Fenomenal Woman Dr. Olga Lyashevska

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We are very happy to feature another doctor on our blog. Dr. Olga Lyashevska is originally from Crimea but currently lives in the Netherlands. She has been training judo and jiu-jitsu since 2005 and has earned her black belt in both martial arts. Olga works full-time in a very brainy field, competes actively and is also one of the instructors at Carlson Gracie Amsterdam.  Everyone please meet Dr. Lyashevska!

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What do you do in real life besides training jiu-jitsu?

In real life I spend my days in the office behind my computer. I am working as a postdoctoral (someone after PhD) in statistical ecology. My daily activities include code writing to run statistical models, analysis of relationship between variables and making predictions or simulations.

How did you find jiu-jitsu and where have you been training?

Finding jiu-jitsu was pure luck for me and I do not know how my life would be otherwise. About 11 years ago as a master student at the Dutch University I had a self-study week. This means no classes, just preparation for your exams and more time for sports. Out of curiosity I picked a random activity at the university sport centre and decided to give it a try. When I arrived there, I saw a few black belts coming in and I got so intimidated that I was about to leave. Fortunately it was too late. The teacher noticed me and I was told to join. I remember his words ”No, you cannot watch, you need to do.” I was told to grab a gi and a belt. I was terrible. After a few minutes of the class, he asked me, ”Have you done it before?” I said, ”No.” ‘Why are you wearing a colored belt then then?”, he asked. I did not know either. All I knew was that I was so excited that I picked a random belt out of the box.

The first class was fun and since then I have never stopped training. My home gym is Carlson Gracie Amsterdam and my instructor who promoted me to black belt in 2015 is Marcos Flexa who is a 4th degree black belt under the legendary Carlson Gracie Sr.

Now being an instuctor myself I have learned two things: 1) you do not know whether you like jiu-jitsu until you actually do it yourself 2) first class can be very intimidating.

How did you end up living in the Netherlands?

I came to the Netherlands to study for my Master of Science degree. After graduating I lived in a few different places including the UK and Ireland but the Netherlands was always my home.

Do you like to compete? What are your biggest accomplishments so far?

Yes I do. But my liking has changed over the years. Up to the purple belt I competed a lot, sometimes as often as twice a month. Back then there were few girls competing so I competed against guys and had some success. Now I like doing big competitions a few times a year to stay sharp and to evaluate myself. It’s also a great opportunity to meet other tough girls. At the same time I also enjoy off-season because I can invest time into developing my game, training new things, confusing your body, making mistakes and improving overall. For me jiu-jitsu is for life. So I believe you should train smart and train different things to become a true martial artist. My biggest accomplishment so far I guess would be Europeans 2016. I got third place in the adult black belt open class. Now I am looking forward to the World Masters Championship in Las Vegas at the end of August.

What was your most challenging belt level and why?

Purple I guess. Because back then purple, brown, and black were still one category in competitions. Fighting much more experienced girls was by no means easy but it was invaluable experience. After several years when the moment was right black belt came naturally to me. I felt well prepared. In my very first competition as a black belt I made it to the podium.

You are teaching a women’s jiu-jitsu seminar in Seattle on July 2nd. How did the seminar in the USA come about?

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The seminar in the USA was a coincidence. I am going to a conference to present a paper on gradient boosting regression trees at the University of Washington. Whenever I travel for work no matter where I go or for how long I always bring a gi or two with me. And the first thing I do I check where I can train. I checked and found a club of my team, Carlson Gracie, in Seattle. The rest was a matter of planning. I am very excited to go there and meet new people who share your passion. Thanks to jiu-jitsu I have made friends in many countries such as Canada, France, Germany and Russia. After Seattle I have another ladies only seminar lined up at my home gym on July 10th.

From time to time I teach seminars but I think I prefer teaching regular classes. You build connection with your students; you can see their progress and help them to get better. Recently I have started teaching regular women’s jiu-jitsu classes. There is a really good vibe in the class. I see that women are enjoying it and so do I. It is very exciting to share my passion and to see how others get passionate as well.

