to the fact that I can’t leave without the risk of an accident. Then the doctors ordered me on total bowel rest which means they inserted a PICC line and every night for 14hrs I was given medicine and food. When I say food I mean this nasty white substance that had carbs and fats and proteins. I did this for just over three months before the PICC line became infected and the organism tunneled through my heart and made its way into my lungs and then was filtered into my blood.
I then had heart failure, kidney failure, and liver failure with a bad case of pneumonia in my lungs. In other words my body was septic. The doctors said that if I had waited one more hour I would have been dead. I then spent six days in the ICU. After getting out I refused to have the PICC line put back in and instead went on a juice fast after watching the documentary fat, sick, and nearly dying (I also competed in the Austin open five days after getting out of the ICU…DUMB). Since then I have begun a drastic recovery. I am still receiving infusions and am still on numerous medications including the steroids.
The good news is that after all this the ball of cells has decreased dramatically. I am still waiting to do another colonoscopy to biopsy the mass and go from there. Throughout these things I would never be able to have made it to where I am now without the constant help and support of my wife Megan. She has been there for me through everything and her undying love even in the worst situations has been such a blessing, but that’s what family is! That’s OHANA.
BJJL:Biggest setback since you began training?
JY: The biggest setback in my training has been these last 9 months.
JY: My proudest moment was winning the No Gi worlds as a brown belt. I have not yet been able to compete in the worlds as a black belt due to my health but I promise you I will make it back
JY: I think we all have regrets or things we would have liked to have done better. I wish I had started juicing earlier, paying closer attention to my health, and trying to do everything in my power to not let this sort of happen. I know that some things are out of my control but if I had known the type of affect that juicing has had on my disease I would have started years ago.
BJJL:Do you have anything coming up in the next few months at Ohana that you would like to announce?
JY: Coming up at the end of the year we have our rank day on Dec 3rd and I’m excited to announce the 1st annual OAC (Ohana Award Ceremony)happening on Dec 4th. This is going to be an awesome event where it will not be as strict as a black tie affair but more like a black tie affair OHANA style!
BJJL:Would you like to thank anyone for helping you along the way?
JY: First and foremost I want to thank the lord Jesus Christ, then my wife, and my two beautiful princesses. My father and mother for their support. My professor Sergio Correra, Gustavo Carpio, Randy for all of his awesome insights, and all my students that have believed in us and the concept that is Ohana Jiu Jitsu.
A journey begins and ends wherever we want it to. The path is ours to choose. When the time comes will you fight? Will you fight for your hopes, your dreams, and the very air that you breathe? When the time comes will the fight be in you? Will you push the limits and go above and beyond what is humanly possible? Professor Yerrington chose to fight. He has fought every step of the way of his journey in BJJ and in life. Professor Yerrington’s Journey is unique and inspirational. On that day when you know you have absolutely nothing left and you think you have gone as far as you can go. Just get up, think outside of yourself for a moment, and just like Professor Yerrington, FIGHT!
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”-Confucius
Follow Professor Jason Yerrington and Ohana Academy at:
Indefinite hold; Shama Ko spent years working towards the culmination of one's journey in BJJ, receiving the black belt, only to have her dream deferred by grand mal seizures (unrelated to training). A proud Gracie Humaita brown belt, she has but one more rung on the ladder. She is oh so close, yet so far.
“The deeper the difficulty in fulfilling a dream, the brighter the outcome of its fulfillment and the sweeter the celebration thereof. Persist to the end; don't give up!”-Israelmore Ayivor
BJJL: Why BJJ....when did you start and how did you get hooked? Shama Ko: If you would've asked me 15 years ago I would have told you then I had no interest in martial arts. It took some convincing for me to change my mind. I had been exposed to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since 1996, but it took six years for me to try it out for myself.
Under the guidance of some good friends I tried my first martial art in order to learn how to defend myself, but mostly I was looking for an outlet to get in shape. I started training Muay Thai in 2000. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't enough for me. It wasn't until a friend started teaching a women's only Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class that I was finally persuaded to try Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. If not for her women's only class I'm not sure if I would have been comfortable enough to take that first step. And so my journey began in 2003 under the instruction of Phil Cardella at Relson Gracie Austin.
It wasn't until I went through a really hard break up from a long term relationship that I started to really get "hooked" on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I was devastated and heartbroken after the break up. I felt worthless, depressed and my self-confidence was in the toilet; but through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I found myself, my strength and realized my value. My addiction was taken to a whole new level once I started competing. That's when I learned to really push my limits and realized what I am capable of. It was more than I ever imagined.
BJJL: What's your lineage? SK: I am on the Gracie Humaitá team under Paulo Brandao. Our lineage is: Helio Gracie-Royler Gracie-Paulo Brandao
BJJL: Who inspired you when you started and who still inspires you today? SK: When I first started training there was only a handful of female black belts to look up to. I remember watching a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu video with a friend of mine and Leticia Ribiero was one of the athletes featured on the video. I was glued to the t.v. She was the first female black belt I’d ever seen and she was tough as nails. Instantly she became my hero and she continues to be today. There are so many people that have inspired me along the way and touched my heart. I have been very lucky to have meet so many people that continue to inspire me and enrich my life. Most inspiring are the women of the Yvone Magalhaes Duarte, Leka Vieira, Hannette Staack and Leticia Ribeiro generation. They were pioneers and true warriors. They were bold and brave. They fought against the norm and dealt with the resistance of not taking on the traditional role of a “women” during that time in South America. They have paved the way for all of us. The struggles they endured in a lot of ways has made it easier for us. And most importantly they have given us strong role models to look up to. We would not be where we are today without them.
BJJL: What was your very first competition like? SK: My first competition was nothing like what you see today. I only had two girls in my division and none of us were the same weight or belt. This was a fairly common experience when competing back then. I was lucky to even get a female competitor to show up. I quickly learned that cutting weight for local tournaments was absolutely pointless. The only time I really had an opportunity to compete with someone my size and belt was at the first IBJJF World Championships in California. Back then the divisions we're not nearly as stacked as you see today. Purple, brown and black belts were still together in one division because there just wasn’t enough girls competing. Thankfully by the time I got my purple in 2007 the purple belts finally had their own divisions. I was among the first group of girls to fight in the purple belt division. It has truly been amazing to see the female divisions grow and the progress that women have made in the competition scene. 12 years ago nobody was even talking about equal pay for BJJ or supporting women’s BJJ. The times have certainly changed.
BJJL: You had to stop competing due to an injury a few years ago...what caused this?
SK: I was an avid competitor from 2004 until 2011 when I sustained a knee injury during competition. I should have stopped training but I thought it was just some minor injury that would heal on its own if I took a small break. I continued to train and re-injure it for close to a year. It turns out I had torn 90% of my meniscus and a separated ACL. If I had known this I would have stopped training sooner but how could I? I did not have insurance when it happened and was considered uninsurable due to it being a pre-existing condition (before Obamacare). That knee injury took me out of training for almost 3 years. I was devastated when I realized I had to stop training and competing. I felt like I lost a huge part of myself, my identity, my purpose and passion. I had worked so hard and was on my way up. I finally started to win big. My life and identity was being a competitor. My whole life revolved around training full time. I had big dreams for myself as a competitor. I realize now this was just a beginning of a new chapter in life. I was destined for something even bigger, something more valuable than any medals I ever earned or could have earned.
BJJL: Girls in Gis...you are the glue that holds the organization together...after almost 6 years how has the mission and vision evolved and where would you like to see the organization in the next 5 years?
SK: The concept of Girls in Gis was developed to unite and help grow the community of females in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. We started with fifteen girls at our first event and now we have events in five states and average around 50-130 participants at each event. This is only the beginning. As we have grown our purpose has not changed, we have evolved while maintaining true to the cause. This is a movement that is only gaining more momentum.
