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Sweaty Betties is one of the oldest women’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu training groups that offers free training to the Bay area ladies. Sweaty Betties was founded in 2008, its home base is Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Oakland, CA, and the group is open to anyone who wants to learn and have fun doing it.  The group leader Mollii Khangsengsing sat down with us to talk about what Sweaty Betties is all about.

First of all, what a cool name Sweaty Betties is! How did you come up with that?

We wanted a name that is both catchy and reflects the essence of the group. We are passionate and serious about training but we are also playful, super silly, and we love to have fun! We feel that naming ourselves Sweaty Betties was appropriate.

A Betty is a term used to describe a chick who is chill, self-confident and athletic, which originated in the surf and skate scene. Sweaty is an accurate description of us during training, plus we liked the rhyming sound of Sweaty Betty. In fact, our original name was Sweaty Betties, Hot `n Ready. The word hot has a double meaning: the heat beauty and the heat of the fight. We dropped the Hot `n Ready for simplicity purposes.

Sweaty Betties recently celebrated its 4-year anniversary. Tell us a little bit how it all started.

When I started training about 5 years ago, I was one of the two girls practicing BJJ at my academy. Being the smallest in terms of stature (I’m 4’11” and 90 lbs), I struggled both physically and psychologically, which was actually an unexpected element at the time. The physical challenge was tough but manageable. However, the psychological challenge took a toll after a while. In terms of the psychology behind being small and female, meant investigating not only strategies in fighting larger men but also investigating what it means to be a small female jiu-jitsu fighter.

After the first year and a half I, I found myself at the crossroads of making a difficult decision, quitting or finding a solution to my size and gender situation. A friend suggested starting a support group of BJJ women. I started searching for avenues to make it happen and with the support of a handful of people, Sweaty Betties was born.

The importance of connecting with like-minded and supportive community cannot be emphasized enough. Because of Sweaty Betties, I was able to turn my difficult situation into a love affair with BJJ. After three and a half years the love is still going strong!

In 4 years our group has grown into a very diverse mix of ladies in terms of age, skill level, social, economic and educational background.

Do all Sweaty Betties members compete?

About half of the members compete on a regular basis. Each of us has our own connection to jiu-jitsu and competing is not a requirement. Many of us practice jiu-jitsu to improve overall health, learn self-defense, and increase self-awareness. Whatever the reason, we support each other.

How do you keep ladies motivated to come back to train week after week? 

There are multiple factors that motivate us. Each class begins with a good strength and conditioning work out, followed by a quality curriculum taught by Vernie Inocencio, a charismatic black belt.

Throughout the year we bring in special guest instructors like Judo specialists, wrestling coaches, yoga instructors, MMA fighters and more. Most importantly, what keeps us coming back is the overall environment. We make a conscious effort to create a safe, fun, friendly, and supportive place to train and hone one’s skills. This is all done for free (with a donation suggestion for the teacher)!

Other motivating factors include visits to other academies and attending seminars as a group. We also have meetup groups for jiu-jitsu related “homework” such as specific training, strength and conditioning, jogging, etc.

Do Sweaty Betties members do anything else together besides jiu-jitsu?

Yes, one of the biggest components to our group is community building. Every year as a group, we celebrate our anniversary by doing something fun off the mat. It’s usually a day trip. For instance, last year we went to the Russian River, and this year we spent a day at Lake Tahoe by the Yuba River. These outings help us get to know each other on a more personal level, and create a strong community of female bjj practitioners. Did I mention that most Betties love to eat? Whenever we get a chance, we do it together!

You are behind very successful Leticia Ribeiro camps in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Any other events in the works for this year and 2013?

Leticia’s camp started in 2010 as a three-hour seminar. The event was so successful that the following year we added a 3-day camp in San Francisco. Since the first seminar, the number of attendees have steadily increased, and Los Angeles camp in May of 2012 had over 70 women attending from as far as Canada and Brazil.

The success of Leticia’s camps is beyond anything I could have imagined! Now in its third installment, Sweaty Betties will host another Leticia Ribeiro Women’s Grappling Camp in December of this year in San Francisco. We are also exploring other projects, such as BJJ non-profit organization for youth and women, particularly those from under served and at risk communities. Finally, we are discussing the possibility of hosting an all-female competition at some point.

Thanks Mollii and keep up the good work!

Mollii and Leticia Ribeiro

Thank you Leia Asanuma for your contribution in editing!

Registration link to the camp: http://leticiacampsf2012.eventbrite.com/