What is happening in women’s BJJ in the Netherlands? Are there any regular open mats and camps being organized?

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Yes, there have been big changes in the past few years. Women’s BJJ is growing fast. At Carlson Gracie Amsterdam alone there are at least 6-8 girls training together on a regular night. Once a month we meet with girls from other teams for an open mat somewhere in the country. It is a different place each time so everyone can participate. A couple of times a year there are international trainings camps where girls from all over Europe come together.

Do you have any other talents or hobbies? Anything interesting you want our readers to know about you?

I love learning languages. My jiu-jitsu teacher says that is because I like talking… a lot. So I can talk to everyone. But seriously, I like a challenge; I like the sound of languages. I like to see the amazing capacity of your brain to accumulate knowledge and its response to all the learning. I do it daily. You probably ask how many languages I speak? Regularly I speak only four: Russian, Dutch, English and Portuguese. Sometimes Ukrainian. And I am still learning German and Arabic. There is a long list to do.😉

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Fenom Black Grappling Leggings

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After searching near and far and testing dozens of samples, we finally found leggings that we really liked.  We used extra thick, breathable, four-way stretch, black nylon/spandex material to avoid transparency. The first batch is capri length and full length leggings will follow shortly. These are great for no-gi training, yoga or really any kind of sport where comfort and coverage is important; we don’t mind seeing them everywhere  :)

The model on the photos is 5’4” and 130 lbs with athletic build and she is wearing size S. We are giving away 10 pairs to our customers! Please leave a comment with your size for a chance to win a pair. To purchase a pair, please go to Fenom leggings page. Good luck and happy shopping!

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Gray Pearl Weave Gis

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Ladies asked for gray gis and our first batch is ready! Gi jackets are made of 550 gr pearl weave and pants are cotton ripstop with flat drawstring. Fenom signature F on the sleeves and a minimalistic flower design on the pants and jacket make a gorgeous, feminine gi. The color combination of gray fabric and dark purple embroidery is unexpectedly bright and striking. Gray gis are not IBJJF approved for competition but we expect to see them at women’s jiu-jitsu seminars and open mats everywhere. If you are one of the first customers who have received their gis in the mail, let us know what you think. Happy shopping, happy training!

Just Another Day in the Office

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People sometimes ask me, “What does a a typical day in a gi business owner’s life look like? Is it really as cool as it sounds like? Do you get to sleep in late and train whenever you want?” Well, here you can read about a day in my life. You be the judge.


Monday. The day started off shitty. My son decided suddenly that he didn’t like Fruit Loops any more and asked for a Pop-Tart. Pop-Tart? What? I don’t have Pop-Tarts. I had just spent over four dollars on this extra huge family size box of cereal and he wants Pop-Tarts. Get outta here! My daughter was angry about something I did or did not do, can’t remember what it was. She is always angry. Both of them knew I had a lot of work to do so they got a yelled at before it was even 7:30 AM.

It was an extremely important day; we had to push out a new women’s gi design and time was ticking fast. I got my two designers on the phone and told them the usual, “Make me something good.” The designers mumbled something about direction, that they need direction. I was like, “What? You’re the designer, you know what I want. Make it!” They kept arguing with me and it really escalated because you know, I’m the boss here. They started suggesting the regular gi design ideas: samurai, octopus, skull and some other nonsense. So I yelled at them and called them morons, idiots, imbeciles and entry-level clip art artists among other things. I know that this always makes them work hard so I kept my tirade going for a good 10 minutes threatening to fire everyone if I didn’t get a design in the next hour.

Then I hung up the phone, got me a fresh cup of coffee and dove into Facebook. It’s always good to spend time on Facebook admiring other people’s lives. Some of my friends have such perfect lives. The food is AMAZING, the husband is the most AMAZING and the training is always AMMMMAZZZINGG! Damn it.

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In about an hour I opened my email and guess what! There it was: THE email with an attachment. I knew I could squeeze a good design out of my employees! It was a picture of a carrot, an organic carrot to be specific. First I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not but the more I looked at it, the more it made sense. I’ve seen gis with all sorts of crazy designs so this is no different.

