Brown belt Kristina Barlaan invited to ADCC, proving evolution in the sport

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Kristina submitting on her way to gaining the ticket to Abu Dhabi for the 2013 WPJJC. Photo: Erin Herle

A new face will be in attendance at the ADCC in the female under 60kg division. Kristina Barlaan was awarded her brown belt in December of 2012 on the podium at the IBJJF Fall Open after a great run at her previous rank. As a purple belt she racked up medals at the Pan American Championship and the World Championship but also made strides off the competition mats. At home in Arizona with her fiance Gustavo Dantas of GD Jiu-Jitsu/Nova Uniao and GMA member, she helps promote females in the sport by sponsoring women-only open mats called Inspire.

Within only six months of having her new belt, her results were great and the transition was seamless. She placed first at Pan Ams and third at Worlds as a featherweight and also attended the Abu Dhabi WPJJC in the female purple/brown/black division after winning an American trial.

Today, she can plan another item on her resume as a personal invitation to ADCC in Beijing, China secures her participation in one of the most prestigious BJJ tournaments in the world.

Her invitation can be seen as evidence of evolution as only the top names from all over the world are considered or they must win a trial  to be secured. Being an American female brown belt, an invitation means that promoters are scouring athletes from all over and choosing their competitors with a range of differences. See what Kristina has to say about her invite and what she feels it means for our sport:

GRACIEMAG: What does it mean to you to receive this personal invitation? Was it a surprise? 

KRISTINA BARLAAN: I was first contacted by black belt, Arthur Ruff, who has many affiliates based here in Arizona. He was the one who put my name into recommendation. To have just received the message that I was even considered was such a great honor. My name was then passed to Carlos Carvalho who is responsible for the ADCC American athletes (this is all to my understanding of course haha). After speaking with him on the phone, I was still a little hesitant to believe that they would really take my name into consideration. I remained optimistic throughout the past few days, but receiving the official email this morning made me more than just a little tearful. There are so many high level women in this sport today and I am truly honored to be held with the same regard. There are only 8 women per division, 16 all together. They could have picked anyone to fill those 8 spots. I can happily and confidently say that I am ready to step up to this challenge of being included with the top females in the world.

Do you think your role in the World Pro helped imprint your name in their mind? 

I think my overall results this year really helped to validate my presence. Winning Pans, competing in the Abu Dhabi World Pro, and placing third at Worlds are accomplishments that most athletes would kill to have on their resume.

How often do you train/compete no-gi normally? 

My academy mainly focuses on the gi, so I don’t get to train no-gi very often, but I have found that transitioning to no-gi from doing strictly gi works very well. Sometimes I forget how athletic and fast I am because I can slow down and go the speed I want with the gi. When training no-gi, I suddenly remember that I have many attributes that work for me without the gi. Speed, agility, and being able to wiggle out of tight positions are just some of the things I can really take advantage of.

What type of training will you do now and what will change in terms of preparation? 
I will be going up in weight from my usual 129 lbs. with the gi on, so I have the luxury of really focusing on getting strong and putting on some serious muscle weight. On top of the added strength and conditioning, I also plan on reaching out to team mates (current and former) and friends in Arizona and back home in the Bay Area to get some cross-academy training. While the majority of my training will be in my academy, I find that having different bodies to work with and pulling from an abundant knowledge pool will really help get me prepared the best way possible.

Have you ever competed in the ADCC trials before?

I have never competed in the ADCC trials. No-gi wise, my resume may not have the most results, but overall, I know I have a lot to offer as an athlete. Gi or no-gi, I am confident in my ability to perform.

What can you say about the presence of Americans and females (can be separate ideas) in these prestigious tournaments? Could this prove a sort of evolution?

It’s really empowering as both a woman and an American. I feel like it can be really easy to overlook Americans, especially when you see the caliber of competition coming from Brazil, Japan, and Europe. There has been so much growth in the female fight (BJJ, MMA, etc.) community over the years and I am proud to be part of that. There are more opportunities for women to compete on the same stage and in the same high regard as our male counterparts. We are rising and it’s beautiful and inspiring to see women as powerhouses for the sport. Evolution is constant. More barriers keep being broken and I look forward to see what this sport has to offer in the future.

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