The first edition of Inspire All Female Open Mats in the Bay Area gave Jiu-Jitsu women an opportunity to come together and build bonds within the community. Kristina Barlaan brought the event back home with her to Northern California where she now trains at GMA Institute of Martial Arts in San Jose, CA and put together more than just a training session. In her own words, “Inspire is about uplifting others by just simply being who we are.”
Caio Terra was not present on Saturday, September 14 and neither were the other black belt instructors, Samir Chantre and Osvaldo Queixinho. As the sign on the door read, “Ladies on the mat; No men allowed.”
The women flooded into the large academy for the start time at 1 p.m. and changed into their gis which sported patches from different academies and various colors of belts. Four black belts were present along with white belts, yellow, green and orange belts, plenty of blues and purple and browns. One woman borrowed a gi and had her very first Jiu-Jitsu experience which she loved as evident by the huge smile on her face throughout the afternoon.
The warm-up started off the event and then partners were chosen for drills and technique. Everyone was encouraged to choose a partner from a different academy and different belt level. Kristina explained what she likes to use as the “adopt-a-white-belt” program that helps both new and experienced to learn and grow together. Lana Stefanac took over to teach two variations of her favorite choke from closed guard and the training took a break for a speech.
While the open mat allows for females to train together, the “Inspire” portion of the name comes from Kristina’s own personal story. The speech she gave was a story that she hadn’t shared with many people but felt that needed to be heard as a lesson to always be who you are. From a toxic relationship to personal tragedy, her touching testimony gave insight into a tough and driven female who learned to be confident, independent and strong. Jiu-Jitsu gave her the opportunity, much like many of those on the mat listening to her open up, to become all of those things and more.
Give-aways and prizes were plenty and each who attended received a gift of their choice among the shirts, supplements, lip balms, stickers, patches, DVDs, bags, hoodies and more splayed out on the mat. A fundraiser for the Susan G Komen 3-day in Arizona raised $200 for the Girls Gone Miles group.
An hour of rolling ensued before the day was over. Kristina’s parents held down the fort in front of the academy for handmade, fresh Brazilian pastries called pastel that were for sale. By the end of the day there were connections made, friendships created, techniques learned and plenty of future plans for more female Jiu-Jitsu get-togethers.
The message of the day was well-received. Vonique Stricklen said, “Thank you Kristina Barlaan for the amazing event you put on today. I definitely felt the Jiu-Jitsu vibe today it shook me.”
To learn about the next Inspire event, like the facebook page and stay informed!
Check out the photos below: