Who are the White Dragons? Meet Sifu Sharon Sanghera-Sidhu and her all women’s JKD/Kali team

I can’t recall if I first met Sharon in a bar or gym, regardless I am certain there was probably bourbon involved. Our friendship formed immediately, quick and intense, like the way she fights. When I introduce her to people my favorite one-liner is: “This is Sharon: banker, Sikh, bourbon drinker, former drift racer and now coach of an all female knife fighting team out of Oakland, JKD/Kali to be exact. She’s charismatic and inspirational and I’ve watched her turn even the most physical activity adverse into lovers of martial arts. Despite how hard she has tried to fight it, she is a born natural teacher

What first exposed you to martial arts?

I was in an abusive marriage and my manager at work saw I was coming in with bruises and black eyes so she took the time to take interest in my life and asked why I was coming in with injuries. She suggested that I attend a martial arts school that she recommended. I joined Studio Naga martial arts school and found my confidence and self respect again and I left my husband and filed for divorce.

How did you get personally involved?

The first art I learned was Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen. A friend of mine at that time was a Federal Agent and recommended I visit his instructor, Scott Ferreira, so I went ahead and gave it a try. Just as soon, I fell in love with Jeet Kune Do (JKD) and Kali from that point in my life onward because it just felt “right”. I guess you could say I was just at the right place, at the right time. What really amazed me about the art initially, was how I learned to hold my own at a mere 105 lbs. and to flow with men three times my size. It was the first time in my life I could say I truly felt free.

What were your first impressions?

I always thought martial arts was cool to watch on TV but I never gave it much thought beyond that. While growing up I was much more interested in playing other sports, such as basketball and softball/baseball. When I starting training in martial arts I felt as if I belonged to a whole new world. I became so interested I began studying the many origins of various martial arts. From that point there was no stopping me, the more I learned about martial arts, the more I wanted to to train.

What what were some of the larger obstacles you had to overcome and how did you do it?

Martial arts is dominated by males, many of which have extremely big egos. The world of martial arts is masked with egos, by an insecurity which exists deep within. I was very fortunate to have found schools devoid of such egos. However, attending tournaments was quite a different story. There were men from other schools who had unbelievably huge egos. The men who participated in the co-ed knife tournaments wouldn’t even acknowledge me at first, in fact it wasn’t until I had actually won – that some of them came and shook my hand to congratulate me. A few of the men there actually went so far as to say “sorry for hitting you hard”…my response to them was “Hey I signed up for this, just like you did” I believe it was my competitiveness and positive attitude that won me the respect it did from them, well that and responding the way I did. All in all it was quite a challenge to earn the respect I did from the other martial artists, but one thing is for sure – winning matches and tournaments made it much easier.

What does your current practice look like?

I am currently working on flow. Every morning I take my dog out for a jog and I meditate after. When I have the chance I like to flow with an edged weapon. It is something that truly drives me – to flow with edged weapons as an extension of my body, it’s something I truly love.

What changes have you seen in regards to women’s experiences in your particular practice over the last decade?

I never used to see many women in martial arts practicing full contact fighting with weapons. It seems the tide may be turning, because now I see more and more women taking steps to get into the art. With time, more and more women are learning and accepting the fact that their role is not defined by their gender. More women are becoming empowered and realizing they can take whatever path they desire, but its not going to be handed to them. Unlike men, they will have to work much harder to achieve the level of success they aim for.

What changes would you like to see in the future?

I would like the misogyny to stop. It would be nice for the egos to go away to but at the same time those egos tell me that an individual is insecure. Insecurity is a weakness, and in martial arts – knowing your competitor’s weaknesses can be a huge advantage in the game of mental chess.

How did the White Dragons begin?

Most of my life I was told that women should not do this or that and to be “proper” or we weren’t strong enough to do something and we need men in our lives to validate us which I hated to hear and refused to live by. I also saw how exclusive “All Mens” clubs were and how important it was to be apart of these exclusive all mens club.

At Four Elements Fitness, I had women ask me if I was teaching self defense classes or if I was teaching martial arts. They would tell me how they don’t want to join a martial arts gym and have to deal with the mansplaining and misogyny.

I felt what these women needed was a safe place, a place to train, to learn and also to express themselves. What they needed was a club, one for women. A club where they could learn from one another, share stories, laugh, work with weapons and even enjoy a nice glass of rye whiskey from time to time. It was at that point – I founded the White Dragons Club.


What inspires you as a teacher?

Originally I never wanted to teach. Inevitably, I slowly found myself gravitating towards teaching anyway. It’s my students who truly inspire me to teach. If not for them I honestly do not believe I would be teaching. However, given my role in these women’s lives – I’ve learned to appreciate that everyone moves differently and everyone has a story. So, in teaching them I get to learn LIFE from them.

Do you have a philosophy?

Yes I do. “Don’t think just flow and trust yourself”


Tell us about your students.

My students all have different backgrounds. White Dragons are all women and Fifth Elements students are co-ed. Some of my students are single mothers and one is a mother who just gave birth in December and competed in the knife tournament in March and picked up her 2nd place medal while breast-feeding. Most of my students don’t have any martial arts background and from what they tell me, they have avoided gyms most of their lives. I also have students that have trained in other arts such as boxing and Pekiti-Tirsia Kali. All of my students are open-minded, caring and dedicated to the art. Somehow I got really lucky, we have a community of people who take interest in each other and help one another. We are a family.

What are your upcoming plans for 2016

My upcoming plans for 2016 is to have my students compete one more time in a blade tournament so they can learn what it feels like to move under pressure with a weapon and also to have fun. Most of 2016 will be JKD Kali training – edged weapons/impact weapons/empty hand and practical full contact combat movement in urban areas.


Fighters Against Cancer and BJJ Competitor Kailani Yee

Kailani Yee is an incredibly accomplished Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter. At just 11 years old, she has competed in some of the world’s most prestigious tournaments. She is a dedicated student with training and fighting being her top passions. What makes Kailani unique besides her extreme level of focus and competitive edge, is her sense of compassion that has compelled her to create Fighters Against Cancer. FightersAgainstCancer.org is a website dedicated to raising awareness and donations for children fighting against cancer. It also allows other children who compete in martial arts a platform to showcase their accomplishments and find a community of other youth fighters.

Here’s a little bit about what inspired Kailani to start her project:

I shaved my head to donate my hair to a little boy or girl who needed it a lot more than me. Shaving my hair was a good start, but that would only benefit one kid. I wanted to do more. I wanted to use my passion for martial arts to somehow help others. That’s when I came up with the concept for this web site. At large tournaments I met kids who had sponsorship. I thought what if I could sponsor some kids who were sick by raising money to help pay for their medicine. My Jiujitsu instructor makes websites so I asked her to make this one. I wrote letters to Hospitals asking if they could find kids to help. – Kailani Yee, fightersagainstcancer.org

I briefly interviewed Kailani, but to learn more about her and her project please visit her bio page.

What year were you born and where are you from?
I was born in 2003 at Berkeley Alta Bates Hospital, same hospital my dad was born.

What martial arts do you do, how old were you when you started? What do you like about them and why did you start doing them?
I do Brazilian jiu-jitsu from age of seven. I also do Muay Thai and boxing since a few months ago. I used to do Karate from age 3 1/2-7 years old. When I did karate, I liked it but I was always just waiting for the sparing, that’s when I started jiu-jitsu. I love jiu-jitsu mostly because a little girl like me can have a big chance against a heavy boy. When I started Muay thai, I was hoping to get something out from years of karate, and that’s exactly what I got. Just started training with Coach Dee for boxing. I want to be an all-around fighter.

What advice do you have for other fighters out there?
My advice to other fighters out there is “you win some; you lose some but don’t give up because if you give up you will never know if you’ll win the next time. Plus you always learn from your mistakes, it just makes you stronger.”

When you aren’t on the mat, what other things do you like to do?
On my free time, I still like to be active. Some things I like to do are rock climbing, biking, swim and other stuff just like any other ordinary kid.

Who are some of your favorite fighters?
Some of my favorite fighters have to be Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey and Michelle Nicolini. I also went to a Michelle Nicolini seminar and she was awesome! I watched every single episode of the Ultimate Fighter “Rousey vs Tate”.