It will sell; I know it will. At this point I had nothing else so it was either a blank gi or the carrot. I went with the carrot. I stamped APPROVED on the design and thanked the designer for doing an outstanding job bringing my vision to life in such a vibrant manner.

It was a tremendously successful day. I felt accomplished and started counting the money I would be making when the new batch of gis drops. Did I train? No, I skipped that; grabbed a big bag of potato chips instead and plopped myself on the couch. Great day it was!

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Happy April Fools Day!

Let’s Talk About Gi Pants Part I

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haremblueHow to choose great fitting gi pants? It can be very easy or tricky depending on where you fall on the size chart and one size definitely does not fit all! In the first part of the article we will talk about sizing and the second part will cover material options in-depth.

Size

Size chart shows the range of weight and height and should be used as a general guideline. If you are not sure about your size, always ask! There is a good chance we have found the correct size pants for someone with similar measurements and build. For a woman smack in the middle of the size bracket it is pretty easy to pick the right pair. At 5’7” and 145 pounds with athletic build, you can order a pair of A2s* and the pants will be a great fit. Someone at the same height but at 175 lbs with wider hips is probably going to ponder, “Should I go with the weight bracket or height bracket for size?” The answer is to go with the weight and choose curvy pants.  A tall lady at 5’10” and 145 lbs should go with the height bracket and pick tall pants for best fit.

Women come in so many varying shapes and sizes that weight and height are not the only thing we ask when helping with sizing. Sometimes we may need to dig deeper. Fibbing about your weight a little bit is fine but anything over ten pounds can result in incorrect fit. Being honest about your jeans size is appreciated; it helps prevent disappointment and costly exchange process.

  • Pants width

We recommend an easy fit test. When you put the pants on; pinch the loose material at the side of your hip at the widest point and if you have about 1.5-2 inches of fabric between your fingers, you have a good, pretty fitted pair of pants with just enough room to move around and no excess bagginess. When you have less than 1.5 inches material between your fingers, the pants will be too tight. Gi pants should fit a little loose, not skin-tight like yoga pants. It is uncomfortable to roll in super tight gi pants. Not only do they constrain movement but also make you feel self-conscious knowing that the back side is being exposed and the seams are about to bust open. If you have way more than 2 inches of material between your fingers, you will have very loose-fitting pants, almost like judo pants looseness. There is nothing wrong with loose fit, it is ultimately all about personal preference. Some women prefer fitted pants, some prefer looser cut.

If you are in between sizes or your weight tends to fluctuate 5-7 pounds within a month, having a pair of curvy pants is a great option. Extra couple of inches of room around hips and waist makes all the difference when you feel bloated or heavy. Regular, slim cut pants are perfect for the days or seasons when you are little lighter or want more fitted pants. If your goal is to lose some weight, we suggest to buy a pair of pants that fits right now, not at your goal weight. Tight pants will not motivate you more; they make training unpleasant. Buy a smaller size as a reward when you have reached your goal. Even though we make a variety of sizes, there are a few cases when a customer is out of our weight and height range and sadly we don’t have the perfect pair for that shape.

  • Pants length

When you put on a brand new pair of gi pants, the bottom of the pant leg should touch or sit on top of your foot. After shrinkage the pants will be right above the ankle bone which is the preferred length. If your pants start out at the ankle bone length, they will become capri pants over time. Some people don’t mind capri length gi pants but if you are a competitor, the pants may not pass inspection depending on how strictly the rules are followed. Do not hem the pants before you have washed them a couple of times. Most of the time hot water wash and dryer takes care of the extra length.


*Size refers to Fenom size chart and Fenom gi pants. Every brand uses slightly different size charts and our recommendation does not necessarily work with other brands’ pants.

Exchanges and Returns

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Sometimes the gi you purchased is incorrect size or you happen to have buyer’s remorse and an exchange or return is in order.

