Two women-owned apparel brands, Distant Klash and Fenom Kimonos, partnered up to bring you a limited edition women’s gi design for this holiday shopping season. Distant Klash was founded in 2016 by Kelly Kusumoto, a Bay area native, 2008 California HS Women’s Wrestling State Champion and an artist. We loved her wrestling inspired minimalist style designs so much that we approached her with the idea of designing a gi. Kelly was very happy to collaborate with us and the final product is outstanding.
The collaboration gi jacket is made of 550 gsm pearl weave plus fabric and has beautiful, blue and white embroidery on both sleeves, lapel, back and front. Pants are made of soft, brushed canvas and feature over-sized embroidery on the right thigh. The gi has blue contrast stitching, decorative tape inside the jacket and comes with a custom nylon drawstring cord. This is a limited edition gi: a perfect gift for someone special who loves neutral colors and cute, comic inspired design. We asked Distant Klash owner and creator Kelly Kusumoto to talk a little bit about her art, wrestling, and how her company came about. Read below and happy shopping!
Why wrestling? What attracted you to wrestling? Do you have any other athletes in your immediate family?
Growing up, my mom put me in a variety of sports such as tennis, soccer, basketball, gymnastics and swimming. But at the time I saw sports mainly as an activity and not so much as a passion. While I was in middle school I began training in a Japanese form of karate called Shorinji Kempo and quickly became excited by it. It was fun, but more importantly it felt like I could communicate with someone very directly without actually having to use words.
However, one issue that I had while doing Shorinji was finding sparring partners. Older members found me too forceful and kids my age would avoid me for the same reason. At the end of the year they would hold a ceremony where they gave awards and recognition to people who had improved and had done well throughout the year. As a little joke they gave a an award for “Most Aggressive Sparring”. I was super excited to be positively acknowledged for being strong. It was a very proud moment for me.
When I reached high school a friend who was on the wrestling team encouraged me to join. At first I wasn’t very receptive of the idea, but eventually I decided to do it. I saw it mostly as a way to expand upon the martial arts I knew at that time, like learning new words in a language.
My first practice was during the summer after freshman year and I found myself in a very new environment. There were a lot of things I had to adjust to. I was thrown into a world where I was pushing my conditioning and strength training to an extreme. I had to learn how to handle being in an environment where all my training partners were boys. Perhaps the most difficult part was just being around people who did not know me and did not want to wrestle a girl. I found myself feeling a bit isolated and lost. Despite those challenges I stayed focused on the training and I felt that this was the environment I could learn to thrive in. It gave me a chance to fully express my aggressive energy without any restrictions.
In terms of having athletes in the family, my dad’s side of the family practiced judo but I was never taught any. Instead, my dad loved to roughhouse with me as his way of interacting and playing with me. I feel that as a result of those play sessions I began to associate the idea of fun with activities that were very physical.
You became a state champion in California. How did you achieve it? What is life like for a wrestler?
As a student athlete my practices would go until early evening. I did not get home until 6 or 6:30. By the time I got home and washed up, there were only a few hours left to eat, do homework and prepare for the next day. Even simple things like staying awake during class was difficult because I was so exhausted from practice.
The greatest impact wrestling left on me was how to control my diet. Growing up I knew that junk food was bad, but I did not really care about my health. With wrestling I began to refrain from eating junk food. I quickly learned that it was not practical to eat before practice unless I was okay feeling sick and sluggish during practice. I just started to be more careful about what I ate and how frequently. Often times I struggled to eat enough calories because it felt like I was burning more than what I could actually consume.
On a weekly basis practice was after school for three hours, five days a week. Once the season got going there would be a tournament every Saturday. In my first few years of wrestling I was so bad that I would try to do extra drills at night. I was quite desperate to improve so I also practiced visualizing to try to perfect the moves I had learned.
I think what added to my desperation was being the only girl on the team. I wrestled with boys exclusively so I did not have a sense of how my skill level measured against girls. In my first year I went to a few tournaments at the JV level with boys and barely won any matches. I decided that during off season I would hit the gym to become physically stronger.
