The greatest essentials of happiness are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for. Happy training in 2020!
Supporting women’s bjj since 2009. Powered by She!
Supporting women’s bjj since 2009. Powered by She!
Gracie Barra black belt Vanessa Wexler is hosting a one-day women’s jiu-jitsu winter camp on December 1st. The camp is held at Gracie Barra Colorado Springs, the gym she co-owns with her husband Bryan. The day camp includes gi and no-gi seminars, discussion panel, food, hot chocolate, raffle, giveaways and much more. Half and full day tickets are available and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to TESSA, a local safe house for women seeking help from domestic and sexual violence in Colorado Springs. The much needed donations will help TESSA to continue providing legal aid, counseling, children’s programs and other services to women going through hardship.
9 am Check-In
9:45 am Warm up and group photo
10 am No-gi seminar with Vanessa Wexler
12 pm Lunch provided for full day ticket holders and craft corner
1 pm Gi seminar with Vanessa Wexler and group photo 2
3 pm Snacks and raffle
3:30 pm Women’s panel: Discussing all things BJJ for women
4:30 pm Yoga
Finished by 6 pm
Fenom Kimonos is supporting the camp by donating a gi to the raffle and the lucky winner can pick whichever color, design, and size she likes from our product line. Good luck ladies!
Dani Harris, a BJJ blue belt out of Vision MMA in Cincinatti, Ohio, is organizing a women’s only no-gi tournament on December 7th. The tournament will be held at Backwoods Grappling Academy and the winner of each division takes home $125.00 prize money.
We asked Dani a few questions about her life and how this event came about.
What do you do in real life?
I am originally from Louisville, Kentucky but recently moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to be part of a growing group of dental practices in this area.
How long have you been training? Do you prefer gi or no-gi?
I wrestled in high school back in 2010. After graduation, college and in the beginning of my career I found myself out of shape and bored. In 2014 I went to a gym to try something different, cardio boxing, and saw people doing jiu-jitsu. I gave it a try and have not looked back since. I am a blue belt and train at Vision MMA under Shawn Hammonds. My primary jiu-jitsu coach is Jeremy Pender.
I train primarily no-gi because I also fight MMA. I train in the gi now about once a week. I try to compete as much as possible, from MMA to small tournaments to IBJJF to super fights. I am usually always game to get in a good scrap.
How did you come up with the tournament idea?
I used to be the leader of the Kentuckiana women’s jiu-jitsu club and hosted seminars in the area with female athletes, including MMA fighter Cat Zingano and Olympic bronze medalist wrestler Randi Miller. I handed over my position in late 2017 to focus on my own training and to coach high school wrestling. I am currently training for IBJJF no-gi World Championship and this tournament is an effort for me to raise money for flight, hotel and registration fees. Michelle Day, also a blue belt, from Louisville will be rooming with me and competing alongside me.
Hosting a tournament seemed like a good opportunity for me to get back in the women’s bjj community in the organizing role and to continue encouraging women to stick with the sport and compete. I have cash prizes for the winners because ladies train hard and we love cash prizes just like the boys! I have a few super fights lined up: a kids super fight with two 9-year-old girls and a brown belt super fight with two very experienced female martial artists, Marissa Pender and Gina Elliott.
What weight and belt brackets do you have and who else is involved with the event?
The tournament is broken up into 4 brackets: white belt 135 lbs and below, white belt 136 and up, blue/purple belt 135 and below, blue/purple blet 136 and up. The rules are IBJJF rules and the entry fee is $40.00.
The tournament will be held at Backwoods Grappling Academy in Carrollton, Kentucky. The owners of the gym, Randall and Emily Prince, are my very close friends and they are the main sponsors of the event by providing the venue. They have always supported my crazy dreams and ideas, I cannot thank them enough! Jacob Propst has helped me with some cool graphic design and marketing/social media ideas. Helm Raiments, no-gi clothing company, has offered 20% off code to all women who register for the tournament before November 15.
Any final words?
I absolutely love hosting women’s bjj events, seminars and now a tournament, so this definitely is just the beginning! I plan to continue my efforts of growing women’s jiu-jitsu in the Midwest and the Southeast for as long as I can. My heart is in the sport and with the people of this community. I look forward to one leaving my day job and making the greatest hobby my career. I aspire to be a female gym owner who can provide a safe and fun environment where girls and women can thrive and grow through BJJ. The sport has saved my life in more ways than one and I love being able to share it! Anyone interested in the Tri-State tournament, please contact me on Facebook.
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
We are excited to announce the release of our 10-year anniversary gi! Unicorns and donuts? YES! We have survived in a very masculine sport and industry for a decade making women’s gis exclusively and feel like a true unicorn. And who doesn’t like a good donut on their birthday? We hope you like the fun, colorful gi and celebrate with us. Jacket is made of 550 gr white pearl weave plus fabric and pants are made of traditional light weight cotton drill fabric. Gi comes in all regular, tall and curvy sizes from A0-A4 and also in kids sizes M00-M2. Adult sizes retail at a very affordable $115.00 and kids sizes are $80.00. Happy shopping!
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!!
