Leticia Ribeiro is one of the most revered female BJJ athletes of all time. Come read about this prolific athlete and how she continues to contribute to the art of Jiu-Jitsu.
Tactician (n):someone good at planning tactics: the specific means of accomplishing goals.When it comes to BJJ, Professor Ribeiro is like the keenest tactical general. She leads her garrison into battle with the most efficient and effective strategies in order to dominate their opponents on the mats. Her troops are prepared for what they will be facing and there is not one angle that anyone could approach from for which she is not ready with a counter. Although an adept tactician in her field of BJJ today, once upon a time even Professor Ribeiro was an eager apprentice. It’s time to take a look back and see how this sharp woman has become the heroin we have all come to admire.
BJJL: Where did you grow up, what was your childhood like?
LR: I grew up in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. My childhood was great! I still have a lot of great memories, back then we played a lot in the streets. It was safer more so then than it is today.
BJJL: What did your family think when you decided to start practicing BJJ?
LR: In the beginning it was hard, back then Jiu-Jitsu was a male sport. We had very few women training and competing. Soon as I started to train I fell in love with the sport and I knew that it was what I wanted for my life. After my mom really understood how I serious I was and what this meant to me, she gave me her full support.
BJJL: What was your first competition like?
LR: My first competition was the Copa Gracie. It was in 1995. I was a blue belt. I had three fights and three submissions by arm bar.
BJJL: Who or what motivates you and pushes you to achieve your goals?
LR: In 1996, that was the first time I knew I wanted to be a world Champion. I went to watch the first world championships ever. They didn’t have a women’s division but it was great to watch the black belts competing for the first time, especially Royler Gracie. I dreamed that one day I would be there and I worked for it.
BJJL: What has been your biggest challenge since you began BJJ?
LR: I think my biggest challenge and goal was to help develop women’s BJJ programs all over the world and to make the female divisions stronger. WE DID IT!!!
BJJL: What matchup would you like to have that has never happened?
LR: I have fought ALL tough fighters from my generation and after mine. I can SAY THAT I’m really happy, satisfied with my career. I have achieved a lot as an athlete and a teacher.
BJJL: What is your pet peeve as an instructor?
LR: I don’t have anything bad to say about teaching, my students, I love what I do so that makes my job REALLY easy.
BJJL: How does your tournament prep differ from your normal training?
LR: My routine changes, my day completely changes that’s why I decided not to compete so much lately. I’m focused on my gym and my students. If I decide to compete again, I will dedicate my whole day, my whole life, towards training.
BJJL: Any charities that you support?
LR: Right now, we are trying to support young talents from Brazil. We are helping them to have a better life living with the sport, just like us.
BJJL: What are your thoughts on the Equal Pay issue in BJJ?
LR: I think it is time for that. I talk about myself and many other fighters that I know. We train hard, we changed and dedicated our life for the sport. We do all that we can to see the sport grow and we ALL DESERVE better opportunities. I know how things once were and how they are, they are MUCH BETTER and getting better and better. I’m so happy with all the progress, even if it is slow but continuous.
BJJL: You truly fight for your students. You walked out onto the mat during World’s in 2014 (blue belt match). You wouldn’t let your student leave the mat (time had expired) until you had the ref correct his error. This led to your student winning when originally the ref had sided with her opponent. I’ve NEVER…seen anyone else do that. What prompted you to do it?
LR: Yes, I fight for them now. I know how hard they train and how much they want to be champion. I know being a referee is hard, they have to think fast and mistakes are going to happen. As instructors our jobs are to help referees also. Mistakes at worlds are sad for the sport and for athletes.
BJJL: How has BJJ for women changed in the last 5 years?
LR: I moved to the USA 8 years ago since worlds came back to the US. Things changed a lot for the better, the IBJJF is doing a great job. I can see the progress of the sport at each tournament and seminar that I teach and am so happy to be part of that.
BJJL: Would you like to see BJJ return to submission only?
LR: I would like to see more submission only tournaments, it’s fun.
BJJL: Are there any IBJJF rules you would like to see changed or completely removed?