We have come a long way, but there is always room to do more and impact more lives. We have seen a tremendous impact in our chapters and we will be rapidly expanding to open more chapters in the next year. We also have a lot of projects in the works right now that will deeply impact and serve the community on a whole new level. I am very excited to see what the next five years will bring. I have had so many ideas for years now that are finally starting to manifest. It is going to be amazing!
BJJL: You received your brown belt in 2014 and then your dreams were once again deferred. Tell me about your first seizure. SK: I spent 6 years as a purple belt. There were so many highs and lows and lessons learned in that time. During that time a lot happened. I changing teams and was out for almost three years with an injury. My years as a purple belt were some of the best years I ever had. I got to compete with legendary female black belts as a purple belt. I watched my generation move on into their brown and then black belts. I won't lie it was hard being left behind. The day I earned my brown belt was bitter sweet. I was so attached to my purple belt at that point I wasn't ready to let go. I was also very excited to start the new chapter and new phase of my journey. It was surreal to finally have that new belt wrapped around my waist after all those years of wondering when it would come.
I was really only brown belt for three months before I collapsed during jiu-jitsu and had my first grand mal seizure. You can only imagine the disappointment I had knowing that I would be out of jiu-jitsu for an undetermined period of time again.
I had never had seizures before. It was an ordinary jiu-jitsu class. It was right at the bringing of class and we had not even done a warm-up. All of a sudden my body started convulsing. I spun and dropped to the mat. I screamed out "Oh my God!!! Help!!!" Then it want black. I remember my last thought being at least I died doing what I love doing.
It could not have happened at a more perfect time and place. I was with my Gracie Humaita family and fell on the soft mats. My team responded promptly to making sure I was okay and safe. I woke up completely disoriented with the EMTs standing over me. I don't remember much, but my teammates told me that after I stop convulsing I opened my eyes and I smiled. Perhaps I was happy to know I was still alive.
BJJL: You had a seizure one day and they have not stopped. Explain how this has affected your day to day routine.
SK: My life has been turned upside down and inside out. I am not able to live the same life I was living before this all started last October. Maybe that is a good thing. Those that know me, know I was the type of person that could not sit still. I was constantly on the move.
Life slammed the breaks on me when I was running at full speed. I went from 100 MPH to zero. I could not function for months. I led an extremely active and busy lifestyle. I traveled non-stop on a weekly basis between running my photography biz and for Girls in Gis. I worked 10-12 hours a day 5-6 days a week. Now I am not even half the person I used to be. I am lucky to work a few hours a day, 2-3 days a week and it has taken me months to get here. I am suffering from a lot of other symptoms that make it difficult to live a functioning life.
BJJL: Has there been an explanation regarding the onset of your seizures?
SK: I have seen more specialist than I can count. I’ve gotten a handful of diagnoses. Texas doctors thought it was one thing, Hawaii doctors think it’s another. I’ve tried a few drugs. Some made it worse, some didn’t do anything. I am hoping we have the right cocktail going now. My fingers are crossed. The only thing they can confirm is that I do have two birth defects or malformations. One is called Polymicrogyria the other is Gray Matter Heterotopia. Both I have had all my life, but as to why I am having symptoms now in my mid-thirties is the mystery. Seizures are just one of the symptoms I have been experiencing so I know it has to be more than just epilepsy. I strongly believe that something else is going on. That is why I continue to explore all options in search of answers. I know I am getting closer. I don’t give up that easy. I will get to the bottom of this.
BJJL: Now, you got sick and the BJJ community rallied around you, how did that make you feel?
SK: I was overwhelmed by the love and support I received. I don’t think I have ever felt so loved before in my life. It was more than I could have ever imagined. Everyone was so willing to help me when I needed it most. Even people I had never meet before. It proved to me that we really are a strong, supportive, and loving family. I can't tell you how much it lifted my spirits and that is so important when life is dragging you down. I am so very blessed and grateful for everyone’s efforts. I don’t think I would be as strong as I am now if not for the support I was shown. Some days are harder than others, but I know I have a lot of people cheering me on every step of the way. I find strength in knowing I am not alone in all of this.
BJJL: Your overall prognosis, what does it mean in terms of you returning to the mats?
SK: In addition to the seizures among other symptoms, I have been having chronic fatigue. If you knew me before all of this started, you know I am huge ball of energy that can’t sit still. For the past eight months I have struggled to get through the day. I am not the same person. However, I have had a lot of time to get to know my body and listen to the warning signs. I have been doing less combative exercise like walks, yoga and I just started having the courage to ride a bike again (of course with a helmet). I know I will be able to return to the mats, but I am in no rush. Maybe in the next few months, but for now I need to keep it mellow and be gentle to my body. That is what it needs and I know the mats will be there for me when I am ready. Now is not the time to push myself as I have in the past.
BJJL: There are misconceptions that people have when it comes to seizures and training BJJ are there any you would like to dispel?
SK: As a competitor I was always pushing my limits and not allowing myself to quit. I pushed too hard at times which led to injuries. This mentality has made me tough, but I face a different struggle now. I must really listen to my body, respect my limitations, and learn to find a balance. Each day I am listening and learning more and more, but it is not an easy task to find balance.
So many people have reached out to me in the BJJ community that have epilepsy and they have been a huge source of support for me, reassuring me that I can and will be able to train again. Lots of people live normal lives with epilepsy and debilitating conditions.
We all have “handicaps”, some are just more apparent than others. Regardless of what ours is it doesn’t mean we can’t live the life we want to. I would rather live the life I want to than live a sedentary life always wondering what if. I think that we are capable of doing anything we set our minds on doing. Fear and doubt are our biggest obstacles, but no obstacle is too big to overcome.
Your journey in BJJ is what you make of it with the hand you are dealt. Each journey is unique and tailored to the individual. Some have all the time in the world to train, train, train, and advance very quickly through the ranks. While others have limited time, must relocate frequently, and are plagued by injuries and illness. Ko has not let any of her challenges deter her. She continues to make the best of the hand she has been dealt. Her health is the most important thing right now but the mats are not far from her mind. Ko is down but never count her out.
“seven times down eight times up like the Daruma doll” -Chris Bradford
You may find yourself fighting off members of the opposite sex who are in love with your BJJ Globtrotters rash guard.
When I was asked to review the first release rash guard from BJJ GLOBETROTTERS I was excited to say the least. I have been following Christian Graugart and his brand on social media ever since reading his book, not long after I started my own journey into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The BJJ Globetrotter has been around a fair while now and was born with a once in a lifetime trip around the world training at as many gyms along the way. They have an awesome set of common values that clearly resonates through the ever growing fan base attached to them.
Here is a little something they put on the site that really shows the brand is about:
BJJ Globetrotters offers an alternative to traditional affiliation within Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Membership of the community is open for anyone (both individuals and gyms), and there are basically no requirements to join, other than to spread—and agree with—the message :)
The members don’t represent a specific person, academy, instructor or lineage. They are merely a world-wide community of people, who share a common set of values:
We don’t pay each other any affiliation fees
We wear any patches we like on our gis
We are free to represent any (or no) team in competition
We encourage training with anyone regardless of affiliation
We are willing to promote anyone who deserves it—members or not
We arrange camps, seminars and visit each other for training and fun
We believe everyone is equal both on and off the mats
We strive to enjoy life, people and the world through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
One thing I must say about this Christian and his brand it the fact he is willing to give back to the Travelling Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community by providing sponsorships to build their foundations and achieve the trip of a life time that allowed him to start the brand.
Let’s get to the review.