By junior and senior year I was beginning to feel more even with the boys and I was slowly gaining some confidence. During my senior year I decided to go to more girl tournament and after having wrestled with boys for so long I found myself doing very well in the girls’ division. I placed 1st in almost all of them.
At the girls’ state tournament I was very nervous and did not perform as well as I usually did. I could not pin anyone and was feeling really anxious. By the time I made it to the finals I was really getting nervous. I got caught in a head and arm throw and was very close to getting pinned. The realization that I might lose snapped me back into a better head space and I ended up winning the finals.
Do you still go to your old high school to coach kids?
I used to coach only at my high school but I have expanded my reach to go to any high school with female wrestlers. If they ask me to come and help, I will do anything I can to make time for them. I feel like I can relate to the struggles that these girls are going through because of my experience as a girl wrestler. I understand their frustrations and do my best to lead by example. I know that it is also very comforting for them because sometimes it is difficult to discuss gender specific issues with a male coach.
In college you decided to quit wrestling and focus on graphic design. What prompted that decision?
During my childhood I drew a lot and wanted to purse art in college. However, I was also excited about wrestling and wanted to see how far I could take it. I finally landed on the decision to go wrestle on a woman’s team at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky and pursue an Arts degree there.
However, within a few months I was starting to feel very unsatisfied with both the wrestling and the art program. The wrestling program had a lot of problems but simply put, I did not like the coaching. I did not feel challenged and was starting to get very homesick. To make matters worse, the art program was also very weak. It felt like a high school program and I could see that this was not the right path for me.
I wanted to get out of Kentucky as soon as possible so I left after my first semester. I came back completely broken. I felt like I had disappointed a lot of people and did not know where to go next. I ended up going to a community college where my coach was teaching at. I was able to wrestle under him for one more season. Once again I was wrestling among all boys. Wrestling in college was even more difficult than high school but it was a great experience that washed away all the bad memories from the Cumberlands. I decided to let wrestling go and just focus on art. I got my associates degree and transferred to an art college in San Francisco.
Talk a little bit about your brand. How did you develop such a cool minimalist style? Where did the name come from?
During my time in school I learned how to design logos. Logo design is really different from traditional illustration in that everything is purely symbolic. The goal is to create a design that conveys a lot of information using as few lines and shapes as possible. I got the hang of this pretty quickly and really loved the impact and strength of a clean minimalist design.
I made the first DK design of the two boys in a wrestling stance several years after I graduated college. It actually took me a while to figure out how to draw it because it is very difficult to simplify human movements. As I was drawing it, I began to realize why there were so few wrestling designs that were available. It is really hard because it requires making a lot of design choices for the size and placement of each body part.
However once I was done I was very excited and so relieved. I felt like I was able to accurately depict who I was. All this time I had been going back and forth between my identity as an artist who likes cute things, and as a wrestler who loved to be tough. It almost felt like I was living a double life but now the two worlds could merge together
At this point in my life I had graduated college and I was no longer a part of any wrestling team. I still had a lot of nostalgia lingering from my wrestling days. I think many alumni wrestlers like myself struggle with a lack of identity when they no longer have the time or place to wrestle. The wrestler inside of us never really goes away, so the name Distant Klash was born as a reflection of what wrestling means to me now: a fight from the past, a “distant clash”.
I want it also to represent the younger generation who work hard and train for their next fight. I always feel honored when I am allowed to be a part of their journey to becoming the best wrestler they can be. For them, their wrestling career is still alive and strong and their future is a soon to be “distant clash”.
What are you plans for DK future?
Although DK currently focuses on martial arts, I would love to expand out to other sports. Wrestling is my favorite sport but I have a deep appreciation for all types of movement whether it be in dance, sports or any other physical endeavor. Movement is one of many ways people express themselves and I want to create art that allows people to see that.
Even personally speaking, the wrestling designs I made have allowed me to share my passion for wrestling in a way that overrides any preconceived ideas they may hold. When I tell them that I wrestle, I can tell them what it is really like and how it has positively impacted me. It may seem like a small change but I definitely feel much more confident when I can openly express who I am. I want to be able to extend this feeling to other athletes who may also be in the same predicament.