It’s nice to be able to kick-off October, which is also Breast Cancer Awareness month by promoting an awesome fighter with an awesome project. Please consider making a donation to Kailani’s project which 100% of the proceeds go directly to the kids. I would like to take the time to also personally thank her parents who are both medical professionals for supporting her dreams and making this all possible.

If you are looking for other ways to support families who are struggling to pay for the expenses for their children’s cancer treatments and get some exercise while you are at it, check out Bay-Fit Challenge: Zero To Street Smart.

Zero To Street Smart is a fitness and self-defense training fundraiser to assist families dealing with the high cost of cancer treatment. Participants in the event will receive access to our training curriculum via closed Facebook community. You will have one month to hone your skills. On Saturday, October 25th, come test yourself at our live fitness and self-defense obstacle course. If you can remember your skills under duress, you’ll have them when you need them! This program is hosted by Bay-Fit, Bay Jiu-Jitsu and The Heroine Lab for Family Reach. No one turned away for lack of funds.

INTERVIEW: Amanda “Dr. BJJ” Thornton

The first time I met Amanda, was in 2011. I was looking for a new gym because my old one had closed. My friend Sarah Boyd has taken me to a few places to train and we stopped by Stephan’s class in SF. Everyone I met there was polite and technical. I liked it immediately. I ended up rolling with Amanda, who was a blue belt at the time, now purple, and she immediately set a collar choke and almost put me to sleep in the most gentle manner possible, but let go before I went out. I asked her why she let go, and she said my eyes were rolling back. I appreciated her courtesy and technique. That choke made an excellent impression and I shortly joined the gym having the pleasure of training with her and many other talented grapplers regularly. Amanda has one of the toughest guards to pass and I learned a lot about dropping my hips by working with her. She’s strong as an ox but doesn’t muscle people. Sensible and direct, you really couldn’t ask more from a training partner. Never once can I recall anyone getting injured while rolling with her and she is able to go toe to toe with the big dudes. She is dangerously calm and is able to get the spazziest of spazzes to relax and roll smooth with her. She is definitely missed here on the West Coast.-ST

Name Amanda Thornton
Age 30
Do you have a BJJ nickname? Hah. No. I’ve been called “That girl” or “The girl” frequently though.
FFP: Decided to give her one! Ha.

How long have you been training?
Started my second year in medical school- 8 years?

What initially inspired you to start BJJ?
The lifeguard at the pool that I frequented (after running my first marathon and trying to rehab and cross train enough for my body to forgive me) invited me to his class because he said that good swimmers were usually good at BJJ. And I just liked it.

What continues to inspire you to get on the mat?
It’s a thinking game for your body and it involves interacting with people in a way I don’t get to do in my job or by training by myself- I always biked, ran and swam, but I missed the element of learning a new skill I got with dance classes. Plus, keeping up training helps me stay calm and focused when I’ve been in really stressful situations all day without an appropriate outlet.

How do you balance training with a highly demanding career?
I’ve always set an hour or two aside to work out- I need to exercise the way some people need to drink coffee. It helps me focus and work more efficiently later. Then I’ve had a series of really understanding coaches who know that I may come late and miss events because of work, but it’s not a measure of my commitment to the sport. Also, it helps that even if I miss BJJ practice, I’m either going for a run, bicycling or doing Something for cardio so I stay fit even if I can’t make practice due to work. I know that I can’t advance as quickly as people who have time to train every day, but I’m patient since I plan to be doing this for a long time.

What are some of the positive attributes of training (personally as well as from the standpoint of a medical practioner)?
I think BJJ is great for body awareness- in the sense that you have full control over your body as well as an understanding of how to control someone else’s body. It also gives me a goal weight and, during residency especially, a reason to eat healthily even when stressed because I didn’t want to gain or lose any weight. My favorite BJJ skill is the conditioning to get up quickly and safely when knocked down and to hold your ground when someone is trying to push you. Around 3 years after I started training, I was racing my cousin in the park- wearing a dress, the race was completely impromptu- and I tripped over something in the grass when I was going at a pretty high speed. Before BJJ, that would have probably resulted in skinned knees, a ripped dress and probably another broken wrist, but I had been conditioned for falling so well that I actually did a forward roll and popped right back up, still running, a little dusty but unscathed. It happened so fast I wasn’t quite sure what happened until my cousin told me I’d just done a roll and kept going. I really think that BJJ teaches you to protect yourself in so many different ways.

