This past weekend, on August 20, GMA Gustavo Dantas purple belt Kristina Barlaan (Nova União) hosted the Second installment of Inspire, a women-only open mat in Mesa, Arizona. With over 65 ladies representing 24 different schools registered, some of whom made the trip over from Las Vegas and Southern California, it has become apparent that not only is female Jiu-Jitsu expanding, its opening doors and breaking barriers. Kristina Barlaan speaks on how her simple idea is starting to make some major waves:
What brought you to first put Inspire together?
Originally, my thoughts were concentrated on promoting a women-only Jiu-Jitsu tournament, but then a local female Jiu-Jitsu enthusiast voiced her opinion to me saying that there are many ladies who want to roll with other women but were intimidated by the idea of competing. I worked from this suggestion and within a week I was setting up the very first Inspire.
You were able to gather women from many various schools. Was this difficult to do?
Not at all. The Arizona Jiu-Jitsu scene is lucky to not have rivalries or even that much politics. The women here are also very supportive of each other, so it was just a matter of spreading the word. I also try to have Inspire hosted at different schools. The 1st Inspire was hosted at Megaton’s school in Phoenix with Mackenzie Dern and Luciana Dias. This time I moved it to a Gustavo Dantas affiliate school in Mesa.
What are your goals with Inspire?
At first, it was just to have a comfortable training atmosphere for Jiu-Jitsu women to meet and train with each other, but as I see the open mats growing, I want to be able to offer more. I want to host more female-friendly events like weekend day camps, workshops, seminars, and eventually a tournament. The more events I can offer to help bring women together the more opportunities women will have to further enjoy Jiu-Jitsu.
Do you think you are on the right track to accomplish those things?
The open mats help women break past their fears and outer shell and really help them to want to put on a gi and roll. That is the first and most important step and I really believe I am accomplishing that. This past weekend I had grandmothers, mothers, and daughters training with each other. One of my greatest supporters is in her 50’s and then I also had younger ladies ranging from 13-15 who will be the future ambassadors of the sport. I was also very happy to see many mothers coming to Inspire to introduce themselves to the sport that their children or husbands have fallen in love with. It’s a great feeling knowing that a woman who had never trained before can come to an open mat and have her life change.
Other than Inspire, was there anything else that made the day more special?
Inspire was actually on the day of my 25th birthday. I really couldn’t ask for a better gift than to celebrate what I love with the female Jiu-Jitsu community. I hope that in 75 years, when I’m 100 years old, that I can still be healthy and strong enough to keep Jiu-Jitsu in my life, whether if I’m teaching or, God willing, competing.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would like to thank Tigers Lair AZ for allowing me to host Inspire at their school and the sponsors: Strongvon Tournament Systems, Fenom Kimonos, GD Jiu-Jitsu Events, AGGRO Fight Gear, I Tap Boys, and CTRL Industries. Also, a huge thank you to all the ladies who came out to support. Inspire would be nothing if they didn’t come out to roll.