We are happy to announce that this holiday shopping season we are offering a layaway option. Our layaway plan allows customers to make a small deposit and pay the remainder in 2 installments before December 20th which allows us to ship the product out just in time for Christmas. We are releasing new women’s BJJ gi designs starting this weekend and not everyone is able to purchase the gi of their choice immediately. In many occasions customers have to wait for the next payday and by that time the desired size may already be sold out. The layaway plan secures the wanted color and size and it is completely interest free. However, there is a cancellation fee of $15.00 if full payment is not made by the deadline. Please contact us if you are interested and happy shopping!
When we started making women’s gis in 2009, the production was limited to only three sizes: A1, A2 and A3. Over the years we have added more options including curvy and tall sizes. The addition of A2Tall, A2Curvy and A4 have made A3 practically obsolete. With great sadness we are discontinuing our current A3 size. However, A3 is not completely disappearing; we are replacing it with a brand new A3Short size. Based on customer feedback, there is a need for a size A3 width but not so much for the length. A3Short is made for someone in A2Curvy and A4 height bracket (5’6”-5’8”) but A3 weight bracket (175-195 lbs). If A2Curvy pants are a little too snug but A4 are a tad baggy then A3Short will be the perfect size for you. Happy shopping!
We are excited to give you sneak peek of the new premium cotton pearl weave women’s jiu-jitsu gi that is in production. Pre-production sample arrived this week and exceeded our expectation by a mile! Take a look at this gorgeous, detailed embroidery on the pants and gi jacket. We are also making royal blue version of the same design and both colors will be available at the end of November. As always mix and match, regular, tall and curvy sizes will be available. We are giving away this A2 sample to one lucky Fenom lady. Happy training!
Dr. Yasisca Pujols is a food connoisseur, a world traveler, a licensed psychologist and Fenom Kimonos sponsored athlete. Her love for donuts inspired us to create our unicorn and donut design gi and her most recent jiu-jitsu adventure was in Japan where she won quadruple gold at IBJJF Tokyo Open in purple belt division. Dr. Pujols talks about her life, work, food and what it takes to be a successful athlete.
Why jiu-jitsu? How did you find it and what do you like about it?
I did capoeira for two years and absolutely loved it! I traveled all over the country to attend the belt ceremonies which are really big deals. The Troca De Cordoas, belt changing ceremony, is a weekend of seminars, sparring, and tons of fun. My Brazilian Portuguese was getting better too. I found jiu-jitsu in 2013, after I graduated from University of Texas at Austin and moved five hours south from my capoeira school in Austin, Texas. There wasn’t a close capoeira school in the area and I knew my head coach trained jiu-jitsu as well. I asked him about it and he said that I might not like it too much. I figured I would try it anyway and so my first class ever was at Gracie Humaita in South Austin. Once I officially moved, I started at Harlingen Jiu-jitsu Club and stuck with it ever since.
I really enjoy the challenge of learning and executing new moves. It never feels like a work-out and it’s a great way for me to relieve stress from my intense psychological work. I also enjoy competing because it is direct feedback of how well I’m progressing. Nothing like a hard competition match to highlight your strengths and expose your weaknesses.
My rule of thumb is to do jiu-jitsu every day. I usually don’t succeed in that because of life and responsibilities but I do attempt to schedule out my week in advance. About six days out of the month I travel to South Texas from Houston where I now live. So when I’m not in Houston training at the headquarters, I’ll pop into one of the gyms in the Rio Grande Valley. Some of the time I take two classes per day. On average I train five days a week with two of those days as doubles. My body is used to the training schedule now so the time between training sessions, 20 hours or so, is enough for recovery. I find it very difficult to take a competition class at night and then to train at 6:00 AM the next morning, so I try to avoid that.
I have always weight-lifted although not regularly. Since late last year, I signed up with a gym that focuses on athletic performance and strength conditioning. It’s been amazing to push that edge under the guidance of expert coaches. I really feel many of us in the sport do not strength and condition properly. It’s such a bonus for reducing injury too. At the end of the day, every body is different and we all have our own goals. I feel strength and conditioning is a must for me and so I had to level up and find a facility that can take me further that where I was.