WHAT YOU’RE GETTING
BJJ Globetrotter Rash guard – First Release Rash guard
I will be reviewing the XL Rash guard
I am 92 kgs and 184cm tall, or 202llbs and 6’1
a. The artwork combines bright colours with a beachside backdrop and an old VW with a surfboard on top; one can’t help but see the casakickapoo theme that features heavily in the Globetrotter camps (annual summer camp).
b. The artwork is 100% sublimated and will not crack, peel or fade even after heavy and prolonged usage.
c. The fabric is high quality and reinforced with flat lock stitching for comfort. There are no seams in the underarms and the tags are also 100% sublimated for maximum comfort.
80% Polyester and 20% Spandex
Machine wash cold
Do not iron or dry clean
Have the possibility to shrink a little depending on wash method.
FIRST LOOK IMPRESSIONS:
As soon as I open the parcel that was sent the rash guard was a stand out in terms of artwork and quality. The rash guard is smooth and has yellow stitching to add that little extra pop to the already bright design. I can’t wait to be able to train in these products. The feel of the rash guard without even trying it on are amongst the softest I have felt. All the products seem to have been prewashed so there are no remnants of chemicals, which means, I am going to train in this right now! A + for the first impressions.
FIRST WORKOUT AND ROLL:
The fit and feel of the rash guard is amazing, just as soft as I had imagined while holding them straight out of the package. The rash guard has a strip around the bottom of the rash guard which will lock onto a pair of spats or if worn without spats will lock under your fight shorts. This is something that was appreciated by not just me, but everyone else on the mat. My belly isn’t on any wonder of the world lists, people won’t travel across the world to see it slip out mid roll that is certain.
The other cool thing about both the rash guard was the fact that I stayed warm during training. I can almost guarantee anyone who has trained No Gi once or twice knows that feeling once you start cooling down the rash guard can sometimes make you feel cold however I did not experience that at all. Between rolls with the next training partner I stayed warm and did not experience the “cooling off” effect. The rash guard stood up during the hard training and after one hour of rolling I was still warm (not to hot) and I was completely rash and cut free which is always a bonus. Rating: A+ for my first workout and roll impressions.
FIRST WASH AND FIT:
After the first wash I was still impressed as ever with both the rash guard I actually trained again a second time the following day with the rash guard under the Gi. I accidentally left it in the washer on the second wash and my wife threw them into the dryer. Like an honest man on a winter’s day minimal shrinkage was noticed however IT STILL FIT! I would not recommend doing that often due to possibly of shortening the life of the rash guard but I was amazed that it held up and still looked as good as the day I received them. The fit was still amazing and I use it almost daily. Not only for BJJ this rash guard would look great out amongst the waves however the middle of winter in Australia and I am a wimp when it comes to cold water so no surfing for me.
1. Will not shrink on you after a wash.
2. Awesome Graphics to set you apart.
3. The artwork is 100% sublimated and will not crack, peel or fade!
4. Great price for what you are getting.
5. No infections or rashes to be seen whilst wearing this product.
6. Will be the best looking guy or girl on the mat on No Gi night.
1. Recommended to hang dry, so do not forget to pull it out of the wash before class so it will dry in time.
2. Sizes run a little small so if you are in-between sizes order up, worst case scenario send it back for a free exchange.
3. It is a little harder to hold submissions due to the slickness of the material although this could be the lack of No Gi training that I do. :) (Typical with any rash guard but it will improve the little technical details.)
4. You have to wait for it to arrive at your house. (Although postage from Denmark to Australia was not exceeding 2 weeks).
5. May have to use your BJJ skills in a real life situation if worn outside the gym. (Fighting off members of the opposite sex who are in love with your item)
6. May run out of room for all your trophies won for “best dressed” at events.
I have purchased a few different items from BJJ Globetrotters and everything has been of great quality. Christian has done a great job building his brand into a worldwide movement with patches and gear popping up all over the place. The rash guard I reviewed was the first release that was made however I can honestly say that the quality of the gear that comes out of Globetrotter HQ is second to none matched by their service sees this rash guard in particular get 4 Gis out of 5.
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
Da Firma Kimono Company: How the Brand Continues to Evolve
The Da Firma Kimono Company established a brand of kimonos customizable to the body type of the individual only a few years ago. This year the Da Firma Training Center opened its doors for training. In a remarkable amount of time Ricardo Tubbs, a dedicated service member, and owner of DFKC expanded his brand and it is thriving. The company is a major supporter of 2 non-profit organizations and sponsors some outstanding athletes. With the impending release of an updated version of one of the brands most popular selling kimonos (the Arte Suave V2) BJJ Legends took some time out to talk to the DFKC owner Ricardo Tubbs about the Da Firma Kimono Company, family, and brand.
As a service member, how did you get involved with BJJ?
My very good friend Andy Barker was the one who first really got me on the mats. Andy is a Judo Black Belt who was starting to cross train in BJJ. Before that my very first grappling lesson was from a guy named Bas Rutten, after training with me he went on to become a UFC Hall of Famer…coincidence …….I think not! He did give me my first lesson but the last part is a joke before Mr. Rutten kicks my butt (notice how I called him Mr. Rutten)
What’s your lineage?
As a service member I traveled and moved a lot, trained under Marcelo Alcantar and Alan Merullo in the past. I am very proud to be a Brown Belt under Master Ricardo Cavalcanti. He is an amazing man and true leader; he is located in Las Vegas, Nevada. My current professor is Jean “Dalua” Cartagena and I train at Da Firm Training Center in Chesapeake VA, www.dafirmatc.com. We are part of the Cavalcanti Jiu Jitsu association. Master Ricardo Cavalcanti is one of very few men to receive his Black Belt from Grand Master Carlson Gracie.Mitsuyo Maeda > Carlos Gracie > Carlson Gracie > Ricardo Cavalcanti.
Do you ever have the opportunity to compete?
I competed a lot in the past and have done very well. I am recovering from knee surgery but I plan to compete again next year in the NO-GI Pans and the Senior-Master Worlds. I will also compete in a few of the regional tournaments. I would also like a super fight with Guto Braga from BJJ Graphics…..calling you out buddy! Metamoris, EBI seems like the best venue.
How did you convince your family members to also start training?
It was not that hard to convince them, we all enjoy it is a family thing. The family that trains together…submits people together!
What made you want to start your own Kimono Co?
My family owned a small clothing factory in Massachusetts when I was a kid, when I started Jiu Jitsu I always thought I could make high quality gear for a fair price. It took me a long time to start, but I was on deployment in Afghanistan and some crazy things happened (to make a long story short) when I came home I started the company.
How do you develop your designs/color schemes for your kimonos?
I listen to my customers and my athletes to be honest with you. I like to change up the colors every year or so. We try not to do anything too over the top or blingy but we want to have a clean look that stands out.
What determines when you will release a special edition?
When we finally decide on a final look, that is when we release new products. I would not say that there is a 100% formula, but we will be releasing the Arte Suave V2 for Pre-sale at the end of September so that they will be available well in advance of the holidays.
How do you determine the price per edition?
As far as price goes we do our best to keep the prices low, the pricing on the limited edition kimonos are usually higher because they cost more to make. Just wait until you see the new Arte Suave V2! We collaborated with Guto Braga from www.bjjgraphics.com for an incredibly beautiful design for the inside of the kimono, but right now it is a secret.
Your kimonos are ideal for women because they accommodate the extremely petite. When you conceptualized the idea of starting a Kimono Co did you think about the gap in the market for women?
I think our kimonos accommodate people of every size. We have 46 different sizes available, long, short, middle, regular, and combinations of all of them.Yes, we thought about the gap for women, we could never find the perfect kimono for my wife so I made it. When we designed our first women’s kimonos with a lot of help from Lana Hunter who went on to become the very first DFKC sponsored athlete. I think we had a group of 20 women, of different body types, that Lana recruited for us to design the first women’s cut. We did the same thing with the guys, but it was a lot more difficult with the women’s kimonos. We started from the ground up, with totally new patterns. I wanted our kimonos to be a true women’s cut!