What are some set backs or challenges you have faced in BJJ an how did you address them?
The biggest challenge is getting to practice regularly. Then injuries- especially when you’re smaller than others and plan to be practicing for a long time- always come up. For injuries, I always make sure I pay attention to myself, tap often and fast, and cross train if I can’t go to practice because I’m injured. Just because I can’t roll doesn’t mean I don’t need to work out. If I’m rehabbing something, I rehab at the gym as much as possible, so the time I would have spent at practices gets spent trying to get Back to practice.

What are your top 5 words of wisdom for people to stay healthy while they train? Maybe something specific on how to avoid skin infections?

  • It’s a community of close contact, so a clean gi, no rolling with a cold and paying attention to my own skin prevents me from getting sick or getting others sick. I also shower after practice as soon as possible- it’ll go better for everyone in the long run and 5 minutes of skin scrubbing with a shower saves me from a skin infection later.
  • If you’re hurting, decide what you can and cannot do in practice, tell your training partner and then stick to it. If it means no free rolling, then drill. If it means no drilling, then do cardio. There’s no need to get deconditioned just because you can’t roll. There’s also no need to roll if you’re just going to spend a week recovering from your new injuries.
  • Warm up. Stretch. Cool down. No, serious. Warm up. Stretch. Cool down. Don’t skip it because you’re tired.
  • When you’re training, remember that it’s a contact sport, not a fight. Your partners and your body shouldn’t be unnecessarily battered by the end of it. If you always are, figure out why and change it.
  • If you notice a weak side or area, take extra time to correct it. Weak spots are the first place you get injured when you’re tired.

FFP: Apologies for the lack of recent updates. I recently got married and have been working on family stuff, new job shift etc… Slowly but surely I will be posting regularly again. Keep your eyes peeled for a recap on the Michelle Nicolini SF seminar and some other cool things! Also big CONGRATS to World Champion and new black belt Rikako Yuasa.

Welcome to 2014! Let’s Roll!

Holy Moly it’s a brand new year! Let’s kick it off by working off all the holiday champaign and cake. Grab your gloves, gis and buddies and get back to doing what we love most. First and foremost, I put together some of the photos I have taken over the last 4 years that really encapsulate what this project has been all about for me in the 2014 CALENDAR: FEMALE FIGHTER PROJECT:

“Dedicated to the friendships & family we form on the mat sealed in sweat and blood.”

(Note: this is through Zazzle, they print and ship, wish the based price was lower but don’t have the cash to order in bulk and preprint)

If you are in the Bay Area and looking to get your BJJ roll on with some awesome ladies, tomorrow night is Bay Jiu Jitsu’s Monthly Women’s Open Mat where all skill levels are welcome and it’s free (donations accepted). You should also mark your calendars
for Saturday March 1, 2014 @ 12:00pm – 4:00pm because Kristina Barlaan is throwing another INSPIRE… 2nd Bay Area Edition: All Female Open Mat. You should certainly REGISTER NOW since spaces are limited and it will fill up!

2014 is going to be all getting things done and if you haven’t tried Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are don’t know why I won’t shut up about it you should totally come give it a try! Starting in February I will be teaching an 8 week long Women’s Introduction Program in Oakland. Come SIGN UP!

Over the last few years, I have come to realize that my passion for the sport stems from this evangelical drive to want to share it with everyone. Teaching has totally become my calling. I love sharing what I have learned and being a part of growing the culture in that respect. In fact I got to go now because I am off to teach!

Here’s to the start of another wonderful year. Looking forward to seeing you all on the mats!


View Gallery Here

This Summer I had the opportunity to photograph the Mission based San Francisco ABADÁ-CAPOEIRA group where several of my friends have been training for many years. Please join them tomorrow for the Batizado and Graduation Ceremony 2013 at 3221 22nd St @ Mission Street.

“ABADA Capoeira San Francisco will be celebrating it’s annual Batizado ceremony on Sunday November 4th at 12:30pm at it’s school in the Mission, San Francisco.
Mestra Márcia Cigarra has been teaching in the SF Bay Area for more than 20 years and has been a groundbreaking female teacher and mentor for kids and teenagers. Our group is unique in the Capoeira world in that about half of the students are women, and also the majority of the instructors.”