What do you do in real life? What pays bills? Have you always lived in Texas?
Haha, in real life I’m a jiu-jitsu athlete! Then I pay my bills with my other passion: forensic psychology. Since mid-2018, I have been working for myself in private practice as a forensic clinical psychologist. It has allowed for the crazy training schedule and frequent travel. I currently work in both Brownsville and Houston, Texas. Then I also provide mindset and weight-cut coaching to other MMA and BJJ athletes locally and all over the world.
Honestly, I always wanted to live somewhere by the beach. I considered Florida and Texas when I was looking for work after finishing grad school. That’s how I ended up in South Texas, with 30-minute access to South Padre Island. My family circumstances pulled me back to Houston in 2018 and it has been great ever since. Now I just travel to beaches on my different trips. It’s nice to take in beach views from different parts of the world.
What is your biggest competition achievement so far?
If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have said winning Master Worlds at blue belt was the biggest achievement. After traveling to Lisbon, Portugal and winning the European Championship as a new purple belt, I cannot say that my blue belt title has as much weight. I am really very proud of my performance at the Euros. I know my training schedule was intense but it’s the mat time that helped me have several great fights there. I’m looking to compete in more majors because there are more competitors at my rank. Locally, the same few girls, which we are all friends now, sign up for the Texas opens.
Do you think it is important to compete?
I think competing is a personal decision. Although it might be a good idea to compete at least once so you get a feel for that experience. I think it really is valuable to know first-hand what it feels like to prepare and step out onto that competition mat. You’ll be better prepared to help teammates train for their own competitions. I am a very competitive person and I love the instant feedback that a competition match gives me. When I roll at my gym or go to an open mat elsewhere, I never know if the person is going easy or giving me everything they’ve got. When it’s comp time, you know it’s ON. There is no question how hard your opponent is trying to sub you. They want to win and you want to win and the person with the better jiu-jitsu will have their hand raised.
There are also some downsides to competing. It’s very expensive and some that want to compete cannot because of the cost. There is also a risk of injury too. I don’t like reading the waiver section of a comp registration form because it usually mentions death. I mean, I haven’t heard of anyone dying but this is a combat sport. People have torn ligaments, busted noses, broken bones, sustained concussions, and so on. It might not be worth the risk for some but I could easily say that the same risks can happen in class at any gym.
I believe the most important aspect of a good donut is the dough. There are so many different kinds of dough for a donut. I prefer a fluffy, light consistency for the bread part of the donut and that glaze should melt in your mouth. Some glazes are chunky or gritty. My favorite original glazed donut is Krispy Kreme hands down. It’s not too large in size and usually can be bought warm when the neon hot sign is on. Also, they give out free donuts . . . freely! I also like gourmet donuts with crazy toppings like Gourdough’s in Austin, Texas. My latest offshoot craze is the churro. I’m considering hunting down a few spots in Japan after IBJJF Tokyo Open in June 2019.
How do you stay in such phenomenal shape? You don’t seem to go through weight cuts for competitions. What is the secret here?
The secret to staying in shape and at fighting weight is a basic formula of 1) staying consistent with the 2) right nutritional plan and 3) knowing how to balance fun foods sporadically. In other words, if you know how to eat healthy enough to walk around at your ideal weight, then you have half the solution. What tends to happen is that people encounter times where they eat unhealthy foods and gain the weight, then they do not know how to resume the nutritional plan.
It can be disheartening to step back on the scale after a weekend of travel and notice you’ve brought back a bit more luggage on you. That mindset of feeling hopeless and disappointed may lead someone to continue eating badly. I recognize this thinking trap and prevent it by keeping my favorite fun foods WITHIN my diet (i.e., donuts), but eating said foods in moderation. It is really hard to maintain a strict diet all of the time.
You are very athletic so finding a good-fitting gi is not a problem. What makes a good women’s gi: design, fabric or cut?