You will take one of your bulk item kimonos and customize it for an individual customer, NO ONE else does this. This truly sets you apart from all other Kimono companies. What gave you the idea to do this?
Actually we don’t use bulk kimonos to customize, we actually design the kimonos for the customers and make them a truly custom kimono. We are pretty quick too; we take about 8 weeks to turn things around, sometimes we are faster. I had the idea because I traveled a lot and I noticed two things: the teams with custom uniforms had more students and the smaller schools did not think they could afford it. My goal was to make high quality gear that every academy could afford regardless of size.
You have a very quick turnaround rate when an individual buys a Kimono that is not a special order, it is two to three days in the U.S. (correct me if I’m wrong), what is the turnaround rate for an order going overseas?
Yes we try to get orders shipped out the same day they are ordered, I hated ordering from a big online store and waiting 2-3 weeks to get my gear. Depending upon the country and the importation rules it will take about 1-2 weeks on average for overseas shipments.
Are there any overseas areas you can’t ship to and why?
We ship just about everywhere in the world.
Your company sponsors some very prestigious BJJ competitors, what made you decide to start doing this?
We sponsor people who we think represent Jiu Jitsu and our company with respect and dignity. All of our athletes are special people; if you read their biographies you will see what I mean. They are all good people, there is a lot more to them than podium appearances and twitter followers.
Do you have a process that the competitors have to go thru or do you approach them for sponsorship?
I pretty much will not consider anyone for sponsorship unless they own our gear. To me a sponsored athlete must love the gear that they represent; if not sponsorship is just about getting free stuff. I do something I call a spot sponsorship; I pay close attention to people who wear our kimonos and post about us on social media wearing our gear. I will contact them and let them know that I will pay for a tournament entry fee for them. I really love to connect with our clients like this, it is fun and you make a friend for life. It is great way to pay back loyalty. I also love to go to tournaments and talk to people who are wearing our gear, I usually don’t tell them who I am until the end of the conversation!
This past year your brand expanded even more with the opening of DTC, how long had you been planning that?
We are very proud of Da Firma Training Center in Chesapeake VA, www.dafrmatc.com. We are starting to grow and I am very proud of our team. Our Professor, is Jean “Dalua” Cartagena, a Carlson Gracie Black Belt under Andre “Tim” Monteiro. We offer Athletic Performance Strength and Conditioning, with Coach Zack Roberts and Yoga!
What can we look forward to next DFKC energy bars or drinks, the brand must continue expanding ;)?
Haha, no we are not expanding into any of those arenas, but we love to support other companies that do! We would rather partner with other like-minded companies.
What has been your biggest accomplishment with the growth and expansion of the DFKC Brand so far?
Making great gear that is affordable that fits the fighter. I am really proud that we have been able to support two non-profit Jiu Jitsu organizations in the states, Vector Jiu Jitsu in Mississippi and Level Ground MMA in Massachusetts; we also have been able to support two social programs in Brazil with Action and Reaction (Master Ricardo Cavalcanti Professor Moises Costa) and Brazil 021 (Andre Torencio and Hannette Staack)
What has been your biggest disappointment?
Anytime we make mistake it drives me nuts!
What are your long-term goals for the DFKC/DTC?
I love where we are going with DFKC we are improving every day and it is awesome! As far as DTC we are looking to grow and teach authentic BJJ. We want to be a staple in our community and provided training to everyone, especially our police officers and military members. Jiu Jitsu has changed my life and I want everyone in my community to have the opportunity to learn what I have. We are more than just a local small business at DTC we are a part of the community. We will provide high level training, but not just competition BJJ, real world, self-defense, and training. We recently had DFKC athlete and MMA veteran and Coach Jorge Gurgel in for a seminar, and next month Master Ricardo Cavalcanti will be in the house. We have some pretty awesome seminars planned for next year too!
Team Gacho: Alliance Powerhouse Competitors of Texas
“You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” - Jack London
The last two years for Team Gacho has been outstanding. Gold at Master's Worlds, Gold at Pans, Gold at Worlds, Gold at Kid's Pans, the list goes on and on. This family of competitors is an absolute POWERHOUSE. It takes hard work to achieve this level of succes as an individual. It is amazing that this family is able to achieve such success as a team. They are truly an inspiration to us all. Husband and wife, black belt Raul Jimenez and brown Gabriela Muller talk with BJJ Legends about the biggest loves in their lives their family and BJJ. Team Alliance Gacho is located in Spring Texas, about an hours drive outside of Houston.
BJJL: Why MMA? Is it big in your Country?
Raul: MMA is big in Ecuador but Jiu-Jitsu is bigger, more people do Jiu-Jitsu. I wanted to do MMA for the adrenaline and to challenge myself and see what I can do. Also, I got to travel with MMA, I fight in Brazil, Korea, Ecuador and Mexico.
BJJL: Husband/Wife how did you meet?
Raul: We met in school in Ecuador.
Gaby: In school in Ecuador. I moved there when I was 12. We went to the same private school and hung out with the same people.
BJJL: You’re a family that does this as a cohesive unit, are your children interested in anything other than BJJ?
Raul: My son Roberto does wrestling in school, he also likes to ride his skateboard and Matias wants to do wrestle.
Gaby: Roberto wrestles, cruises on his skateboard, unicycles and his dream to to learn how to surf. Matias wants to wrestle as well and his seems interested in soccer and gymnastics.
BJJL: As a support system for each other how has this helped you all these years as you achieved your goals?
Raul: My wife and son help with the academy when I travel to compete or seminars.
Gaby: Before Roberto got so big he was my best training partner. We were about the same weight and he pushed me, now he smashes or plays with me (ughhhh)
BJJL: Talk to me about your BJJ lineage?
Raul: I am a black belt under Mestre Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti and he is a black belt under Master Rolls Gracie.
Gaby: I am under Alliance, Mestre Romero “Jacare” Cavalcanti gave me my purple belt and my husband is my main instructor.
BJJL: What equals a well-rounded fighter? How does one train to become the equivalent of a Kenan Cornelius?
Raul: Train hard, there is no other way.
Gaby: There is no easy way to be a well-rounded fighter. I see my son’s evolution and how much he has worked to get to the level he is at. You need to be dedicated, train hard and love it.
BJJL: Is there anything you would like to tell a person that is starting out in MMA/BJJ/Boxing…etc? Some pearls of wisdom you wish you had known that would have prevented injury, aggravation, etc?
Raul: Don’t hurt your partners. Leave your ego when you go train. If you hurt your teammates you won’t have anyone to train with. Also, don’t say “let’s roll light,” then try to rip off their foot.
Gaby: I would tell them not to spaz out and work on technique and not on ripping your teammates head off.
BJJL: The right gym, the right black belt, what advice do you have for people searching for the right environment to train in?
Raul: It is both. You need to find an academy that is serious about the sport. Find out the credentials of the instructor. If you're interested in competing, find a school with an instructor that competes and will push you to train hard.
Gaby: You need to train where you feel comfortable. Research the instructor, see what their Bjj lineage is.
BJJL: If there is one thing (across the board) that you would like to be standardized when it comes to BJJ rules, what would it be?
Raul: I don’t like advantages, you should get point on what you actually did, not almost do.
Gaby: Let purple belts do toeholds and knee bars.
BJJL: There are so many BJJ competitions out there, a person could compete on weekly basis, how does one distinguish a good tournament from a bad one?
Raul: Find tournaments that are organized and don’t mix weights and belt ranks just to fill a bracket.
Gaby: I like to refer our students to the well-organized tournaments.