ACSF now offers professional instruction and performance of capoeira at its Mission-based Brazilian Arts Center, and at over 30 partnering sites throughout the Bay Area.
Founded in 1991, by master capoeira artist Márcia Treidler “Mestra Cigarra” , ACSF shares its name and philosophy with its parent organization-the Brazilian Association for the Support and Development of the Art of Capoeira founded by Mestre Camisa and based in Rio de Janeiro. ABADÁ-Capoeira is an international organization with independent branches in over 20 countries with over 40,000 practitioners. The organization adheres to a philosophy founded on the belief that capoeira has the power to improve society.
In 1991, Márcia Treidler, then a recent immigrant from Brazil, established ACSF to expand capoeira outside of Brazil, and to ensure the integrity of the art was maintained during its development in the United States. Working in dance centers, schools, and community venues, Márcia introduced capoeira and her unique philosophy and teaching methodology.


Mestranda Cigarra began studying capoeira in 1982 under the world-renowned Mestre Camisa. In 1987, she began to conduct classes for street children, youth, and adults in Rio de Janeiro. In 1991, Mestranda Cigarra moved to the US and, in 1997, was granted legal permanent residency as an “Alien with Extraordinary Abilities.” That same year, she founded the ACSF Brazilian Arts Center, located in San Francisco’s Mission District. The center, the first and only Bay Area non-profit dedicated to Afro-Brazilian cultural arts, offers classes for youth and adults in capoeira, percussion, Brazilian dance and Portuguese language. Mestranda Cigarra’s work reflects her commitment to the preservation and expansion of an art form that has an invaluable impact on our community’s cultural standing. A 30-year veteran student of Mestre Camisa, Mestranda Cigarra maintains international recognition for her accomplishments in the field and teaches regularly throughout Brazil, the North America, Israel, Asia, and Europe. Her outstanding achievements make her a highly sought-after teacher, an inspirational leader, and an important role model.

INSPIRE: Interview with Kristina Barlaan


This is perhaps one of the most productive summers I have had in a long time filled with women’s open mats, intro summer program teaching, private lessons, the Female Fighter Project’s first art show, at risk teen self defense workshops and training with MMA fighters in Japan. I can’t think of a better way to close it out than attending the Inspire 1st Bay Area Edition: All Female Open Mat. I recently had the opportunity to interview Inspire founder Kristina Barlaan about what initially attracted her to the sport and the community building she does. Welcome to the Bay Kristina!

How did you first get into BJJ? What were your first impressions of the sport? How have they evolved over the years?

I was first introduced to BJJ by my Muay Thai instructor, Dan Black. Dan was a blue belt under Cesar Gracie (that’s where I was training) and when he saw how flexible I was, decided to show me some basic moves (triangle, armbar, and kimura). It was all no-gi so I didn’t really get it, so I didn’t think that BJJ was for me. I just didn’t get how someone small like me could effectively use technique and leverage because everyone just seemed so much stronger and more athletic than me. It took me a year to actually give BJJ a try again. My team mate at the time Virgil Ortigas told me to try a class, but with the gi. He let me borrow one of his and I was hooked. All of a sudden, BJJ made sense. I was so amazed by how much the gi could change my outlook of the sport. I just remember being fascinated by the amount of control I could have and I really appreciated all of the detail BJJ could offer. I felt really strong and powerful even though I was the smallest person in class. It’s a feeling that I have been able to keep with me my entire career. Not much has changed in my mentality from White to now Brown. I love learning and I love how BJJ makes it possible for me to continue learning in all aspects. For me, learning and applying new things to my game and my life have always been empowering. Jiu-Jitsu has really helped me to bring that out.

What were some of the personal challenges you had to overcome to get where you are at now? How has BJJ contributed to the quality of your life?