This is a friendly reminder what not to return:

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  • Gi covered in pet hair and lint. We love furry babies too but please run a lint roller over the gi before you pack it up.
  • Gi with stains (food, blood, dirt). Yes, odd but it has happened.
  • Washed items.
  • Hemmed pants or altered jackets.
  • Gi that has been worn to class. Try it on but don’t take it for a full test drive.
  • Clearance items. If you are not sure about sizing, please ask before purchasing. Clearance items are not to be returned and forcing the refund through by complaining to your credit card company is not cool.
  • Items with size tags or labels removed.

Thank you and happy training!

Dr. Kim Freeman, PhD

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Dr. Kim Freeman, PhD is a four stripe brown belt, a mother and a philanthropist. She will be teaching a co-ed BJJ seminar in New Albany, Indiana, on March 12th and took some time off her busy schedule to talk about her life and training in Indianapolis. Everyone meet Dr. Freeman!

What do you do in real life besides training jiu-jitsu?

Currently I am a sales representative for the life science microscopy company, Olympus. I always loved science and knew it would be part of my future. I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and attained a Bachelor’s Degree in Cell and Structural Biology while minoring in Chemistry.

I started graduate school in New York but had to take time off for the birth of my daughter and relocation after the 9/11 attacks. After settling in Indiana, I re-entered graduate school and attained my master’s degree through Purdue University in a Cell Biology program, specializing in Lipid Biophysics.

My Ph.D. is through the Indiana University School of Medicine in Medical Biophysics, specializing in Biomolecular Imaging. My doctoral worked focused on deep tissue imaging of the sympathetic (think fight-or-flight) nerves in the heart and how they changed with myocardial infarction (damage from a heart attack). Most of my imaging work used a Olympus multiphoton microscope so when the position with their company in the area became available it seemed silly not to apply. I never would have guessed that I would end up doing what I am doing; life leads us in strange ways sometimes.

Work, family and jiu-jitsu keep me fairly busy. Every month or two I sneak in some philanthropy though. This month my daughter and I packed food for the needy. In April I am helping frame and wall a house for Habitat for Humanity. Giving back helps a person appreciate what they themselves have.

You have been training for 17 years. How do you stay motivated to keep going? What setbacks have you experienced?

Setbacks; there have been a few! I started training towards the end of 1998 at a small gym in NY. The overall attitude towards women in jiu-jitsu was very different back then, at least amongst the lower belts. Most all of the brown and black belts I met or knew were very encouraging though. I do not know how many times I’ve “quit” jiu-jitsu. Too many to count probably. I’ve had some severe injuries that kept me off the mat for months at a time. Most of the injuries were caused by lunkheads not controlling themselves or purposefully going rough to shake me away from the sport. There was a lot less control in the sport back then. Leaders of the gyms were blue belts, not black or brown. There is a certain refinement that comes with vesting years into this sport. That refinement is much more noticeable in schools led by higher belts. That was a luxury not many had back then though.

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I took about a year and a half off for having my daughter. I was in a school that did quite a bit of warm ups, cardio and drilling so I was able to stick with that for several months before having to leave the mat. My daughter was born a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks which left us without jobs, or prospects of jobs. We picked up and moved to the Midwest. I joined my current gym in the spring of 2002 and have been with Indianapolis Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ever since.

My then husband did not adjust well to family life which really limited my training time for a few years. My teammates were by my side though and after separation and divorce, I was able to get back on track with BJJ which has helped me discover how strong women can be. I bet most people take extended breaks from jiu-jitsu throughout training. Life happens. What matters more is that you come back to the sport. That you keep returning; persevering in the face of difficulty.

The motivations to continue on change constantly. As you progress in your jiu-jitsu journey, you grow and develop as a person. Therefore, the motivations for continuing the sport need to develop with you. Sometimes it is to overcome some internal demons, sometimes it is to prove something to others, sometimes it is for the comradery or it could be because your mind and body have learned to release stress when in the gym. After a while, it becomes a regular part of who you are. It is less motivation to stay in as it is an existential need to complete who you are as a person. BJJ transcends from something you do to being part of who you are. I don’t have a set motivation to keep going in jiu-jitsu, it is fully integrated into who I am. It is not the entirety of my being, but it makes me whole as a person.

