1. How did you get started in BJJ?
I went on a Muay Thai girl’s trip to watch the very first UFC Rio live back in 2011. We were given tickets months in advance, before they were sold to the public. It was an opportunity you wouldn’t want to turn down! The tickets sold out in Brazil less than 30 minutes. UFC Rio 134 was beyond historic to say the least.
We met some of Prof. Roberto “Gordo” Correa’s students on their visit to San Francisco through Alexander Crispim of Crispim BJJ Barra Brothers. They all grew up and trained together in Barra da Tijuca, the jiu-jitsu hub of Rio. We met up with our new Gordo friends a couple months later, but this time in Brazil. Rolling and surfing waves was all they talked about. They were kind enough to host and show us around Barra da Tijuca and the hot spots of Rio.
We also met Glaucia Braga, a Rio Matriz Gracie Barra purple belt in Tijuquinha. At the time the UFC was taping Brendan Schaub and the Tropa Thai kids in the favela. We bonded with her instantly. She loved Muay Thai as much as we did and she invited us to visit her academy to “roll”. We had no jiu-jitsu experience at the time and were unable to make it to Gracie Barra because of our tight travel schedule, but I promised myself that I’d give it a try after my trip. The jiu-jitsu passion in Rio has this energy that’s hard to ignore. That vibe stuck with us when we flew back home. All the amazing people I met is what inspired me to put on a gi.
2. What is your current rank and who gave it to you? Where do you currently train at now?
I’m a purple belt. I was promoted to blue and purple belt by Carlos “Sapao” Ban at Ocean Beach Barra Brothers. Sapao was promoted to black belt by Ralph Gracie when he was only 21 years old in February 8, 2003. A couple of legends were promoted their black belts by Ralph that day. I believe Sapao was and still remains the youngest Ralph Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt to be promoted by Ralph.
I now train at Ralph Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in San Francisco under Ralph Gracie, Kurt Osiander, Renan Silva and Christie Sullivan.
3. Is there a person you would like to roll with if you were given the opportunity?
At Ralph’s, I’m pretty lucky to have the opportunity to roll regularly with many different upper belts and black belts. There’s an abundance of talent. I believe your jiu-jitsu improves a lot when you roll with someone that has better technique than you.
As for a wish roll, someone I haven’t rolled with, I really can’t name one person. The athletes I look up to outside of the Ralph Gracie family that motivates me to get up early in the morning all have different styles. For the men, I really admire the basics of Roger Gracie, Romulo Barral’s spider guard, and Buchecha’s explosiveness and how he’s able to control the pace of his matches. They all go for the kill and have impeccable accomplishments. I watch their YouTube highlights every morning on my way to the academy to get my brain jumping.
For women, I admire Michelle Nicolini. I’ve idolized her since I was a white belt. She held an all female seminar at Ralph Gracie SF which was a real treat. I was swept off my feet pretty quickly, if you know what I mean. I would also love to get a roll with Glaucia Braga. She’s one of the main reasons I got into jiu-jitsu.
Lastly, I would absolutely love to get a roll in with Kristina Barlaan. She’s an inspiring local black belt female figure that has done amazing in the competition circuit. All the female practitioners I’ve mentioned have a laundry list of world class credentials and accomplishments. All are class acts and great inspirational role models for female jiu-jitsu practitioners. I’m a huge supporter of women in jiu-jitsu. I admire and appreciate the contributions the women have made to this sport and art.
4. Do you compete in BJJ?
5. How did you do in all your tournaments? Accomplishments?
I picked up gold at US Open at white and silver at US Open at blue. My preparation for US Open at blue was a tough one. I was balancing family, career and training for two different competitions. I like testing my limits. Back to back competitions in the span of two weeks between bodybuilding and jiu-jitsu really challenged my mind and body. Although I didn’t pick up gold at US Open, I was pleased with both performances given that I didn’t go home empty handed in both sports. I also competed at the Pan-Ams at blue. I lost my first match by advantages.
I have not competed at the purple belt level as of yet, however, I’ve been training consistently with my teammates and coaches to prepare for upcoming tournaments before the end of the year.
6. What do you do for a living? Work? School?
I’m a corporate officer for a top performing pharmaceutical healthcare technology company.
7. What do you enjoy doing other than BJJ? Hobbies?
I’m a fitness junkie. I also represent Team Ken’s Barbies of Max Muscle when I compete in bodybuilding bikini fitness competitions. If I’m not rolling around in a gi, you’ll either find me lifting heavy iron in the gym or cooking clean eats in the kitchen.
8. How has BJJ changed your life?
There are so many benefits jiu-jitsu can do for a person off the mats besides the fitness and self-defense aspect. It has changed me in so many positive ways. I’m a reactionary person; the old me would jump the gun in certain situations without thinking, which I’ll admit stunt my personal and professional growth.
Now, I’ve grown so much in both areas. Overtime I’ve developed a calm demeanor that allows me to think things through analytically and logically when I’m stuck in a bind or when I miss out on an opportunity on the mat. Jiu-jitsu calmly stimulates my thinking process and attention to detail on and off the mats. I’m okay with being uncomfortable; I actually welcome it. It challenges my heart and mind. What’s most intriguing about jiu-jitsu is that it can be applied in different forms and different environments.
9. Any advice to the new white belts that recently started BJJ?
Focus training heavily on your fundamentals and pay extra close attention to the little details. You don’t want to be that guy or gal that muscles his or her way up the belt ranks or that guy or gal that can berimbolo but can’t hip escape. Jiu-jitsu at its finest is when a move or a sequence of movements are executed with leverage and technique with no strength. That’s the beauty of jiu-jitsu.
10. What do you like most and least about BJJ?
What I like most about jiu-jitsu are the bonds and friendships I’ve made with my coaches, training partners and other fellow practitioners. I have so many great unforgettable memories with the OBBabes of Ocean Beach and the Ralph Gracie Female Team. We have an amazing female team led by Christie Sullivan at Ralph’s that keeps on growing. There’s never a shortage of females to roll with. We constantly push and motivate each other on and off the mats.
What I least like about jiu-jitsu is a stinky gi. If you rolled in it for one session, please don’t roll in it again 5 hours later or a day later without washing and drying. The odor is torture. Be a good training partner and throw the gi in the spin cycle and let it dry.
11. Do you train any other martial arts or exercise other than BJJ?
Prior to jiu-jitsu I trained Muay Thai and Sanchou under Coach Allan Maravilla for four years. He’s been such a great mentor to me when I was under his wing. He encourages all his students to have more than one skill set in the gym. Dipping my feet in different sports I owe a lot to Coach Allan. He’s always in my head, reminding me to commit and test my limits even when times get tough.
I’m also a bodybuilder. I compete in NPC bikini fitness competitions under Kenny Tali of Max Muscle and Bryant Pangelinan of Max Muscle and Sabre JJ Academy. Coach Kenny and Coach Bryant focus a lot on isolation exercises that’s suited for my body type. Where I lack, they help me build. Where I’m too soft, they help me tone and tighten up. I like bodybuilding because it contributes to my conditioning in jiu-jitsu and lets me be a girly girl when I’m off the mats. I’m very fortunate to be coached by legends and world class coaches for all my hobbies.
12. Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers of this interview? Thank you for your time. Keep up the hard work!
Have fun and enjoy every step of the journey. Consistency is key. Pay your dues on the mat and drill and drill and drill! Thank you Team Knoxx for letting me share my jiu-jitsu experience. Osssss!
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 email@example.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!
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