I know I am not alone when I say that I have a lot of issues. Everyone has their own story and obstacles. Despite growing up being talented in a lot of things, I always felt like I was never good enough. A lot of my drive to be good at things growing up was because I thought that the better I was at a certain skill or activity, the more people would like me. Needless to say, this was not the reality of things. The numerous crafts and activities I strived to be good at just distanced me further from people. It’s hard for people to see it because I’m pretty outgoing, but I have A LOT of anxieties with social anxiety at the top of the list. Being in class, teaching, or being in a position where I have to “perform” a task in front of other people has never really been a problem since that is where I am most comfortable, but it was in the time where I wasn’t fulfilling a specific role where I would feel myself fall apart. If I’m not being useful or good at something, what worth do I have? I am just inadequate and a waste of skill. That was the thought that has plagued me for most of my life. Jiu-Jitsu has helped me to overcome a lot of these destructive thoughts. I don’t want to say that Jiu-Jitsu gave me purpose, but what it did do was give me tools to work with. If I don’t like a position or situation, I can always choose to either stay and be crushed by it or fight my way out. I don’t have to simply accept what is being given to me. I can always make something better out of what I am given. If something doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t good enough or I was inadequate. It just means it didn’t work that time and there will always be another opportunity to try again.

What inspired you to start a women’s class? How has it been received? Can you tell me a little about the women on it, age range experience etc…Who are some of your mentors?

Growing up, I have always wanted to be a part of a sports team. I didn’t get to play any team sports growing up because I was dancing (although I was on the 3rd grade basketball team and I really didn’t enjoy it because I didn’t feel like I fit in, lol). So when martial arts came along, I was really excited to be a part of a team. I also have this big drive in me to want to lead. I would think to myself, “Jiu-Jitsu makes me feel really good about myself and I would LOVE to be able to share that with other women. I want to be surrounded by other women who feel the same way as I do about Jiu-Jitsu.” Even before I had my own Women’s class, I was already doing my best to keep the other women I was training with motivated. I wanted to see them grow and progress, to see them reach their own personal goals. I also wanted the Jiu-Jitsu moms, wives, and girlfriends to not feel intimidated by the sport, so I would reach out to them too. Being able to lead my own class just seemed to be the right thing for me to do. I started my first Women’s program in August 2011 with Team GD Jiu-Jitsu/Nova Uniao HQ in AZ. It was very small at first, but I think that’s because the Jiu-Jitsu program was located within an MMA gym at the time. When GD Jiu-Jitsu moved to its own location, the class really flourished. My students were mainly moms ranging from their mid 20’s to mid 30’s, but they really trained hard. The majority were white belts, but there were also a few Blues along with my main training partner and purple belt, Sarah Black who is also a Black belt in Judo. Many of them also compete and do really well. When I started off, there would be only 1 girl in class, but I didn’t mind at all. I loved being able to teach even if it was just to one person. By the time I had left AZ, my classes would consistenly have 6-8 women in class. A small day would be 4, but it would still be very productive. I am very proud of what I was able to start in AZ. Now that I have moved back to the Bay Area, I have been given the Women’s program at Caio Terra’s Institute of Martial Arts (Caio was actually one of my first instructors along with Cesar Gracie and they promoted me to Blue before I moved to AZ). It’s small now, but I really believe I can build it. I don’t care if the ladies want to compete like me. I just want to give them a class where they can learn this beautiful sport while also being able to feel free to be feminine. I want to pass on the feeling of empowerment that I feel when I train Jiu-Jitsu. I look up to women like Hannette Staack, Leticia Ribeiro, and Hillary Williams. Of course I admire their Jiu-Jitsu and their accomplishments, but what I admire most is their role in leading women to be strong individuals. They are more than just World Champions and they are more than their titles. These ladies are really putting themselves out there to change the World and pave the way for future generations. That is the kind of legacy I want to leave.

What are your general and personal aspirations for the sport? What words of advice do you have for women who might be curious in trying BJJ?