BJJL: What is a solid piece of advice you think all competitors would benefit from when picking a tournament to compete in?
Raul: There are so many options, just look at the rules and see what tournament fits you.
Gaby: Compete when you are ready and feel comfortable.
BJJL: Do you have any women only classes?
Raul: Not at the moment, Gaby wants to do one in the summer.
Gaby: No, we don’t have enough girls for that.
BJJL: Do you have any thoughts about women only classes? Any thoughts on, “The Blue Belt Curse” in relation to women that train?
Raul: I support all women's class but it’s hard to find women that train and love it. The blue belt curse is for men and women, they think they black belts when they get the blue belt. Blue belt is you finishing kindergarten, I don’t understand why people quit.
Gaby: I think there are great, even all women’s open mats are extremely beneficial to women that train. Personally, I am not one to start something and not finish. I recently just graduated college at 37 years old. When I started jiu-jitsu I never had a doubt in my mind that I would continue until I got my black belt. I don’t understand women that start training for 1 or 2 years and quit. I think in the first weeks on training you know if it's right for you. If you accomplish getting your blue belt why quit?
BJJL: Your Team finished strong in 2014 and has started 2015 with a bang, what do you attribute your success thus far to?
Raul: Alliance is a successful team because everyone helps each other, all the top level guys share their knowledge to everyone on the team and the team is always evolving. We don’t just stay on the basics. My school is still small and I would like to continue to see it grow, I want to form champions, not just my kids, I want to see my students up on the podiums at high level tournaments.
Gaby: Alliance it the only team to win 10 world titles. There are many high quality, top notch athletes.
BJJL: Your oldest son (Roberto, 15) has been competing since he was very young, he is a force in the BJJ world. He is a dynamic competitor to watch, why do you think he is so driven in this sport?
Raul: He loves the sport. If it was up to him, he would only train, eat and sleep. He is driven because he wants to be a world champion at every belt.
Gaby: It took him a while to warm up to the sport but now he only thinks about training. I think his passion is seen on the mats when he is competing.
BJJL: Do you have any regrets thus far? Training miss steps/setbacks, not following advice, etc.
Raul: Rest when my body needs it, if you have an injury listen to your body and rest. Also, I thought that bodybuilding and lifting heavy would help me when being big guy doesn’t help and it's important to eat right all the time.
Gaby: I wish I started training when I was younger. If I would have started when Raul started training I would be a black belt. Not cutting too much weight.
BJJL: What has been your proudest moment since you began the practice of BJJ?
Raul: Winning Pan-Ams as a black belt, brown belt and purple belt and getting my black belt.
Gaby: Winning my first IBJJF gold last year at Dallas Open
BJJL: What are your plans for the future? What goals do you still have left?
Raul:Keep training as long as my body allows me to. I would like to be ranked number one in my division. Make my boys, my daughter that will be born in December, and my students World Champions.
Gaby: I want to get my black belt and continue to compete. I compete masters so I would like to win Masters Worlds or Pan Ams.
BJJL: Is there anyone you would like to thank that you have never had the opportunity to thank for helping you get to where you are today?
Raul: My wife, I don’t thank her enough for everything she does and all her support.
Gaby: My husband and sons, they motivate me every day.
BJJL: If you could go back and change anything about your journey, would you?
Raul: I am happy with everything I have accomplished. I wish I started younger and focused more on my training when I was younger. I am glad I pushed my kids to train and not quit because they will be champions.
Gaby: Just wish I started younger and valued the importance of drilling earlier in my journey. I feel my game got better the more I drilled.
Team Gacho started off 2015 with an unbelievable winning streak and has been on a roll ever since. 2016 is right around the corner and I see no signs of them slowing down. This family trains together, competes together, and wins together. That is something we all can respect and admire. Team Gacho is reaping the benefits of all their years of hard work and deserve each and every blessing that has come their way.
“I ask not for any crown But that which all may win Nor try to conquer any world Except the one within.”
Strength, Dignity, & Perseverance: Sophia McDermott Drysdale an Empowering Female Voice in the BJJ Community
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” -Anais Nin
We grow and we change, and hopefully for the better. The game of BJJ is constantly evolving and the first female Austrailian Black Belt, Sophia McDermott Drysdale shares her thoughts on how she has grown and evolved. Multiple injuries plagued her throuhout her career however, it did not hinder her success. We hear her thoughts on everything from BJJ and the olympics, rule changes, branching out into fitness competitions, to her charity work. If you haven't had the opportunity to shadow Sophia's career, there is no time like the present, she has grown up in more ways than one in this game and her growth is evident when she she competes.
BJJL: Why BJJ?
SMD: I started my training as a gymnast. I trained with my identical twin sister for about 10 years in the elite squad at my gym. I was searching for something that was as mentally and physically challenging as gymnastics and with my very first BJJ training session, I knew that it is what I had been looking for.
BJJL: What were your hobbies growing up?
SMD: I was very artistic and musical. I originally studied fashion design at the Melbourne Institute of Fashion. I loved to draw and paint and sculpt and play the drums. I was in a band that focused on blues and jazz for about 10 years. I grew up doing all this in addition to gymnastics which I also practiced for about 10 years.
As time went on I specialized more and more in BJJ and building a career as a personal trainer focusing on functional strength training and nutrition. I qualified for my Cert 4 in personal training and nutrition back in 2002.
BJJL: Who were your influences as an up and coming practitioner?
SMD: I never really idolized anyone moving up the ranks during my journey. However, I remember watching Hannette Staack and Kyra Gracie during their black belt final match at the World Championships in Brazil while I was still a purple belt, which was very inspiring. That year unfortunately I took home a silver medal and not the gold. :(
BJJL: Why did you decide to leave Australia and settle in the U.S.?
SMD: I really wanted to pursue my dreams in BJJ. I was a big fish in a small pond back in Australia and the only real way to challenge myself was to compete overseas. I was traveling so much for competition and it was getting very expensive for me. By the time I had moved to the USA I had already won 3 Pan Am Championships and placed 2nd at the World Championships in Brazil.
BJJL: Are you linked to any charities?
SMD: My website (that I am rebuilding) is linked to FINCA (Fighting Poverty with Finacial Inclusion http://www.finca.org/) which is an organization that provides loans to help single mothers and widows with children etc in 3rd world countries to start their own businesses and become financially self-sufficient. This organization’s goal is to give back the pride and dignity of these hard working women and enable them to be able to pay for an education for their children.
BJJL: What is your biggest pet peeve as an instructor (students late for class, belt not tied properly….)?
SMD: My pet peeve are instructors who have a sense of entitlement. An instructor is a role model, someone that people look up to. It is essential that the instructor gives the students 100% of their time and energy. Instructors who don’t pay attention to the students or they spend time on their phone or chatting to friends don’t gel with me too well.
BJJL: What do you consider a well-rounded practitioner to be?
SMD: A well rounded practitioner is someone who has a good understanding of both the guard position and top/passing position. Also they have experience as a competitor and as a teacher. Competitors have a great game, focused minds, and knowledge about all the preparation for tournaments but those who teach have a better overall understanding of a lot of the positions in BJJ. I think both aspects are necessary.
BJJL: When you see a student struggling, that is ready to quit, how do you help them adapt and overcome?
SMD: If a student is struggling I find out why they want to quit and usually it is because they aren’t getting the results they want, i.e., they are getting beaten up all the time. For the more petite women especially who spend the most time on the bottom getting squashed, I encourage them to shift their perspective and look at all the other bonuses of training such as having a good work out, building strength and stamina, and making new friends etc. I also make sure that that these student have supportive training partners around them so that they are not paired up with the big dudes who make them feel like they aren't achieving anything.
BJJL: What rank was the most challenging for you?
