JIU JITSU WOMEN
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become the sport of choice to many Martial Art enthusiasts. With the rise of Mixed Martial Arts and International BJJ competitions, the notoriety of the art has received a significant boost. Many female athletes are now competing in televised events, and are paving the way for many young up and coming female athletes in the sport. If anyone thinks that females don't have the skills that males have then guess again, the skill level of women's grappling has hit new high levels, as jiu jitsu principles are reliant on skills and technique not strength.
What This Article Covers:
- The Evolution of Women's BJJ
- Famous Female Black Belts in BJJ
- Women's Self Defense
- The Future of Women's BJJ
There are many female athletes that have become cult heroes, as they are showing their empowerment across the globe. There are famous bjj black belts like Kyra Gracie, Deborah Gracie, Ffion Davies, Gabi Garcia and Rhonda Rousey who have forged a legacy throughout their careers. The high calibre of these women athletes are continuing to shine brightly throughout the Martial Arts community, as many young and impressionable female athletes are looking up to their exceptional role models.
THE EVOLUTION OF WOMEN'S BJJ
For a long time women's BJJ was non existent, as the quantity of women in the sport just wasn't there. There have been records that show women did train in Japanese Jujitsu a long time ago, but as for brazilian jiu jitsu it has taken a long time. In the beginning of the history of BJJ, the Gracie clan led by Helio, made the decision not to teach women the art. This was a bold move by the Gracie hierarchy as their prejudice would shine a negative light on the art of BJJ. As the years rolled on, so did the evolution of the sport, as BJJ and Luta Livre competed for bragging rights.
In 1963 Yvone Duarte was born in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Yvone was a sporting dynamo as she competed in basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and swimming, winning a vast array of medals. In the late 1970's, Yvonne began training in BJJ under the famous Carlos Gracie Senior's disciple, Osvaldo Alves. Together they created the first ever women's BJJ team. In 1985, much to the disgust of the jiu jitsu founder Helio Gracie, his son Rickson Gracie launched the first ever female division at a BJJ tournament. Yvone came out of the event as the winner, as she looked to consolidate women's Jiu Jitsu for years to come. In 1990, Yvone made history by becoming the first ever women's Black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as her long time mentor and coach Osvaldo Alves promoted her.
In 1998, women’s divisions were added to tournaments at the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation, even though there were still very few women competing. At that point in the evolution of the sport, there were only two female weight divisions, and was combined into all belt levels. But over time with the increase of female competitors, the IBJJF have added more weight and belt divisions, including Black belt divisions as more women were promoted. From 1998 to 2015 the IBJJF has recorded an increase of female competitors by five to ten percent every year. In 2015 the growth of women's BJJ was helped significantly by the addition of rooster and super heavy weight divisions. Slowly the mindset of many practitioners were changing, and the acceptance of women in BJJ spurred on more growth on all levels.
Nowadays there are reports through the IBJJF database of over 150 women Black belt competitors worldwide. This substantial growth has been helped by organisations like Fight 2 Win, as their support for women's BJJ has seen them host many women's divisions and super fights. Giving women the opportunity to headline on a high calibre platform alongside men has been a revelation in helping the evolution of the sport. Seth Daniels, the owner of Fight 2 Win, has reported that events featuring women headliners have brought in just as much revenue as the men's divisions. This exponential growth is extremely important if jiu jitsu in the olympics is ever going to be a possibility.
FAMOUS FEMALE BLACK BELTS IN BJJ
There has been a significant rise in the quality of female BJJ competition, with many women earning the promotion to the coveted level of Black belt. Being a woman in a man's world is not easy, but with the accepting community of BJJ members, women are now free to maximise their bjj philosophy and excel in the technical application of their game styles. Let's have a look at some of the most influential women in the sport!
Yvone Duarte has become the main pioneer for women's BJJ, as she was a strong voice in the 1980's that helped shape women's BJJ in IBJJF competition. Yvone was the first ever woman promoted to a Black belt by her coach Osvaldo Alves in 1990. Yvone again made history in 2021 by becoming the first ever female Coral belt, which is a 7th degree Red and Black belt, at the age of 58. Yvone has won many Brazilian National Championships and Rio De Janeiro State Championships.
Patricia Lage earnt her BJJ Black belt in 1995 just after her 18th birthday, making her one of the youngest athletes to achieve this feat. She predominantly trained under Otavio de Almeida, but her father Roberto Lage awarded her all of her belts. Patricia has won a multitude of CBJJO World Cups and Brazilian Cups, CBJJ Brazilian Nationals and 13 FPJJ Sao Paulo State Championships.
Gabi Garcia is perhaps one of the most accomplished female Martial Artists on the planet. As a Black belt she has won 6 IBJJF World Championships and 4 ADCC World Championships, she has also secured a multitude of Pan Championships and National and State level titles. Gabi is also undefeated in Mixed Martial Arts, with a record of 6 - 0 including 4 wins by submission and 2 by knockout. Gabi is a seasoned veteran who has just recently retired from competitive grappling.