We had the pleasure of interviewing judo black belt Gigi Davis. She is USA JUDO certified judo coach in Texas, Registered Nurse, and Japanese-English medical interpreter. According to Gigi she wasn’t athletic, hated exercising and had no interest in judo initially. She started training in high-school and joined the school team just to hang out with her good friend. She ended up becoming a judo black belt, a competitor and an instructor! Gigi lived for over a decade in the United States but two years ago moved back to her homeland, Japan. We wanted to learn more about her international family, training, and life in two very different countries.
How did you find your way to the United States and why did you move back to Japan after so many years here?
I had been dreaming of working abroad since I was a high school student but had no chance to make it happen until I was in my 30s. In 2004, a huge tsunami devastated Indonesia and I had the opportunity to join DMAT to go to Banda Ache, Indonesia as a tsunami task force. I was quite confident to complete the mission because I had been learning English in a tutor school and thought I would have no problems there.
However, I was totally shocked because I could not understand international medical teams conversation in the medical team meetings. I realized my English skill was not good enough to complete tasks and work globally. After I completed the DMAT mission, I decided to go to the United States to improve my English. I set my final goal in the U.S. to obtain my RN license. In fall 2005, I went to the States as an international student and started learning English and strategies to pass NCLEX test.
The reason we moved back to Japan is for our children. They have two heritages, Japan and American. They have right to keep both cultures and receive education in Japanese and English. My son and daughter attended Japanese school in Dallas every Saturday but it is quite hard to maintain basic Japanese. Besides, both my husband and I are Registered Nurses and saw the dark side of the U.S. My husband is a psychiatric nurse and he took care of so many people suffering from drug abuse, domestic violence, and severe depression. I was a RN working in the recovery room and I saw a lot of gun violence victims. Well, we have some of the same issues in Japan except for gun shootings. In addition, my hometown is in the countryside and have plentiful nature. Children can walk by themselves, have more freedom, and there is less crime. Therefore, we thought raising our children in my hometown would be much less stressful.
Why did you decide to train jiu-jitsu in addition to judo?
Since I started coaching judo in the United States, I realized that more than half of children lost their match by newaza (groundwork when both competitors are on the ground after a throw or attempted throw). I understood the reason. Children cannot throw a perfect Ippon most of the time because of their immaturity of throwing techniques and the match is decided on the ground. If a child does not know ground technique well enough, they instantly lose the match. This is why I started BJJ with my kids. Today so many judo athletes have both judo and BJJ black belt. If we would like to go to a world level championship tournament, we better learn BJJ and judo.
Your whole family trains judo. Is it hard or easy when everyone has the same hobby?
It is fun to practice judo and BJJ with all the family members. Nothing is hard except coaching. Coaching my own children is challenging because I see my children as athletes on tatami but they see me as “mother” all the time. I mean they would like to think I am their mother no matter where they are. Therefore, I sometimes do not coach my kids on tatami and ask someone else to do it.
How much does it cost in average to take judo classes and jiu-jitsu classes in Japan?
It is extremely cheap to take judo lessons in Japan. Our team charges children only $19 per month per child. This is average cost to learn judo. Jiu-jitsu is a bit higher. I have been paying $40 per month for myself and my kids train for free. It looks great financially but we face several problems. All coaches are volunteers and they do not receive any pay or reward from their team. On top of that almost every week they have to work as a volunteer at tournaments. The coaches have too many responsibilities for their judo team and receive no compensation.
What do you think is harder, jiu-jitsu or judo training?
I love both judo and BJJ. I don’t feel neither is hard. Jiu-jitsu is more difficult than judo for me at this time because I am a white belt in BJJ instead of a black belt in judo.
What is the biggest difference between Japan and the United States in general?
I love Japan because most people are really polite, honest, and kind. Safe environment allows us to let our kids go outside freely. No gun violence (only in Yakuza – Japanese criminal organization) makes all parents comfortable letting kids go to school without being concerned about gun shootings. However, Japan still needs some improvement. People prefer using cash instead of credit or debit cards. We still need to work on making our country more foreigner-friendly. I see lots of issues that still need to be resolved but I also love Japan as it is now. Japanese people respect their culture and try to maintain it.
I also love the United States. People are very funny and respect individuality. People are free and living their individual life. I like that a lot. I am just happy to have the opportunity to live in both countries.
If someone wants to visit Japan, what is the one place they should visit for sure and why?
I truly recommend to visit rural areas of Japan like my hometown. Most foreigners like to visit urban cities like Tokyo and Osaka or they visit historical cities like Kyoto and Nara. However, rural Japan has numerous sight-seeing spots. People are really nice. Please visit my hometown, Yamaguchi prefecture, it is really beautiful! People can enjoy historical areas, our beautiful ocean, and nature as well. You will like it!
Do you have any other hobbies?
Yes, I do. I used to love all kinds of board sports such as snowboarding, skateboarding, wakeboarding, and surfing. Today I love fishing, climbing, and hot yoga!
11. Tell us something most people don’t know about you!
I was a judo champion in my hometown when I was 17. It is equivalent to a state champion in the U.S. I got first place in -52kg division and went to All Japan Judo Championship. I won my first match but lost the second one. I made it to the top 24 in Japan.