SMD: Brown belt was my most challenging belt. I had a series of very severe injuries including, torn costal cartilage in my rib, a complete shoulder separation (competing with Hannette Staack at the semifinals of the World Championships, and herniated neck which paralyzed my left arm. All these injuries lead me to the hospital. It was a difficult and lonely time especially with my family over in Australia.
BJJL: How do you think BJJ has evolved since you received your black belt?
SMD: I received my black belt in 2010. Since then I think the sport has grown so much. Both the women and the men are earning their belts at a younger age and winning world Championship much earlier. The pace of learning just like any sport is becoming much faster. There is definitely many more women training and competing and I think this is due to all the women's groups and the leading ladies of the sport teaching seminars who help motivate, support and inspire other women to keep training and to achieve their own dreams.
BJJL: What goals were you working towards in 2014, and did you accomplish them?
SMD: My goals in 2014 were to put myself back on the BJJ map after taking time off to have 2 babies. I felt like I disappeared. I competed in all the major tournaments and took Gold at the Pan Ams, Bronze and the Worlds, Gold at the No Gi Worlds and Gold at the Masters World Championships. I also focused on teaching seminars and building up my women's class at Drysdale JJ where I train.
BJJL: What are your thoughts about BJJ being a part of the Olympics?
SMD: I would love for BJJ to be part of the Olympics!!!! But I do not believe it will be. The sport is not really a spectator sport. Even for those who practice it and love it, there is a lot that goes on that you can’t really see, unlike Judo for e.g. where the big throws are obvious wins and big crowd pleasers.
BJJL: As of now, each Federation or independently run BJJ organization has its own set of rules; would a more unified approach from all organizations help with the integrity of the sport?
SMD: Yes definitely. I think that by having the same rules across the board would make things more cohesive and easier for the judges and the competitors alike. Some of the rules need to be revised, however. There are too many positions that are open to the referee's interpretation.
BJJL: You have won multiple World Titles in BJJ, do you see yourself venturing into MMA?
SMD: No!!!!! I hate competing. If I had to deal with being punched in the face I would probably freeze like a deer in headlights!
BJJL: Gi or No Gi do you have a preference, if so why?
SMD: Gi definitely. It is more technical. But I do appreciate the athleticism of no gi. The ex-gymnast in me comes out when I train no gi.
BJJL: Over the last year you began body-building and competed in your first competition, what led you to that decision?
SMD: I started competing in Ms. Figure shows. I have always been curious and I always knew that one day I would get up on that stage. I was ready to try something different and challenging. This requires so much discipline. I am preparing right now for my second show. I want to make my mark on the stage to reach out to the general fitness industry to promote my new business dedicated towards training women who are pregnant or who have just had a baby.
BJJL: I see you as an empowering individual, what empowers you?
SMD: Over the years I have done a lot of soul searching and self-reflection. I have figured out who I am and what drives me and I try to remain as true to myself as possible. If I am in a situation that doesn't honor me I try to change it. You have to honor yourself first because if you don't honor yourself, then no one else will.
BJJL: Your gym has been consulted by some prestigious MMA fighters (Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey) what role do you play in facilitating their training?
SMD: I personally have not trained with either Ronda or Miesha although Miesha does come to the gym quite often. Our gym has a lot of MMA fighters both men and women. I think the role I play is getting women through the door and helping them stay. Even though I may not train with the MMA girls, the culture that I have built for the females who train is one that is supportive, open and uplifting.
BJJL:http://sophiadrysdale.com/ is an amazing website. There are tips on fitness, nutrition, even pregnancy information listing vitamins and workouts (and blogging about your own pregnancy). You are covering a variety of things that appeal to both women and men, what prompted you to develop the site this way?
SMD: For a long time I have wanted to do a full blown website dedicated to health and fitness and focusing on training during pregnancy and postpartum. I don’t think there is enough out there for women who want to train throughout their pregnancies. The culture is that women should stop what they are doing to have a baby and I strongly disagree with this. Having a baby is a part of being a women. It is not what defines a woman. I have not had the time to dedicate to the website however, I am currently in the process of building a new site that will be launched in a couple of months. I will be dedicating all of my time to this and to teaching BJJ.
BJJL: What are your gym’s policies on sexual harassment?
SMD: The ideals trickle from the top down. Basically if the head instructor allows or encourages this behavior in any way then others are going to do it. Robert Drysdale does not treat any one different on the mat and this is the culture that has been cultivated at our school. There is no difference between the black belt, the white belt, the kid, man or woman. There is no discrimination or different treatment. We are all here to train and to learn and to be a part of something.
BJJL: You hear horror stories here and there about blatant sexual abuse in gyms. Any thoughts on the way that the abuses have been addressed or haven’t been addressed in the BJJ realm?
SMD: I think in a lot of the cases the head instructor turns a blind eye to the situation. Although he may not agree with what has taken place, he is also not proactive about preventing it and changing the culture in the gym. As far as I am concerned turning away from the problem is just as bad.
BJJL: The Better Business Bureau holds businesses accountable for consumer complaints, do you think the same should be done in the BJJ world regarding sexual abuse?
SMD: I think all the pieces of the puzzle create the whole, so it is every academy's obligation to the art of BJJ to create a safe and accepting place for all who want to train.
BJJL: I can see you producing your own fitness videos in the future, would it be too presumptuous of me to say something like that?
SMD: I am in the process of filming these fitness videos as we speak. lol!
BJJL: You have 2 children are they leaning towards BJJ or your former sport of gymnastics?
SMD: Both children are more interested in being fairies and princesses. I do however think that the oldest daughter has all the athletic attributes to be the most outstanding athlete in whatever sports she chooses.
BJJL: What are your plans for the future? What goals do you still have left?
SMD: My goals are to launch my new fitness website business and to continue to travel and teach seminars around the world. I hope to inspire and empower more women though BJJ and fitness. I do plan on competing in more Ms. Figure shows also. I am enjoying this new challenge and this new world.
BJJL: If you could go back and change any moment in your prestigious career, what would it be?
SMD: I have had a lot of bad luck competing actually. Everything from having my opponent's foot caught in my top and having my boobs hanging out and losing the fight because I was speaking to the referee to try to alert him, to completely separating my shoulder, to having the score board changed on me 20 minutes after winning the semifinals of the Pan Ams due to politics.... I would go back and change those very unfortunate moments that cost me additional titles.
BJJL: Is there anyone you would like to thank that you have never had the opportunity to thank for helping you get to where you are today?
SMD: I would like to thank my Mum and my sister. They have always been there for me even though they may not have agreed with some of the decisions I have made. My sister is always on the next plane to the States (she lives in Australia) when I need her the most.
Sophia, the greek translation means wisdom. That wisdom over the years has helped mold her into who she has become today. One could say that from the moment she was born this Aussie had uncanny abilities, unrelenting determination and know-how. All of those qualites in turn she utilizes to empower those around her, to uplift those that seek her advice, and to push those she mentors to the next level. Her talents have served her well in her distinguished career. As McDermott-Drysdale branches out and does more we just hope she sets a pace the rest of us can keep up with.
“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” -C. JoyBell C
To be young and gifted can be a blessing and a curse BJJ Legends interview with 15 year ole Roberto Jimenez of Team Gacho.
Young & Gifted: Roberto Jimenez, Alliance Team Gacho
“As our parents often say, share your God-given gifts and talents to help others” ―Tiara Tanishq Abraham 7 year old college prodigies
To be young and gifted can often be a very lonely experience. To be young and gifted at BJJ can be even more isolating. It is not a universally known sport and when your peers are swinging bats and bouncing balls. While you are berimboloing and cross collar choking people it can be challenging to make the connections kids often make when discussing the things they have in common. Alliance Team Gacho (4711 Louetta Rd Suite 114, Spring, Texas) Green Belt Roberto Jimenez manages to make connections with ease. His humble demeanor, amazing attitude, and reverent spirit make him a joy to watch on the mats and easy to be around when he is off. Hard work has its own reward, Roberto has been working hard since he was 5 years old and he has reaped the benefits. At 15 he has a very impressive resume and he is only in the beginning of his career.