I am not perfect and I am full of flaws and mistakes. I have made choices both good and bad, but I choose not to live in regret of these things, no matter how much they might have hurt at the time. That’s what I want to bring to this sport. I may not be the best athlete or have the most titles, but that isn’t going to stop me from achieving what I want most. Like I said, titles and World Championship are nice, but I want to be MORE than just a great Jiu-Jitsu fighter. I want to have more than a really good looking Jiu-Jitsu resume. I love this sport and how it has given me the strength to change my life. I love how this sport has introduced me to so many wonderful people and really opened my eyes to the kind of potential I have. Do I want to be a Black belt World Champion? Have my own school with a killer competition team and an outstanding program? Of course I do, but even more than that, I want to be the kind of person who inspires change in people. I want to help people see that they can change their circumstances, that they don’t have to be trapped by whatever negativity might be holding them back. I lived a lot of my life that way and Jiu-Jitsu is where I refuse to have my positivity compromised. I would tell any woman curious about trying Jiu-Jitsu, to come with an open mind. Jiu-Jitsu is more than just a martial art, sport, or hobby. It can be a tool to change your life. Sure you can learn techniques that can help you to defend yourself and you can also get in great shape, but most importantly, when you do Jiu-Jitsu, you join a community. You allow yourself to be vulnerable and strong at the same time all while sharing that experience with other people who are feeling the same things in different ways. No where does it say that you have to be tough or physically fit to do Jiu-Jitsu. Just bring who you naturally are and be ready to learn and enjoy the journey.

Women’s BJJ Open Mats 2013

Women's Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Open Mats
A listing of BJJ open mats for women, please contact me if you have an open mat you would like added with your website, contact info, dates, times, location and if there is a fee.

There is a separate listing of women’s BJJ classes.

Video by Valor Online News

Canada - East CoastWomen That FightCourtney PrattEastern CanadaBi Annualy
USA - California - Bay AreaBay Jiu Jitsu Women's Open Mat
Me!1628 Post Street,
San Francisco CA 94115
3rd Fridays of the month 7:30-9:00pm 8/16/13 7:30-9pm
USA - California - Bay AreaSweaty BettiesMollii Khangsengsing 3645 Grand Ave.
Oakland, California 94610
Every Sunday12:00-2:00pm8/18/13 12-2p
USA - California - RedlandsRibeiro Jiu Jitsu Women's Open MatAmanda Hodson1235 Indiana Ct #113
Redlands, California 92374
Every Friday5:00-6:30pm8/16/13 4:00–5:30 pm
USA - California - SacramentoNorCal Women's GrapplingNikki Smith2300 Sutterville Rd Sacramento, CA 95822
& other academies
USA -California - SouthernSoCal Women BJJJill BakerRotating.Monthly Check page.8/18/13 12:00-3:00pm @ Robot Fight & Fitness in LA!
USA - East Coast - VA, NC, DC, & MDMid-Atlantic Grappling Girls Liz SussanRotating.Check PageConquest BJJ September 21 at 11a to September 22 at 4p
USA - Florida - SouthernAmazonian Women's BJJ Open MatStephanie Dodge2nd or 3rd Saturday of the month August 24th from 10-1 at ATT Vero Beach, FL. Special guest judo black belt Takahara Rieko!
USA - Hawaii - MauiSweaty Betties
Region: Maui, Hawaii
Lori BruzenasMaui Jiu Jitsu 810 Haiku Rd., Unit #230 Haiku, Hawaii 96708Every Sunday10:00-11:30am
USA - Pacific NorthwestGrapplin' GalsSonia Sillan
USA - Massachusetts - BostonBoston Women's Open MatAriel Axelrod-HahnRotating.TBA Sundays12:00-2:00pm
USA - Michigan - SouthfieldGirlzian FemjitsuTarrah Baker & Amy Linsemier29305 Southfield Rd.
Southfield, MI 48076 & rotating
USA - MississippiMS Ladies' Only Open Mat Jessica Catherine DobbsNo Limit/Killer Bees, 150 Sunnycrest Dr., Ridgeland, MSSeptember 21st, 2013 1PM-4PM
USA -Mississippi - D'IbervilleAlan Belcher MMA ClubMonica MedinaAnnually8/24/13 from 10:00-1:00p
USA -New York - ManhattanNYC Womens Open Mat Karen MillerClockwork BJJ
650 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
Bi-monthly, Sundays2:00pm-4:00pm
USA - Southwest - Texas, Colorado, & OklahomaGirls in GisShama KoRotating.Check Events Calendar
USA - Tennessee - NashvilleNashville Monthly Ladies Open MatSarah Caum478 Allied Dr. Suite 103
Nashville, TN 37211
8/10/13 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
USA- Texas - AustinGracie Humaita Women's Open MatShama Ko 1701 West Ben White, Suite 163, Austin, Texas 787049/28/13
Time2:30pm until 4:30pm in CDT
USA - VirginiaOpen Women's Classes Richmond BJJ & Self DefenseLiz Sussan725 W. Broad St., Richmond, Virginia 232202x per month on Saturdays 1:00-3:00pm
USA - West Coast - CA & AZInspire: All Female Open Mat Kristina BarlaanRotatingSee page.1st Bay Area Edition: Saturday September 14, 2013 @ 1:00pm - 4:00pm
JAPAN- TokyoReversal Women's Open MatYasuko Mogi or Shizuka Marcela Sugiyama Deep GymEvery Wednesday2:00-4:00pm8/21/13