I’ve been a gi snob for quite a while. There are only a few brands I’ve worn over the years, Fenom included. I built up a decent gi wardrobe and then I had to resize into smaller gis after losing nine pounds two years ago when I decided to quit drastic weight cuts. I’m a taller- slimmer body shape. Before finding the right brand, I found it difficult to find a gi that was tall enough, without being wider. This is how I fell in love with Fenom Kimonos’ really fantastic size variety.
Design is also important to me. I have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts so having an aesthetically pleasing gi design is a must! In general, I like simpler designs and colors that aren’t the loudest on the mat. I want to be able to move well in the gi and not have it up-stage or overshadow my performance. The gi must be sturdy through heavy training and repeated washes as well.
Training with women: how important is it for you? Do you attend a lot of women’s open mats?
For my competitive career, training with women is crucial. However, I’ll highlight that training with women but not only women is important. We have a relatively large group of women and teen girls training at my gym. We have a different capacity for strength as well as for flexibility. It’s great to have that type of training partner for sure. Male training partners are biologically stronger as a whole, so they must adjust for us ladies at times. Training with women gives us a realistic measure of actual competition matches.
I try to attend open mats when I can and that usually falls on Sundays. The rest of the time I am training at my home gym or out of town for work. The only other time I get to spent mat time with the ladies is at the Girls in Gis events – and so forth it! I get to meet and train with tons of women across the state of Texas at these events. It’s great to see so many different jiu-jitsu styles coming together.
What is the best place you have traveled to?
I have always loved to travel. I’ve been to multiple European countries, the Philippines, several spots in Central America, briefly in Japan, Iceland, and the Middle East. It is really difficult to pick one place that was my favorite, but I would say that Iceland and the Philippines were both really memorable trips. Iceland was my first backpacking and couch-surfing adventure. The country is visually majestic! All that water and sun. The locals love sunbathing and so many folks had nice tans. I stayed with a lovely couple in their penthouse apartment along with a few other travelers. I explored the city on my own and sat around in some of the best hot springs in the entire world. Other than it being sunny at all hours of the night, I’d say I need to go there again.
My other top favorite trip was traveling to the Philippines in 2018. Talk about island-hopping! With over 7000 islands, this place was riddled with gorgeous beaches and hidden pools within tiny islands. Any beach trip is a great beach trip for me and if snorkeling is involved, even better. Those waters had the most amazing, living coral reefs. Everything was alive, wiggling, and colorful. I have never seen so many types of fish living among these coral reefs. My previous snorkeling was along mostly dead coral with trash littered throughout.
What would Marie Kondo find in your house that sparks lots of joy?
My gi collection sparks a lot of joy! I’ve had to move a lot over the past six years. I got tired of lugging around so much stuff! So I read the Marie Kondo book and thanked my unwanted stuff before shoveling it away. It felt so great to discard things I didn’t need or want after feeling frustrated that I was paying for storage space to keep said unwanted items. Oh, my small French press sparks joy too! I love coffee a lot.
Do you speak any other languages? Do you have any talents many people don’t know about?
I speak Spanish with my family and Spanish-speaking friends and sometimes for work. Otherwise, it’s English for me. I have a much greater command of English, it is the language that my mind uses. I also know some Arabic and some Portuguese. I have always wished to be fluent in a third language, but got much more busy with jiujitsu.
People have been impressed with my ability to sew lately. Not until teammates needed patches sewn onto their gis, did they even know I owned a sewing machine! I’ve had four machines up until recently. I reduced (Thanks, Konmari Method!) to two sewing machines now. I used to sew dance costumes for my samba dance team and I have sewn plenty of clothing for myself over the years.
Connect with Dr. Pujols on Instagram: @dr.yasi_fit
AJ Clingerman along with her husband James run Indiana Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu/Fight Hub HQ in Greenwood, Indiana. This jiu-jitsu power couple will be running their 6th Women’s Grappling Camp May 3rd-5th. The event has become so popular that the initial limit of 60 sign ups was reached in a record time. Due to overwhelming demand the organizers had to rent a larger venue and extend the max capacity several times. The camp is expected to have 150 participants and this year’s guest instructor is Emily Kwok who is a third degree black belt, a world champion and the founder/master instructor of Princeton BJJ.