LR: I think right now, the double pull. If they give two points for whoever gets on top, it will stop that a bit. It’s boring. They should do something to block it.
BJJL: So many are apt to return to the mat even though they are injured and they reinjure themselves (often worse). What advice can you give on injury prevention and proper recovery?
LR: I’ve had some injuries in my career but nothing serious thank God. I think the best way to prevent injuries is to workout in order to make your muscles stronger and keep your joints safe.
BJJL: As one of the female legends and pioneers for up and coming female BJJrs…what advice can you offer up?
LR: Believe in yourself, give 120% when training, keep going, dedicate yourself to what you want, DREAM…ACHIEVE.
BJJL: Proudest Moment?
LR: It was 3 years ago when I opened my first academy here in America and now I am opening my 2nd.
BJJL: Long term goals?
LR: I want to change people’s lives with Jiu-Jitsu and to be happy.
BJJL: Any regrets?
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?
LR: I’m thankful for many people in my life. First God, my family, my partner Morango, my friends, my students, and everyone that helped me to get to where I am today.
William Ward said, “the mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Professor Ribeiro started out on a journey 2 decades ago. Along with her peers she ushered in a brand new era for BJJ. She is a pioneer in the game, a brilliant professor, and a remarkable inspiration. Her contributions to BJJ will be felt for years to come. She has had a hand (be it directly or indirectly) in developing each generation and helping elevate the game and its competitors to ALL new heights.
In a wheel chair and paralyzed from the last rib down Max is going to compete in the 2015 IBJJF World Championships. A little background on a great warrior. Photos courtesy of Paulo Bihis and Bathala Apparel.
Maximiliano Ulloa is a purple belt under Leticia Ribeiro who trains at Gracie Humaitá South Bay. He’s 37 years old and will be fighting as a light weight (157) for the first time in his life.
Max became a paraplegic in 2012 after a fall from a second story balcony pinched spinal cord at level T7. With a T7 injury he has lost the use of his abs as well as his legs and lower back.
Before his injury Max was a 1 strip blue belt.
Max spent 2 months in hospital and 2 weeks in outpatient rehab when insurance only provisioned for 1 PT visit per week. He was home alone for 2 months then his brother moved to California to help. Six months after his accident resumed training because of his failing insurance need for rehab. He trains 8-10 hours a week.
Max took several months to travel across the US alone. He visited family and academies along the way. While he was visiting Miami for two months trained at the Rilion Gracie Academy. With Leticia’s blessing Max was awarded his purple belt from Rilion 2014.
Motivated to inspire other spinal cord injury people Max started the non-profit RollingtheWalk.com. He is supported by the great people at Jiu-Jitsu Changed My Life.
“Not a Phase, Being Tapped is Part of the Game:” An Interview with 2013 & 2014 IBJJF World Champion Gezary Matuda
Gezary Matuda is the reigning (back-to-back) light-featherweight IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Champion. At the finals, Gezary (“Ge”) beat Ariadne de Oliveira from team Maestre Wilson in a bracket that consisted of the all-time great Leticia Ribeiro, as well as the talented Nyjah Easton. Ge fights for American Top Team out of Coconut Creek, Florida, having received her black belt in 2012 from Ricardo Liborio. Her first instructor was Alexandre “Penão” Conceição, a 6th degree Carlson Gracie black belt who is one of the most regarded but underpublicized jiu-jitsu instructors in the world. (Penao was Anderson Silva’s BJJ coach and Stephan Kesting raved about him in one of his blog entries after attending a seminar.) Born in Curitiba, Paraná, in 1984, Ge and her husband, Katel Kubis, the ATT pro-team Muay Thai coach, moved to the United States in 2009. They live in Deerfield Beach.
Ge’s demeanor is always bright and friendly. She’s one of those positive, forward-looking people whose expansive personality makes them seem much larger than they physically are. Fighting at 118 lbs., she overwhelms with her brightness. The undershirt she wore at the Worlds was a white tank top by Slept Fightware with a large red-lipstick kiss imprint on the front and the words “Don’t let the looks fool you!” on the back. Ge and Katel are very good-looking. They seem like they were paired on purpose for style magazines. As if life wasn’t unfair enough for the rest of us, they can both destroy another human being in about five seconds: Katel has a knockout highlight reel, and Ge has an arm-bar one floating on the web.