SOLO EXHIBITION: Interview & Thank You!

Show ends July 28th, 2013… go see it while you can at Photobooth SF.

For those of you that couldn’t make it out to San Francisco last weekend to catch the opening reception of my first ever solo show, the amazingly talented women at WMMARoundup.com caught it all on video. The turnout was more than I could have asked for considering that it was a holiday weekend and most people were out of town. The gallery was packed with some of my favorite people, training partners, friends and family and I was exhausted with joy by the end of the evening. Event photography provided none other than my own dad, check it out at the bottom!

Didn’t get a chance to contribute to the show, but would like to?

You still can:


I want to give a huge shout out to all the contributors that gave toward my Indiegogo campaign.

Here’s to my White Belts:
Sway Photography
James Dale
Erena Shimoda, who by the way is an awesome, underwater photographer who works with cancer survivors!
Melissa Wyman, AKA the Fight Therapist.
Christie Sullivan
Eric Knight
Tiffany Tamaribuchi & Sacramento Taiko Don
Dee Dennis
T. Kreek
National Pay Day
Steve Walsh
Leah Van Tassel
Noah David Bau
Miquel Jacobs

and my Blue Belts:
Cynthia Vance, phenomenal video artists and fighter!
Jeremy Dang
Diane Cousineau
Audacia Ray
Tara Tamaribuchi
Chikara Magazine
Candace Stump
Denise Henry
Amanda Gary
Tim & Naomi
Beautiful Brawlers
The Specific Chiropractic Center
Women’s MMA Roundup
e3 Fitness Grips

Last but not least, my Purple Belts:
Mr. Cuddles, my personal grappling dummy
Jiz Lee
Simon Modery
Dana Hoey
Nancy Maynard

You all are fabulous people! Speaking of fabulous people, check out all these lookers who made it out to the show…

[nggallery id=23]

Also want to add an extra thanks to my fight banner sponsors:
Tara Tamaribuchi
Chikara Magazine
Beautiful Brawlers
The Specific Chiropractic Center
Women’s MMA Roundup
e3 Fitness Grips

Also special thanks to my bartenders Pati Gracia and Chris White, My mom hope helped me shlep all the art across town, my dad who did last minute drink and snack runs and my girlfriend for flying all the way out from Tokyo last minute to be there with me. Of course it couldn’t be possible either with out all the hard work from Vince and Clare at Photobooth SF.

Make It Happen: Solo Exhibition July 6th

Hey Everyone!

I am super excited because I have recently been given my very first solo show as an artist! It’s scheduled for July 6th, 7-9pm at Photobooth SF located in San Francisco’s Mission District, but I need your help. I’m looking to raise money to help offset the costs of this show and am hoping to cover the basic material costs of printing and framing the pieces.This is only a fraction of the amount it costs to do the Female Fighter Project on a regular basis, however all help is deeply appreciated and needed. You can read more about my SOLO EXHIBITION on my indiegogo page, plus I’ve got some pretty FFP cool stuff to give to donors!

——–> READ MORE & CONTRIBUTE HERE. <-----------------------

Make It Happen: Female Fighter Project Solo Art Show July 6th from Shawn Tamaribuchi on Vimeo.

You can also make a small paypal donation in any amount here:

Thank you so very much! I belong to an amazing and generous community of fighters and artists who continue to inspire me. This summer is really spectacular: I just started teaching two women’s beginning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Programs, I start my at risk Oakland girls self defense program in two weeks, and my show is coming up!

Also please check out Photobooth SF, the perfect place for analog photo nerds, artists and anyone looking to get a one of a kind tintype portrait made or take some unique photo classes!

Hugs with underhooks,