AJ spoke to us about how it all started and what to expect this year, “I attended a training camp that Rachel Casias of Zenith Team in Tennessee organized a few years ago. It was such a great event that I knew I wanted to do something similar. Rachel is the only instructor who has taught in all of my events. Women love her teaching style and energy and she really knows how to get ladies fired up at the end of a long weekend.
I run a competition and rolling session during the camp but I bring in the big guns do the actual teaching. Besides Rachel, I usually invite another guest instructor. In the past we have had Michelle Nicolini, Nikki Sullivan, Angelica Galvao, Angela Marino, Julie Kedzie and Vanessa Wexler. To be honest, I mostly choose instructors who I want to train with and learn from. If I am excited about it, other ladies are probably too.
We always work with a charity for all our events. I am on the board of My Bruises Are From, a charity benefiting domestic violence victims and I think it is important for strong women to help other women in their time of need. We have donated to the Julian Center, a domestic violence shelter for women and children, at each of our previous camps and will continue doing so this time around.
I want to make sure that the ladies have the absolute best time possible, so I do everything I can to make it happen. I have an amazing husband and a women’s team who help me with it all. I could not do it without them!”
Our second part of the Tale of Two Tall Ladies is about Joy Pendell. Joy is a world champion purple belt, amateur MMA fighter and Fight to Win regular. She started training in the summer of 2014 at Urijah Faber’s Ultimate Fitness, under Dustin Akbari and according to her, plans to stay there for a long time.
Her commitment to training made her drive two hours one way, two to three times a week, for three years until she moved to Sacramento, closer to the gym. Joy talks about her life on and off the mat. Enjoy!
What pays your bills every month? Do you like where you live?
I am a beekeeper. My family owns a business where we take care of lots and lots of beehives, make honey and raise queen bees to sell to other beekeepers. Bees are very nice if you handle them gently, and are a lot of fun to work with. I love where I live. Half the time I stay with my parents near where I work and the other half of the time I live at my own place near where I train.
You are Fight to Win regular competitor. How did you get involved with FTW? How many fights have you had so far and which one is the most memorable?
I heard about Fight to Win because my coach, Dustin Akbari, was competing for them. I was only a blue belt at the time but I knew as soon as I got my purple belt I would sign up. I am 3-1 for FTW and can’t wait to get more matches. Seth and Missy do an awesome job running that event and I appreciate them so much for giving all grapplers the stage to showcase what we can do. My most memorable Fight to Win was my first one in my hometown. It was against Kim Bowser who is a Pan Am champion and a very seasoned competitor. I have a lot of respect for her and I feel like we put on a really good match for everyone.
Do you prefer gi or no-gi training? You’re a world champion in no-gi. Is that what you consider your biggest achievement so far?
I like training in the gi and no-gi equally well. I feel like I’m equally good at both too. I can never decide which I like more or which I am better at. I compete in both a lot. My biggest achievement so far is definitely snagging a gold medal at the no-gi Worlds as a purple belt. But I would consider being awarded my purple belt my biggest accomplishment overall. Being awarded your next belt represents a lot of hard work and also your coach’s faith in you and recognition of your progress.
What is more important to have one or two really good submissions or to be decent at many? What is your favorite technique?
I like guard passing the most. Specifically, I like the knee cut pass. I always like it when someone pulls guard right away because I get to pass without going to the work of scoring a take-down first. I think having one or two really good submissions is much preferable to having a bunch that you are okay at. I definitely have a few favorite subs I always use in competition even though I know many.
What part of the training do you dislike the most?
I hate warm-ups. I always feel slow and sometimes I get winded for no reason even though I have a great cardio. It may just be something in my head. But I know it is good for me so I try not to be late and miss any of it.
Tell us a little bit about your Muay Thai and MMA career. What are your goals?
Ever since I started training BJJ I had been curious to try using it when strikes are involved. MMA is the perfect way to find out how effective your grappling can be when all sorts of other attacks are allowed. I have had a couple of amateur MMA fights, a handful of Muay Thai fights and enjoy the challenge of the other martial arts. My goal is to go pro in MMA and see how far I can get in the women’s light-weight division. There are a lot of opportunities right now in MMA and I would like to take advantage of them.