Perhaps because of the striking influence (not just from Katel, Ge was originally a Muay Thai fighter), her game is an intense assault on your senses, as if possessed by the demon of speed. Standing, she goes for takedowns, preferring to shoot in. Even when she pulls guard, she goes for an immediate tripod sweep, not letting her opponents rest mentally at any point. She has talons for grips and is relentlessly throwing submission attacks and wave after wave of sweeps. Her motor revs at the redline the whole match. She forces you to reach her intensity, both physically and mentally. After my encounters with her, I have always left with the clear thought: this is what a world champion looks like, acts, and feels like. Her warm up drills turns legs to jelly.
Aside from her wins, Ge is most proud of and happy whenever she sees a flourishing women’s jiu-jitsu program. She is a strong advocate for women in the martial art. I had the chance to interview Gezary Matuda last week. I was extremely impressed with her positivity that’s measured by her understanding of the difficulty of the sport. Below, she gives one of the best answers to overcoming the “tapping out phase” all Jiu-Jiterios encounter when they first begin.
1) Gezary, congratulations on your amazing win. I’d like to start by simply asking how does it FEEL to be the champion? What sacrifices did you make and how did your family, teammates, and sponsors help?
It's magical to see your dream come true! I was beside people that were with me all the time from the beginning of camp, and then we got to celebrate together at the end, it's priceless!
This is the result of a lot of effort, dedication, and hard work with my team. This couldn't be possible done alone. I feel blessed for having with me my coaches, teammates; all of them helped me by not making my training easy. It didn’t matter if I cried, they made me go beyond my limit.
Also my sponsors Shoyoroll and Slept Fightware that believed in me, I am glad to have them support me.
2) When you were a white belt, did you envision becoming a multiple time world champion across all your ranks? (Gezary is a 5-time champion: 2 at black, 1 at brown, 1 at purple, and 1 at blue.) Who identified your talent early on and how did that person motivate you to work hard for the next ten years to reach where you are today?
When I was a white belt, I used to watch the girls that today I have the honor to fight at black belt. I always wanted to fight and my dream was be a Black Belt World Champion! And now I am, twice! My first teacher was Alexandre Penão (black belt from Carlson Gracie). I am so thankful for everything he taught me. He always supported me and put me to fight. At that time there wasn't a lot of girls fighting in Curitiba and I usually have to fight with heavier girls than me. And he always said, “you can do that, believe!” And here I am 10 years later. I kept his words in my mind: believe you can do that!
3) How would you describe your game? During the Worlds, how do you maintain focus when someone else tries to impose their game?
My game is the game plan that my coaches set for me at my camp. I never change what I was trained to do. If I can't do it the first time, I keep going and adapting until I can put everything in practice. I don't give up when my opponent imposes their game. I keep my game plan until the last second of the fight!
4) Can you give your thoughts on the two major rule changes this year? (The 20 second double-guard pull and the knee reap rules.)
I agree with the new rule of double pull. The fights got more dynamic and the advantage point encouraged the fighters to rise. I think these changes are important to Jiu-Jitsu's evolution for competition.
5) When you teach, what is your advice to white belts to get them through that phase where they are being “tapped” by everyone?
I believe that's not a phase. Being tapped is part of the game. It's a sign that you're learning! Look at the bright side. This happens at sports and at life, too. Jiu-Jitsu is selective, the most dedicated are the ones that keep going. I identify with Rocky's phrase: "It's not about how hard you hit, but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."
6) Finally, what advice do you give to women Jiu-Jiteiras, especially beginners, to keep them in Jiu-Jitsu?
I would love to see even more Jiu-Jiteiras on the mat! Girls have a lot of fun. Keep on training and don't give up the first time it becomes difficult! Talk to your teacher, and make your goals clear. If you're thinking about competing, don't think it will be easy! You'll never see how far you can go if you give up!