What does your family think about BJJ? Does anyone else in your family train?

No one else in my blood line family trains. My daughter has been on the mat a month here or there, but has never stuck with it. My extended family has shown support now that I have climbed my way through the ranks which I am very thankful for. My nuclear family is not fond of it though. My jiu-jitsu family has been my lifeline. I am very grateful for all of them.

Do you enjoy competing? Do you remember your first tournament? What is your biggest accomplishment and what are you most proud of?

I used to compete quite a bit. My first tournaments were actually against men because there weren’t other women in my divisions. Especially after moving to the Midwest competing was limited. My divisions were empty most of the time and when there were other women, we did not have the luxury of weight classes or divisions. I took a few severe injuries because of it. My last tournament left me with some mild but permanent hearing loss. I have retired from competing because of that.

As for pride, that is a double edge sword. I think attaining my blue belt was amazing. I was under Marcio Simas at the time, back in 1999. I felt invincible, strong, and proud of this accomplishment. As the years progressed, I have been less proud of each belt. Not that they weren’t deserved, or unwanted; more because each was seen less as an insurmountable obstacle and more as an expected achievement. I have achieved more than most people every will, at my young age of (cough, cough, mumble). I expect myself to do more and go farther still. Am I glad to be doing it? You betcha! Would I continue without belt promotions? Sure thing. I just expect to achieve certain goals so it doesn’t seem like something to be prideful about.

Tell us a little bit about teaching jiu-jitsu. How often do you teach?

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I’ve taught at a few workshops and am starting to do a few seminars now. I really enjoy seeing young timid newcomers blossom and grow strong. This past weekend I did a workshop for new to the mat women. Four of them could not easily do a somersault at the beginning of the class. By the end of class, they had learned a few techniques, felt safe on the mat, rolled their first matches, and left smiling. They gained a touch of confidence and a little bit of awareness. Who knows if they stick with it? I hope they do. If they choose to though, I will be there for them to lean on.

Do you have any other hobbies besides jiu-jitsu?

There is something other than jiu-jitsu? I keep myself pretty busy but nothing I would call a hobby. I volunteer quite a bit for my community, helping take care of landscaping and the political mumbo-jumbo my condominium association has to deal with. Also, there is always something to do when you have children. My daughter is in the school band so I help there quite often. Before that there were sports or Scouts to keep up with. I’m a routine blood donor, having given over 10 gallons of blood or blood components throughout the years. When possible I go to my gym though. My jiu-jitsu family keeps me centered, humble, and encouraged.

Last words.

I greatly appreciate the support from Fenom! I had actually sent an email to a prominent gi company long ago about tailoring a gi towards women. The response was lacking, at best. It is great to see how women are not only becoming accepted in jiu-jitsu but encouraged and honored as well. There is seemingly no limit to what can be accomplished when people support each other and work towards the greater good.

Better tomorrows come from the actions and decisions we make today. Jiu-jitsu is a wonderful forum for this. BJJ tears away what we are not supposed to be and provides a supportive community to lean on while we gain the strength and perseverance necessary to be leaders in this world. Where we are today in jiu-jitsu seemed unfathomable just a few short years ago. Just imagine what it will be like in a few more.

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BJJ Sisters Colombia

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marcela2Marcela Sánchez Rodriguez is a purple belt from Alliance Jiu-Jitsu Colombia and the co-founder of BJJ Sisters, the first women’s jiu-jitsu community in Colombia.

She is a 28-year-old graphic designer currently working in Bogotá. She describes herself as a responsible adult for two dogs, a little sister of two, a frustrated singer, a travel enthusiast, and a BJJ lover living right in front of the academy. Everyone meet Marcela!

You are one of the highest ranked women in Colombia. How did you find jiu-jitsu?

About four years ago I was at a new job that allowed me to have free time which is an unusual feature in a graphic designer’s life here in Bogotá. During those days a friend introduced me to the UFC world and I was just fascinated; I started asking about kick-boxing academies until I was finally referred to Octagon MMA which in my opinion is the greatest MMA Academy in Colombia.