BJJL: When did you begin your BJJ journey?
RJ: My dad started jiu-jitsu before me and he decided to start making me train when I was 5 years old.
BJJL: What is the first BJJ memory you have?
RJ: I did not like jiu-jitsu. I would hide in the bathroom and the receptionists would call my dad and he would drive to the academy and I would get in trouble and he would make me go back onto the mat.
BJJL: How much time do you spend training, what’s your regimen like?
RJ: During school breaks I train 3 times a day and help my dad with the kid’s classes. During school, I do wrestling in the morning at school and train Jiu-Jitsu at night.
BJJL: Do you have any other interests or hobbies?
RJ: I really like cruising on my long boards and I am a big fan of Dragon Ball Z and Naruto.
BJJL: Who are your role models in the BJJ World?
RJ: There are so many, but the ones that influence me most are my dad, Lucas Lepri, Marcelo Garcia, Bernando Faria, Cobrinha, Buchecha and Leandro Lo.
BJJL: What has been your biggest challenge since you began training?
RJ: Making friends, because at school most of the kids if not all don’t know about jiu-jitsu.
BJJL: What has been your favorite moment since you began training?
RJ: When I met Buchecha at Pan Ams last year. Also, moments that I have shared with Lucas Lepri and Cobrinha when they stayed at my house in Houston for seminars, it's a blessing to get to know these guys.
BJJL: You are a very humble competitor, your attitude is the epitome of NO EGO on the mats. Was that instilled in you from the moment you began your journey?
RJ: Yes, my dad has always told me if you act well to others only good things can happen and always be humble.
BJJL: Would you consider yourself a role model?
RJ: Most role models have lived through a lot and can pass on their wisdom to others. I am very young so it’s hard to consider myself a role model. However, I am the professor's son and a lot is expected of me, all the kids in our academy look up to me and at tournaments there are kids that come up to me so I try to always be respectful.
BJJL: You are a 15 year old Phenom, what do you deem your most noteworthy accomplishments thus far in BJJ?
RL: Winning kids Pans this year. I have been trying to go to the tournament for years but never had a lot of people in my division and this year being my last year competing as a kid in IBJJF I had the chance to go and accomplished my biggest goal as a kid.
BJJL: You come from a VERY distinguished BJJ background (Alliance Team Gacho Black Belt Raul Jimenez & Brown Belt Gabriela Muller), how have they shaped your perception of BJJ?
RL: They both kicked by butt when I was younger and my dad continues to push me to my limits with every roll we do.
BJJL: You were recently inducted into the BFA Hall of Fame that is an AMAZING achievement. What did the induction mean to you, to your family?
RL: We were all very happy and grateful but I like to not let titles and medals define who I am or get to my head. My dad has a saying, every tournament is a book, every time I win a tournament, just turn the page and move on to the next one.
BJJL: At 15 you have competed in countless tournaments and faced some stiff competition, to include black belts. Tell me what it feels like to already be facing adult male black belts at your age?
RL: I feel blessed that I can even compete with such high level adults. I like to push myself, win or lose. I try to look into the future and look not only in my divisions to push myself for my main goal.
BJJL: 2016 is right around the corner, what are your goals for the coming year?
RL: Hopefully being able to do the grand slam, but definitely have PanAms, Worlds and whichever IBJJF Opens I can do.
BJJL: What are your long term goals in BJJ?
RL: Winning ADCC weight and absolute, winning WPJJC weight and absolute and winning worlds and Pans at each belt.
BJJL: Is there anyone you would like to thank that has helped you along the way?
RL: God, my parents and all the guys that I look up to osssssss
To be young and gifted can be a blessing and a curse. You sacrifice, you do not live the normal life of other kids. You push yourself to the limits because you are doing what you love. You have milestones to achieve and as you reach them, you push harder, then move on to the next. For Roberto Jimenez being young and gifted is an absolute blessing. He is driven, determined, and inspirational. His gift has been nurtured since he was a child and he is coming into his own. His future in BJJ is luminous.
“Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.”―Winston S. Churchill
Hannette Staack talks about sub-only, stalling, cash prizes, BJJ in the Olympics, women's Jiu-Jitsu and the prospect of building a family.
Words of Wisdom from BJJ Legend Hannette Staack
“I don’t go by the rule book. I lead from the heart, not the head.” -- Princess Diana, Princess of Wales
When you think of female BJJ Pioneers the names Magalhaes Duarte, Vieira, Ribeiro, Kwok, and Staack should roll off your tongue like honey. If you do not know who 3rd Degree Black Belt Hannette Staack is, and you are a woman that seriously trains in BJJ today, you are WRONG. Her 2007 flying armbar in the ADCC Championships is an unforgettable moment in BJJ history. When she hits the mat, she is a competitor that fights with all her heart and puts everything on the line. It makes her a DYNAMIC fighter. Eight years has passed since that match vs. Rosangela Conceião. BJJ Legends is sitting down with Professor Staack to see how she has progressed and what the future holds for such a charismatic individual that shows no signs of slowing down.
BJJL: Tell me about 2014, what opportunities did it bring to and your husband (4th Degree Black Belt Andre “Negão” Terencio)?
Staack: 2014 was a very good year. Lots of things going on in our business. New people coming to the association, expanding the Brazil-021 Family. It was busy for our association, in a good way, but in another hands I had to focus very much on the business and start leaving the competition scene. But I think this is the normal transition.
BJJL: What goals were you working towards in 2014, and did you accomplish them?
Staack: Getting all the schools on the same standards. No egos... Our mission for 2014 was United we stand divided we fall... We grew together as a family. I also competed at the Worlds 2014 and got second place, which of course was not the result I expect, but I lost on the final just by one advantage, which is not much at all. For a 36 years old, business woman like me, who has to take care of most of the things in the Brazil-021 association, I think it was a good tournament. We always want to win, but it was a close match, so, all worth it! It was also a great year for me as a coach, and so was 2013 as well. I am working on getting my students to the next level. In 2013 I had 2 of my girls competing and one of them Kristin Mikkelson got 1st place on the blue belt light weight division and 3rd place on the open class. My other student Kristen Martin got 2nd on the blue belt light feather. In 2014 Kristen Martin got 1st in her division Purple Belt light feather and Mikkelson, lost by decision on the quarter finals for the champion of her division. So it was a great year, for Brazil-021 in general.
BJJL: BJJ is not what it once was intended to be, would you like to see a return to submission only matches?
Staack: I definitely want to see that. I think now-a-days a lot of people “play by the rules” which is not wrong. I think you have to have a strategy, but the problem is when you have points, people will be afraid to open their games and that is when the stalling comes. If we had more of these tournaments, especially with cash prizes, we definitely would see way more interesting matches.
BJJL: What are your thoughts about BJJ being a part of the Olympics?
Staack: I think it will be a while to see our sport in the Olympics. I still think we have a long way to go, with rules, federations and organizations. But I would love to see the sport one day as a part of the Olympics. As long as we are still evolving. As of now, each Federation or independently run BJJ organization has its own set of rules; would a more unified approach from all organizations help with the integrity of the sport? Of course. I think what is happening but every organization wants to set their own rules. They want to be different from each other but the problem is, in the end, they are not helping the sport to evolve. If we had unified rules, we would have less misunderstandings and less people complaining when they are in an official IBJJF tournament. We also would have less injuries and better referees.
BJJL: How much do you think BJJ has changed in the last 5 years for women?