Kyra Gracie was the first ever female Gracie clan member to achieve a Black belt in the sport. She was raised in the same house as her three uncles Ralph, Ryan and Renzo Gracie, so she was always destined for greatness. Kyra received her Black belt from Carlos Gracie Junior in 2006. Kyra Gracie is a role model to many young Brazilian women, as she has achieved 5 IBJJF World Championships and 3 ADCC World Championships.
Deborah Gracie has become only the second Gracie women's Black belt in history. She is the daughter of the famous Marcio Stambowsky, who awarded her a Black belt in 2015. Deborah is famous for her work in the United Arab Emirates as she became a pioneer for creating the first ever Abu Dhabi women's world team. Deborah Gracie's innovations in the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu continues to grow the evolution of the sport worldwide, as many female athletes aspire to reach her level of ingenuity.
Ffion Davies is a Welsh born female Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athlete, she was promoted to the level of Black belt in 2018 under her coach Darragh O'Conaill. Ffion has a competitive background in Judo throughout her junior years, but made the switch to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu after falling in love with the sport. Ffion Davies is a 2 time No Gi World Champion, and has won a host of other prestigious titles throughout her career.
Although Ronda Rousey does not have a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black belt we thought we would mention her for her contributions to the sport of grappling. Ronda is a 6th degree Judo black belt and has won an Olympic Bronze medal in Beijing. She has also won medals at world championships and other high level Judo tournaments. Ronda is best known for her Mixed Martial Arts career, where she sports a 12 and 2 win loss record, including 9 submission victories and three knockout victories.
ALESSANDRA LEKA VIEIRA
Alessandra Leka Vieira has become one of the most important figures in women's Jiu Jitsu in the history of the sport, as she became the first ever female world champion in 1999. Leka Vieira trains at Redondo beach in California at Rigan Machado's Academy. She also became famous for being the first ever woman to promote another woman to the level of Black belt in Cindy Omatsu.
Cindy Omatsu is famous for being the first ever woman outside of Brazil to be promoted to a Black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Cindy is a Black belt under Rigan Machado and Leka Vieira, and she is currently one of Rigan's instructors out of his Academy in Redondo Beach California.
Michelle Nicolini was awarded her Black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2005 by the famous Robert Drysdale. She is currently a third degree Black belt, but is more famously known for becoming the first woman to ever win all four major championships in GI and No GI, including ADCC, IBJJF and Abu Dhabi Pro. Michelle is also a highly competitive Mixed Martial Artist, and holds a record of 6 wins and 3 losses including 5 submission victories.
Emma Xiong became the fastest ever woman to earn a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black belt. In 2017 She was awarded her black belt by Leticia Ribeiro after only 3 years of training in the Martial Art. Emma was also the first ever woman from China to achieve a Black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Emma has also won World Championships at the Purple and Brown belt level.
Hannette Staack is an exceptional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athlete who hails from Brazil. She has achieved the Hall of Fame status by winning 7 IBJJF world championships and 3 ADCC world championship titles. Hannette Staack is an inspiration to women all over the world, as she continues to grow and develop the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Leticia Ribeiro is one of the most famous women in the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Leticia has reached the Hall of Fame status while leading the Gracie Humaita Academy. Leticia has won an astonishing 9 world championships, as she coaches other amazing women in the sport including Mackenzie Dern and Beatriz Mesquita.
Mackenzie Dern is a high level Black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, who trains out of checkmat under Wellington Dias. Mackenzie has won World Championships at the ADCC level and at the IBJJF level in both Gi and No Gi. Mackenzie has also won a multitude of titles all throughout Brazil and Asia. Mackenzie is best known for her exceptional Mixed Martial Arts career as she boasts a 12 win and 2 loss record including 7 exciting submission victories.
Beatriz Mesquita is another high profile woman in the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. After competing in swimming, judo and wrestling, Beatriz decided to leave all 3 behind her and begin a journey into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She has astounded the community of BJJ with her rise up through the coloured belt ranks. Beatriz cemented her place in the BJJ rankings by winning numerous ADCC and IBJJF world titles.
WOMEN'S SELF DEFENSE
The art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu began as a self defense fighting system. Many women throughout the history of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu have begun to take up the complex Martial Art. Even though Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has predominantly become more about the sporting aspect, there is still an exponential significance in the self defense component. With the rising threat of violence across the world including mental and physical abuse, women are lining up to try and learn the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. With the addition of organisations like the Gracie Academy in California, women across the globe can login online and learn many programs the Gracie clan have to offer. Programs like the Gracie combatives course and the women's empowered program, have received significant success in its fundamental building blocks of self defense. In this day and age, women need to feel like they are safe in a social situation, so learning arts like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu will give women a significant self confidence to defend the ones they love, including themselves.
THE FUTURE OF WOMEN'S BJJ
The future of women's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is looking extremely bright, as many women athletes are leading the way and representing BJJ across the globe. Athletes like Kyra Gracie, Gabi Garcia, Ffion Davies, Jess Fraser and Deborah Gracie, are attracting many young females to the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. As the Brazilian art has been developing over the last decade, women are also contributing to the innovation and success of the Brazilian art.
Now with the acceptance of female athletes in sports all over the world, including Mixed Martial Arts and other forms of combat, the future of women's BJJ could be destined for greatness. With the possibility of a future that could include Olympic divisions, female athletes are leading by example, as they headline on prestigious and televised Martial Art events.
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