Do you consider yourself to be a nerd? Were you popular in high school?
I am not nerdy but I can certainly be awkward sometimes. I feel shy a lot but I try to be as friendly and outgoing as I can force myself to be just because I know most people feel shy also and someone needs to break the ice. I was pretty quiet in high school and mostly kept to myself and had a small circle of friends. I am much more social these days and make a point to get my friends together and do things.
What is the oldest thing you own?
I have some really old family photos I hung around my place. I like old black and white pictures a lot and those are particularly special because they all have a story.
What do you think about when you are alone in the car?
I spend a LOT of time in the car because my job is still far away from my gym so I listen to a lot of podcasts. But when I am just thinking, I am usually daydreaming about BJJ and MMA or what competition I’m doing to do next or something along those lines.
What is your biggest BJJ pet peeve?
My biggest pet peeve is people not washing their gi and their belt. I have a lot of competitive success and I wash my gi and belt all the time. None of my good luck has washed away but I have contracted staph and ringworm from all the “good luck” on others’ belts and clothing.
I want to be remembered as someone who never gave up, always had a good attitude and was a humble student of the sport. I’ve had a lot of success and a lot of failures but I think what is really important is to have the hear of a warrior and not back away from a challenge even when you are afraid.
Do you have any secret talents?
I play the piano and guitar; speak some basic French; I am a good horseback rider: I am a decent ballroom dancer, and a decent chess player. I don’t know how unique any of these are but I also don’t think too many people come across those hidden talents these days.
We bring you a story about two best friends, Joy and Lyzz, who go by the name of HoesNKimonos on Instagram. Lyzz is a brown belt* and Joy is a purple belt and they have a pretty unique relationship. These two ladies are a ton of fun, so we decided to do a joint interview and also individual stories on both of them. Here we go with Part 1.
We were driving to the Worlds in 2015 and discussing Ralek Gracie’s comments about women in jiu-jitsu and his music video “G in a Gi”. It is a very long car ride from Sacramento to Long Beach and somewhere along the road we decided we should make a rebuttal song “Hoes N Kimonos”. We had a lot of fun coming up with our own rap lyrics (neither of us rap, just to be clear) and even though the song remains unfinished, the spirit of the idea remains and we have been the HoesNKimonos ever since.
Do you train together?
Joy: Yes, as much as possible. We met each other on my first day of BJJ class. Lyzz was super friendly and asked if I would be back to train. Lyzz was elated to have another female in class (especially one the same weight class) and always made a point to partner up with me, make me feel welcome, and help me along with the techniques. Lyzz had been training for about 6 months before I started and had a lot of other previous martial arts experience so she was always a step ahead and able to help me along, and make me feel less dumb when I didn’t understand something. Today we continue to partner up in class, drill outside of class, help each other prepare for tournaments, travel, and compete together. Lyzz has always been my main Hoe!
Lyzz: Oh Joy! You’re MY main Hoe! Hoes that train together, stick together! Through thick and thin, sweat and chokes, giggles and guillotines.
How would you describe your personal relationship? Tell us something great about each other.
Joy: Lyzz and I are pretty much doppelgänger, grapple twins, etc. We are so much alike in so many ways it’s very surprising. Lots of people assume we are sisters and even people we know will still call us by the wrong name sometimes or get us mixed up. One of my favorite things about Lyzz is that she is a really bad texter like me so I never have to feel bad if I forget to text her back. We are both pretty scatter-brained and cut each other a lot of slack in that area. It is great to have someone who understands. She is also a really reliable secret-keeper and I can tell her all my dirt. Lyzz, your turn!
Lyzz: Thanks Girl! To echo Joy, we both love grappling and we are both trained in working with insects. Sisters from another mister. One of Joy’s greatest attributes is how friendly she is to everyone at the gym. She believes in the best of people and is the gym’s supplier of honey. Sweet both inside and out!
Who is a better cook of the two of you?
