Jiu Jitsu Spotlight with Jackie Vasquez

1. How did you get started in BJJ?

I started training in a martial arts called Kajukenbo about 13 years ago. It’s a self defense-oriented martial art (similar to Krav Maga) that emphasizes all fighting ranges, including striking (kicking and punching), clinch (wrestling and judo) and ground (grappling).
After doing Kajukenbo for a few years, I started the MMA program that was offered at the same gym where I trained Kajukenbo. I did a few amateur MMA smokers and fights during that time.
What eventually led me to BJJ was that I lost my biggest fight at Travis Air Force Base by a triangle submission. I didn’t know how to defend it at all. In retrospect, now that I train at a BJJ school, I realize I just did not have enough jiu jitsu basic training. I did not have any of the basic fundamental concepts of jiu jitsu so in reality was not prepared to compete against anyone who did.

2What is your current rank and who gave it to you? Where do you currently train at now?

I’ve been training at Heroes Martial Arts for almost 4 years, under Alan “Gumby” Marques. He promoted me to blue belt about 2 years ago.

3. Is there a person you would like to roll with if you were given the opportunity?

I would like to roll with Gumby’s instructor, Ralph Gracie. I find him to be very intimidating in person but I love the intensity that he gives off, in person and in his fight videos. I love his attitude! I’d probably get smashed (based on stories I’ve heard) but it would be worth it!

4. Do you compete in BJJ?

I compete but only once or twice a year. I could use the excuse that I work full time and I have a family but the truth is that, although I am a very competitive person (ask anyone who trains with me!), I find competition very stressful. I won’t compete unless I know I can train frequently, can do the appropriate conditioning, and can make weight. I want to win and want to do everything possible to make that happen. I put a lot of pressure on myself to prepare and to win, and it can be stressful. I really respect people who compete at every chance they get; it’s not easy to get out there!

5. How did you do in all your tournaments? Accomplishments?

I’ve competed at US Open the past three years and won gold in my division all three years. I’ve competed a few other times in smaller tournaments as well since starting BJJ.
I am most proud of the US Open golds because I put a lot of effort into training for that tournament each year. I’ll spar at least twice a week with the Heroes team, in addition to attending normal BJJ classes. I do hill sprints once a week. I take it pretty seriously, and usually have to give up some family time to put in the training I think is needed for me to win.

In the most recent US Open (2014), I was very happy to get my first win by submission. I probably acted a little too happy on the mat, but it was a big deal for me to finish with a choke. As my instructor tells us, the essence of jiu jitsu is to force someone to submit to your will by making them give up (tapping out).

6. What do you do for a living? Work? School?

I work as a user interface designer and researcher at Cisco Systems. Our group designs and tests Cisco network management software. Nerdy, right?

7. What do you enjoy doing other than BJJ? Hobbies?

I love martial arts, so I try to do some boxing and kickboxing with friends and my husband on the side, when I can fit it into my schedule. What I’ve come to learn is that just about everyone loves to punch and kick!

I also teach a free outdoor boot camp once a week at a park in my neighborhood. I started the program as a community service about the same time I started training at Heroes. I’ve made tons of great friends since then. We’ve had a few fund raiser 5K races, the small registration fee I charge is donated to a local charity. My neighborhood association awarded me their annual service award in 2012 for service to the community. You can check it out on Facebook to learn more: facebook.com/DulceDuro
Of course I also spend time with my family. My husband is brown belt under Gumby, and my daughter and stepdaughter also train BJJ at Heroes, so we definitely spend a lot of time there!
My husband and I love to spend time on the north shore of Kauai so we try to travel there at least once a year. We just lounge around, train BJJ at a school on the island, eat, drink and sleep!

8. How has BJJ changed your life?

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am very passionate about martial arts in general. It has changed my life in so many ways. All the clichés you hear about martial arts are true for me. I’m in great shape; I’m confident; I’m less defensive when other people are being jerks; I’ve made amazing and very close friends over the years. I think when you train with other people, you are putting so much trust in people’s hands, and they see you at your best and your worst, so you tend to develop very strong bonds with people relatively quickly.
In BJJ, there’s no hiding. You can’t fake jiu jitsu, and you can’t be tougher than good technique. Training in BJJ really exposes your true character, not just physically but psychologically as well. You have to be patient and in it for the long term benefits and payoffs. There’s no other way to succeed in BJJ.
This is good video produced by one of my teammates, in which I narrate my perspective on BJJ and how it has benefitted me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1qj1mEmaYY

9. Any advice to the new white belts that recently started BJJ?

The most common advice you hear is “Relax and don’t spaz” but, although I think this advice is well intentioned, it’s not realistic. It’s like when you’re having a baby, and people are telling you to relax. You are absolutely not going to be relaxed in either of these circumstances: Having a baby and wrestling with someone who is trying to choke you or hyperextend your arm. I think being a spazzy white belt is a process almost everyone has to go through, unless you have a grappling or wrestling background.
So my own advice would be just go to class. Try to put aside your ego and how you feel about how good your BJJ is, and just go to class. Don’t give up. Don’t stop coming to class. Just go to class and don’t give up.

10. What do you like most and least about BJJ?

I love martial arts and fighting, so I love the sparring the best. I actually dread sparring practice up until the moment the first round starts. Some days I can’t even pass anyone’s guard, so it’s stressful to think about how I will do (see my advice above) but once the rounds start, I just love it. I also love the sense of family that comes with training with the same people for years and years.
The thing I like the least is the injuries. I’m small, I’m female, and older. I probably go a lot harder than I should, all the time, so I tend to get hurt a lot, and have chronic aches and pains. Last night I was complaining to one of our black belts: “Jiu jitsu is so rough” and his immediate response was: “You make it rough.” Touché, he is right. My mind still wants to give 100% all the time, but that’s probably not sustainable for my body.

11. Do you train any other martial arts or exercise other than BJJ?

I have a black belt in Kajukenbo. I boxed for about a year and did an exhibition match in a large show that the San Jose Police Department put on. Very fun!
Currently, I train almost exclusively in BJJ. I will do some boxing mitt work with friends for fun. I run 3-4 times a week, and weight train once in a while (not as often as I should).

12. Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers of this interview?
Training the martial arts really goes beyond the physical, as it should. Ideally, in the right environment, training in martial arts will develop character, work ethic, perseverance, and patience. In the right environment and with the right teachers, it will make you a better person.

Thank you for your time. Keep up the hard work!
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to express my thoughts about martial arts!



Jiu-Jitsu Spotlight is to allow one’s personal opinions, advices and journey into their Jiu Jitsu training and lifestyle.
If you train Jiu-Jitsu, and would like to be featured on our website and share your love and passion for BJJ, please email to info@knoxxfit.com. All belt ranking are accepted as long as you love BJJ and you feel that it as impacted your life for the positive in any way. Osss!

Check out http://www.Knoxxgear.com

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