Story by Christie Sullivan
Photos by Pete Ulatan
Six-time World Champion Leticia Ribeiro comes from an era of jiu-jitsu that few female practitioners can fathom. The backdrop is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during the 1990s. A time where only one or two divisions existed for women in competition— often with only two weight classes and all belt ranks grouped together. The existence of other female bodies to train with or learn from was seldom and the chance of a female finding a sponsorship for competition was slim to none. This is how Leticia recalls her earliest days in jiu-jitsu.
Nearly 20 years later, a continent away from her roots, Leticia’s reality has made leaps and bounds.
A sign of affirmation came this past weekend when Leticia brought ten of her female Gracie Humaita San Diego students to the San Francisco Bay Area for her three day long female only jiu-jitsu camp. With tournament vet Penny Thomas and Gabriela Bermudez also making the trip, that made three female black belts in attendance to teach.
Over 60 females attended the camp, with some traveling from as far as Hawaii, Canada, Michigan, Texas and Arizona for the chance to learn from one of the most regarded female athletes in the sport. In addition to instruction by the black belt, the women also had the chance to drill and train with all women. For many of those present, they are the only or one of just a few females at their home academies.
The camp included dozens of techniques from the feet and the ground, specific drilling, and sparring/”rolling”. The first two days of the camp were with gi, with the final day emphasizing nogi techniques.
Although females make up a very small percentage of the total number of jiujitsu players throughout the world, the women who train and dedicate their lives to jiu-jitsu is growing and growing fast. This is not only evident by the increasing number of females enrolling in academies and competitions, but also with the addition of more weight classes in some of the world’s largest BJJ tournaments.
Leticia said she chose the Bay Area, southern California and Texas for her women’s only seminars because they are home to some of the largest communities of female students.
Leticia was enthusiastic about the strong presence of females she sees training in the Bay Area and other regions, adding she has plans to take her camps back to these regions and more in 2012.
The event was sponsored by OTM, Atama, Fenom Kimonos, JJ’s Performace Center and the Sweaty Betties.
For more on Leticia: http://www.leticiaribeiro.com/