Thank you, Aiseop and BJJ Legends, for the opportunity. I am very happy to have done this interview.
Gezary Matuda is available for workshops, seminars, or camps. She is a highly regarded teacher.
Leticia Ribeiro, Beatriz Mesquita and Carol Vidal inspired younger generations of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grapplers at their recent camp.
If you missed the Leticia Ribeiro Women’s Grappling Camp (not to rub it in), but you REALLY missed out. The camp was an eye-opening experience, an inside look into the inner workings of champs, and most of all, it was truly an uplifting experience for women and girls of all ages and skill levels. Sixty women and girls from 26 academies traveled from all across Texas and Oklahoma. One woman traveled from as far away as Puerto Rico to participate in the Leticia Ribeiro Women’s Grappling Camp in Arlington, Texas.
I went to this camp in LA. Knocked my socks off my bare feet! I'm a black belt and I've been training for 15 years. I've trained with a lot of wonderful people. I have never trained with 4 world champions on the same day in the same room. If you've got an problem with your technique there WILL be someone in that room who's gone through it too.
My hat is off to the Gracie Humaita Women's team. They are an aspiration.
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A WOMEN'S GRAPPLING CAMP WITH LETICIA RIBEIRO (and Special Guests)
Train like a champion with the champions!!!!
Attention all female Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters/grapplers: here is your chance to train with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion LETICIA RIBEIRO, 3rd degree black belt under Royler Gracie (who appeared in BJJ Legends, jiu-jitsu magazine) and leader of the Gracie Humaitá women's team, one of the best female fight teams of all time. Join us in Los Angeles for a three-day Gi and No-Gi grappling camp exclusively for women, led by Leticia and her talented team members, including Penny Thomas, Bia Mesquita, Mackenzie Dern among others.
This is a very exciting opportunity to sharpen your Jiu-Jitsu skills with one of the world’s best female fighters. This camp is OPEN TO ALL TEAMS, SCHOOLS, and LEVELS. Come learn the techniques, strategies, and approaches to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that have made Leticia one of the most dominate forces in the sport today!
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a uniquely universal art. With its broad arsenal of techniques, strategies, and styles, one of the many qualities that makes it so unique is that anyone can learn and make it their own, regardless of size, gender, age, or strength. Because of this, it’s no surprise that a growing subculture in the sport of BJJ is women practitioners.
Of course, women continue to be an unfortunate minority in a predominantly male sport, but that doesn’t stop them from connecting and finding ways to train in the sport they love.
A recent trend in BJJ has become events held exclusively for women. Open mats, tournaments, and seminars have all been on the rise in the past few years, thanks to the efforts of women passionate about the sport and determined to empower others on their Jiu Jitsu journey. One of these women is Mollii Khangsengsing, a purple belt under Eduardo Rocha in Oakland, California. Mollii is the founder and coordinator of the Sweaty Betties, an all-women’s BJJ group dedicated to “foster a positive, supportive, safe, and fun training environment for women in which to learn and practice BJJ regardless of their school affiliation.”
Friday, December 9, 2011 at 7:00 PM - Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 4:00 PM (PT) South San Francisco, CA
The Sweaty Betties are pleased to announce our latest event: A Women’s Only Training Camp with LETICIA RIBEIRO
Train like a champion with the champions!!!!
For the first time ever in the Bay Area, a historical figure in women’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, 3rd degree black belt under Royler Gracie and leader of Gracie Humaitá, the best female fight team of all time LETICIA RIBEIRO will be conducting a three-day Gi and No-Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu camp exclusively for women in San Francisco, CA. As an added bonus, Leticia will be joined by talented members of the Gracie Humaitá team including LUKA DIAS, PENNY THOMAS, BIA MESQUITA and MACKENZIE DERN.
We are excited that Leticia Ribeiro is coming back to Texas to teach another all women seminar, this time in Austin. After last year's success in Dallas and San Antonio she is coming back with her protegee Bia Mesquita to teach at Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (http://www.gracieaustin.com). It's especially exciting since the gym in Austin is run by a female brown belt Christy Thomas. So it is a total women powered event.