Belt Rank: Blue Belt
Age: 17 years old
Academy: Relson Gracie Arizona
Instructor: Nathan Zigler & Greg Holmes
1. What do you do for a living?
I’m a high school student in my junior year, and a 400-meter runner on the Varsity Track team at Hamilton High School. Although I struggle to keep up with my grades and training in both Track and Jiu-Jitsu, I am a straight-A student.
2. Are you a mom? A wife? A girlfriend? A sister? A daughter to awesome parents that let you do Jiu-Jitsu?
I am the oldest daughter of six children, and all of us, including my parents, train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Unlike most teenage girls, I don’t have a boyfriend, and never had one before because I want to stay focused on finishing school and establishing my future.
3. Where you a tomboy or a girly-girl growing up?
Since I could remember, I have always been a girly girl. I liked dressing up in pink princess dresses, experimenting with makeup and putting on nail polish (even when I wasn’t allowed to), and curling my hair like Shirley Temple. There was a time where I tried to be a Tomboy by trying to wear my brother’s clothes to school, but my dad didn’t like it! So when that phase ended (which was very short), I immediately retreated back into my comfortable feminine self. I still love dressing up, putting on makeup and painting my nails (except now I’m allowed to), and fixing my hair!
4. Did you grow up doing other sports?
I never played sports in elementary school, but in middle school I started BJJ and also played volleyball. I only played on the team for one year and then I didn’t make it through the tryouts the next year. At first, I was kind of bummed out but then I realized that it wasn’t as fun as BJJ, so overall, I quit volleyball and didn’t want to try any other sports until my sophomore year in high school. When I reached my sophomore year, I decided to try running track. I made this decision specifically because I wanted to lose weight and I wanted to be able to compete seriously in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu again!
5. How did you find BJJ?
When we moved out here to Arizona, my dad researched BJJ and found Relson Gracie Arizona, so at first it was meant for my brother, Fuli, but then my sister, Jasmine, thought it was interesting and joined too. After she joined, I started to go and watch them train and eventually wanted to join them too! Before we knew it, the rest of our family was pulled in and committed.
6. How often do you train?
I train at my school on Saturdays, but at home almost everyday. When I’m on long breaks from school, like spring break and summer break, I train three to four days at my school, and the rest of my days at home.
7. What is the one thing that keeps you from training some days?
When track season comes, I end up missing at least two days of training because those are the days of my meets. Other reasons for missing training would be if I have too much homework, if I go on a vacation trip, or if I go to an event like a graduation or a birthday party.
8. Have you ever wanted to quit?
I’ve never been at a point where I wanted to quit Jiu-Jitsu, but I did have a feeling for a while that I wanted quit competing because I was struggling in the Teens Orange-belt division (13-15). In other words, I was losing a lot during this time.
9. What drives you or inspires you to keep training?
I’d have to say that my family inspires me to keep training! I’ve realized it’s hard to find such a large family that does Jiu-Jitsu and competes! I’m not bragging but I’m very proud of each and every one of them. They are the best training partners too especially with their different styles in their game- they all push me to go compete and be my very best!
10. Do you compete? Why or why not?
I compete because I love the rush of my adrenaline when I step on the mat! I never get that feeling from anything else that I do. I’ve never had it in when I played volleyball, ran track, or even when I perform my songs in front of an audience. BJJ has a sense of filling in that one time that I can feel strong and successful from physical hard work.
11. Where do you think the drive inside you to fight comes from? (whether you compete or not)
I think the thing that drives me to compete is the pride I have in my family and myself. I think about fighting for them, and then for myself; to prove this is who I am.
12. What are some of your biggest upsets either in training or competition?
One of my biggest upsets was during the time I was competing in the (13-15) Orange-belt Teen Division. When I started competing as a white belt and yellow belt, I was used to winning first place. Before I competed in the Women’s division, I had only faced one girl during my competition in the kids-teens’ division. So I was used to competing with boys. However, when I reached the Orange-belt Teen Division, I stopped seeing gold medals, and started getting the other colored medals: silvers and bronzes. It was tough! I had to face not only stronger, athletic teenaged guys but also most of them were guys that had been breathing Jiu-Jitsu since as long as they could remember! During this time, I felt like I was at a plateau; that I wasn’t going to become any better, and I wanted to give up competing. But track helped me with all that, it helped me not only lose weight, but find myself again; it helped me get my desire to go and compete again.
13. What are some of your best accomplishments either in training or competition, on or off the mats?
Some of my best accomplishments would be my very first BJJ tournament, my first blue belt BJJ tournament, and having straight A’s in school since elementary.
14. What are some of your fears with BJJ?
I think some of my biggest fears in BJJ would be not making weight in a tournament, getting hurt or hurting someone, and competing. Even though I’ve been competing since I was 11, I still get scared of competing and it’s not a fear of losing or doing something wrong, it’s just the natural feeling I get when I’m out there. Ever since the first time I stepped on that mat at my first tournament, I’ve always had that feeling; it’s a mix of excitement, nervousness, incredibility, and fear.
15. What do you love about BJJ the most? What do you dislike?
I love that BJJ has a way of giving people confidence and hope in themselves no matter who they are. I’ve met various people who have been involved in drugs, a bully victim, overweight, or insecure with themselves, and now that they’re training BJJ it has helped them get away from all that and better their lives. I, myself, was a very insecure girl but Jiu-Jitsu changed all of that. It helped build my confidence and respect for myself.
16. What are your future goals with BJJ?
Even though I have other dreams that I want to accomplish, I also have BJJ as a part of them for the future. In other words, I’d like to keep BJJ with me for the rest of my life as well as competing no matter what.
17. Did BJJ change your life? How?
BJJ helped me grow into a stronger, independent person that I am today. It has also given me confidence to be able to love myself as a person and respect for myself. For the longest time, I had always been a very sensitive and insecure girl who let other people be rude or mean to me, when they got the chance. After competing and winning some gold medals, I think I started to learn what respect was because of the respect I earned from people watching and people I trained with. If I didn’t find BJJ, I don’t know what would happen to me.
18. Do you have a BJJ practitioner you look up to whether it be male or female?
I look up to Seta Reupenny, otherwise known as my mom. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always looked up to my mom because I’ve always admired her beauty, strength, and independent character. When she joined Jiu-Jitsu, I think I learned even more about her personality. I’ve learned that she’s the kind of person who never gives up. For instance, when she was a white belt, she had a match where her opponent pulled her into her guard, and then accidentally cut my mom’s forehead with her teeth! Even though my mom’s forehead was dripping bright red blood, she insisted on finishing the match! Although she may seem ridiculously stubborn at times, I love her for the way she is, including that part of her.
19. If a girl was standing outside of your academy scared to come in and try BJJ, what words of encouragement would you give her?
If a girl was standing outside of my academy afraid to go in, then I’d show her the friendliest smile possible. I believe that no one should be pressured into joining the art. However, if after meeting a person, I get the sense that she might consider joining, I am quick to offer her support and as much information she needs. Although encouragement is positive no matter where it comes from, I am a firm believer that it means the most when it comes from people you trust.
20. Any last thoughts?
I am thankful to God for showing BJJ to my family and me. It’s become a large part of our life, and I plan on keeping it with me until I die. BJJ has helped me find and build the strength that I never knew I had before, and if it weren’t for BJJ, I don’t know where my self-esteem would be today.