That is really tough because we are both pretty good cooks. We have our own specialty dishes. Lyzz makes amazing sushi and Joy makes some bomb carrot cake. Since Lyzz has a rad husband from Croatia who makes really cool Croatian food, we think Lyzz takes this one.
Would you participate in a beauty pageant if someone asked you to?
Of course! We both love to dress up and show it off. Participating in a beauty pageant would be super fun and now we really hope we get asked (hint hint)!
You both have great hair. Jiu-jitsu women complain about hair loss and breakage during training. How do you keep your hair so fabulous?
Thank you! We both keep it pretty simple for training hair-styles. We do ponytails, simple braids, buns, etc. I think lots of conditioner is key along with a healthy diet that includes lots of collagen. We both rarely use a hairdryer because we think letting it air dry after class is a bit gentler.
Who would make a great President? Lyzz or Joy? Vice President?
Joy may be the slightly more organizer/decision-maker type so Joy will take the President role and Lyzz will be there to back her up when people get sick of her bossiness and impeach her.
If you could choose two black belts to be your parents temporarily, who would you choose?
We think King Gordon Ryan would be the world’s most fun dad so we will go with him as our pops. Hopefully he would dress us up as his royal princesses and we would follow him all over NY trolling other black belts and eating tons of pizza.
To balance it out, we would need a really solid, responsible mom like Bia Mesquita to keep us grounded and make sure we are not missing too much training. She would make sure we get signed up for all the big tournaments plus Leticia Ribeiro would now be our BJJ grandma!
Being tall ladies, you are perfect A2Tall models for Fenom sizing. What do you want gi companies to improve in tall sizes? What is the most important thing in a gi?
Fenom has always been one of our favorite gi brands. In fact, almost every gi we have ever bought has been Fenom gi. Other companies could take a page from your book and realize that not all tall ladies are thick ladies. The A2Tall Fenom makes is suited for the tall and slender type but is cut roomy enough for some hips and butt. It is important that the gi keeps its shape and doesn’t shrink too much over time especially when we are crunched for time and throw it in the dryer. We think the most important thing in a gi overall is the fit. If it is not comfortable, you will avoid wearing it. We want a gi we can look forward to throwing on.
Do you think people who quit BJJ are losers?
Joy: No, not at all. BJJ is a special hobby and it is not meant for everyone. If jiu-jitsu does not fit with your lifestyle and you do not enjoy it, there is no point in continuing other than to know some basic self-defense. There are many other martial arts to try or other active hobbies in general that are good for your health and well-being.
Lyzz: Hardly! Don’t call it quitting; call it taking a break. I have heard great success stories of those who have taken breaks for 8-25 years and eventually made it back to the mats! I believe there is hope in everyone to start or come back to BJJ. They just need the right people and the will to learn #OneOfUs, #WeArentACultYouAre.
What is something you are really bad at?
Joy: I am really bad at the jump rope. We jump rope to warm up for boxing class and no matter how much I practice, I trip and fall like I have never done it before.
Lyzz: Despite being one with water on the mats, I do not know how to survive with water surrounding me. I am like a sad wet cat trying to paw paddle my way back to safety.
In a tandem bike, who would be in the front and why?
Joy: Lyzz would be in the front because I am afraid of cars and would be terrified to bike through Sacramento. My eyes would be firmly shut in the back the whole time and I would be only good for peddling. Lyzz knows all the good spots around Sacramento so she would navigate us to a nice place to eat or a quiet park, so I could open my eyes.
Lyzz: Most days I think I would be in front so Joy can navigate without having to look at the road. Joy has difficulties multitasking with electronics and I fear we may crash at the helm of Joy.
Cats, dogs or babies? Who would you watch if asked?
Cats, especially really fluffy cats who purr a lot. Babies are too loud and dogs need too much attention. Cats are nice and chill and would not mind when we are gone training for a while.
What makes you really happy?
Jiu-jitsu of course! We both do this sport for the love of it and the friends we make. There is no better way to decompress at the end of a long day and reconnect with people. Other than that, we like to be fed, dress up, go dancing, or just laze around and talk. Sometimes the simple things are the best things!
*15 days after the interview was published, Lyzz was awarded her black belt in BJJ. Congratulations!!