They offered fantastic classes: MMA, boxing, bag work, fitness, wrestling and BJJ. I was exuberant thanks to the amazing teachers, the classes and the transformation of my body. I was happy about everything but jiu-jitsu. I remember, doing the best to understand how BJJ worked but as it is in real life, it is better if you just go with the flow.

The time passed by, I kept training and one day I met Carlos Quintero, the new Alliance Colombia instructor. He arrived with an amazing energy and a strong character; every move, drill or technique that he taught me became a challenge, and that was the major reason I fell in love with BJJ. I decided to be my instructor’s shadow and then my life took a big turn, from my neighborhood to my daily routine. Nowadays I just cannot imagine myself without jiu-jitsu.

Have you always trained at Alliance? How many other teams are there in Bogotá?

Alliance Colombia has been my academy since my first BJJ class. I have great teachers as Carlos Quintero and Giovanni Espinosa. Both are brown belts, very supportive and great team partners. We are all under Juan Miguel Iturralde, a black belt from Alliance Samborondon, Ecuador.

Here, we have plenty of academies: Gracie Barra, Octagon Jiu-Jitsu, Ultimate Fighting Club, 300 MMA, Wolfteam, etc. But I strongly recommend everyone planning to visit Bogota, to join us at Alliance Colombia. We are one of the strongest, most talented and happiest teams in the country.

Do you like to compete? Do you have enough tournaments in Colombia or do you have to travel far for BJJ competitions?

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I love to compete. It involves a lot of hard work and mental preparation. When you compete anything can happen and everything is a lesson. I always get super anxious during the tournament day. It is not an easy situation but I truly enjoy the experience because it teaches me a lot, not only as an athlete but as a human being as well.

I always try to attend every tournament in Colombia. However, I’m a big girl by my country’s standards, a fact that does not help when the time to build brackets comes. That is why I decided to compete in the IBJJF NYC Open last year, getting the 2nd place in blue belt heavy weight class and fighting for the first time in an international tournament. My last competition was three weeks ago at the Abu Dhabi Trials in Ecuador. That was my first step as a brand new purple belt and although I got the first place in my category, I couldn’t make it for the open class. Again, just an experience in this beautiful journey and a new lesson from an endless path.

You are one of the founders of BJJ Sisters. Tell a little bit more about this group and what have you accomplished so far? 

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BJJ Sisters is a beautiful project created with my friend Liliana Arias who is also a very talented BJJ practitioner in Colombia. We went to a Female BJJ Camp in Mexico City in 2014, invited by Itzel Bazúa, a brown belt from Mexico.

The camp was led by Sophia Drysdale and Mackenzie Dern. Being there and training with other women made us feel ready to empower the ladies from our city and country to join the BJJ life style.

We started about a year ago with the group and it has been growing really fast. For me, the greatest accomplishment is that BJJ Sisters now is seen as a strong reference for women’s BJJ in Colombia.

Do you see yourself training 10 years from now? Do you teach and do you want to teach BJJ in the future?

I absolutely see myself training not only 10 years from now but for the rest of my life. I have been teaching since my blue belt with the BJJ Sisters project and now my teachers are calling me as a support instructor when they cannot come to the academy. I feel really comfortable and joyful sharing my knowledge and seeing how the team grows together.

Who is your favorite black belt? Who would you like to learn from if you had a chance?

My favorite black belt is Dominyka Obelenyte. I just adore the way she plays spider guard and open guard in general. I would love to join Sophia Drysdale’s classes again and I’ll look forward to doing it. I think that she has quite a unique and beautiful teaching style especially focused on women.

What do you want people to know about Colombia?

About Colombia… I feel really to proud to say that in spite of all the heavy and sad violence background, we have always been listed as one of the happiest places in the world. I believe that those statistics say a lot about the Colombian people who wake up every day, fight their own struggles and still have a big enough heart to keep a smile on their faces.

As Renzo Gracie’s said: “Everyone is fighting something,” and I feel absolutely sure that I was born in a fighters’ land.

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