Staack: I think it has changed a lot. More and more women practicing and competing. Which is great... Now we have more respect, more sponsors and more attention. It’s great to look back when I first started and see women getting their space in the competitions, getting prizes, getting attention from the media. Before it was much harder for women to make a living only with BJJ, but now I can see other women like me, Jiu-Jitsu business women which is great! It is progress, still improving, but way better than before.
BJJL: What are your plans for 2015?
Staack: Become the BEST Hannette Staack I can be to my students. I have been dedicating my entire life to competitions to be the best in the sport and as much as the competitions are a big part of my life, I think it is time for me to focus on other things, to help my students to get their way in this sport. It’s been hard to let go, but I think it is time to build my legacy and to become now the best coach, the best mom (future plans ... Lol), the best business woman I can be to build the other side of my career. But who knows if I get a good proposal to compete, I might as well go... Haha... A Heart of a fighter will always be this way!
BJJL: What do you think the future holds for BJJ?
Staack: Improvement with the rules, a more professional BJJ scene like the World Pro, but with better referees. It will keep evolving, but the basics will be always there and it will always be effective. If you think about some of the positions we have today, like the 50/50 for example, they are not very good for your body in many ways, so I would say in the future, the rules will help to avoid those positions. And for the practitioners, they will be more aware of the damages that those techniques could cause to your body over time.
BJJL: As one of the PREMIERE role models and athletes for up and coming female BJJrs, what advice can you offer?
Staack: Many... 1. The way is always harder than for anyone else, but it is worth the try and the sacrifices. Don’t give up, believe in your dreams, work hard and even if takes longer than you thought, keep on going. 2. Always value the person who is helping you in your journey, your teacher, and your teammates. If they are helping you to get to your goals, that is what matters. Listen to your coach/professor. But remember, there is no such thing like Black belt in life, use common sense, if you feel something is wrong talk to other people, give your thoughts about what is happening and get help. There is always a lot of people willing to help, including me :-) 3. Stay humble; 4. Don’t let your EGO blind you; 5. Remember the purpose of why you joined a BJJ School, to learn Jiu-Jitsu, so, don’t let anything interfere in your goal. Stay FOCUSED. Jiu-Jitsu is your number one priority when you are on the mats. Keep rolling!
BJJL: Some of the ladies that have taken your seminar rave about a specific conditioning drill that you have…It takes 15 minutes and is multiple BJJ movements chained together. Can you talk to me about it?
Staack: It is a method that helped me a lot in my career, so I want to pass it on to other people. It is for me, the best way to create muscle memory. Then, when it is time to roll it is easier to remember and put in practice the technique. It is also a great way to get you tired... LOL and when it is time to train you have to use your technique more than your strength.
BJJL: Your “under stress approach” seminars are also a huge hit. Will you elaborate on your thought process behind that?
Staack: I don’t like to be in a class where everyone is just sitting or taking their time to do everything. I like to be doing something all the time. I think that is the reason why I always do the seminars this way. Nobody is resting... We are always doing something, practicing, drilling, rolling, etc. It is the best way to learn in my opinion.
BJJL: I know you are a fantastic humanitarian. Talk to me more about your non-profit organization Brazil-021 Project.
Staack: It was a way to give something back to the community. I think Jiu-Jitsu is a great tool to help people to get more self-control, self-confidence, discipline, while playing, while having fun. So they learn all this and still have fun doing it. When we decided to start this project, we didn’t know it would grow that much. We have more than 80 kids training in Brazil and the idea is to bring the same project to the North America, because we know that here we have kids with the same problems as the kids in Brazil. We want to provide good examples, the ones they don’t have in their own community. We have talked to the parents and we have great feedback from them about their kids.
BJJL: Was there any point where you hit a wall and wanted to give up BJJ and do something else? If so why?
Staack: Yes. My life in BJJ was mostly based on competitions, and this year 2015 right before the worlds I felt like I needed to compete again. I had to prove to myself that I could do it again. It was really hard to let it go. I had a serious conversation with my coach, who is also my husband and he convinced me to not compete. But I wasn’t completely convinced yet, so I kept training hard, like I was going to compete. I had a little hope that I could go there and participate. When it was getting closer to the event I finally realized that I was not going I got really depressed. I was having terrible nightmares and sometimes I thought about giving up everything. I didn’t want to go to the event, because I didn’t want to see the competition. Finally after talking to other people, that went through the same problems I realized it was best not to compete. Focus on my students, doing something bigger to the community, contributing in a different way to the BJJ World. After going to the Worlds and seeing so many people winning by one advantage, stalling, a lot of referees mistakes, I am glad I did not compete and I have now extra motivation to continue on this journey, contributing as a teacher and mentor to my students and to all the people who wishes to learn Jiu-Jitsu.
BJJL: Have you ever thought of yourself as a female hero to women in BJJ?
Staack: LOL... No never. But I know my responsibility in the Jiu-Jitsu community, so I try to set a good examples to my students, to the kids from the Project. I want to be the best I can be.
BJJL: Do you think that women are taken advantage of if they do not educate themselves about BJJ and what is and is not acceptable in their training environment?
Staack: I am sure. I always say that for women is always harder to be in this community. The first biggest barrier is finding a place that we can be treated as equal. We have to face this every day in our lives... In Jiu-Jitsu is not different, especially for a sport that is mostly male predominant. Some schools do not even have female changing rooms or bathrooms. We have different prizes, sometimes we don’t even have prizes. I had to face in the beginning of my career, situations that women would come to the school to find a date and once they were training or drilling with me they would get upset. It is hard! I found my way to the top because I always focused on my Jiu-Jitsu improvement more than everything else. I earned my respect, through my dedication. I think this is the key for the success and that is what I try to pass on to my students. I always ask them “what your goals are?” so focus on the result, the result you want for you. My school, because of me, is a very female oriented place. Our students are always respectful, and they feel comfortable in bringing their wives, moms, sisters, grandmas, girlfriends to train with us.
BJJL: What is your policy on sexual harassment towards men or women in your gym?
Staack: We have a set of rules, our DOJO ETIQUETTE, to make sure the schools and everyone is on the same page. It is unacceptable to have someone hitting or with a disrespectful posture in the school towards anyone, men or women. With our annual summits we always have a chance to talk to all our affiliates to be careful about who they pick to be their instructors. We know how big the influence of an instructor or Professor towards the students is and how many people and schools end up getting a bad reputation because of this. Also we always pay close attention in class on people’s behavior. This way we can sense people’s intentions and prevent or at least minimize the risk of having something like this happening.
BJJL: What do you hope the next generation of women will bring to the table competition wise?
Staack: I was a little disappointed after this IBJJF Worlds, I saw too many women playing to win... Don’t take me wrong when I say that, but I think sometimes people play only to win by an advantage. You don’t see many people going for submissions, playing with all their heart. I hope to see more women playing the real Jiu-Jitsu, trying to submit all the time, taking risks. Because BJJ is all about taking risks, it is all about submission. I know it is hard sometimes to win by a submission, but I also know by my own experience, that sometimes, people don’t want to move just because they are afraid of getting submitted. So I hope this generation brings back the real BJJ, bring their hearts to those mats and be fearless.
BJJL: Babies, when do you think babies will come into the picture?
Staack: Hahahahaha.... The best question! We are definitely planning... I would say, sooner than later. But for sure starting this year :-)
Hannette Staack has done some phenomenal things as a competitor. She started out in BJJ at the age of 18 and now with 18 years of experience she has built a legacy to be absolutely proud of. As she transitions, she can build upon that legacy as a mentor, a coach, and so much more.
“Life-fulfilling work is never about the money -- when you feel true passion for something, you instinctively find ways to nurture it.” --Eileen Fisher