Ronda Andrews of GMA Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Las Vegas explains journey to black belt

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Ronda Andrews, an avid competitors for years and a familiar face among women’s BJJ, has achieved the rank of black belt from Professor Amilcar “Mica” Cipili of GMA Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Las Vegas.

We spoke to her about the promotion and the journey as we can all learn from what it takes for an individual to get to the rank. Here are her words:

“I’m sure many use this word, but it feels surreal to finally receive a black belt. To think about the beginning when I had no idea what Jiu Jitsu was. I jumped into a no-gi class because I wanted to wrestle dudes. I’m not making jokes. I was definitely a meat-head when I started. Someone gave me a gi and said it would make me better. Year after year I got sucked in deeper and deeper into learning, teaching, and allowing Jiu-Jitsu to change me and my life. I still can’t believe and, even this morning, am overwhelmed to tears by all the love and respect I felt in the academy last night becoming the first female that stuck around and went the distance in my academy. My professor, Amilcar “Mica” Cipili and many more have played a part in my journey. I wish I could thank all of them personally.

It took 8 years for me to achieve black belt. Not long after I started, I started training twice a day 4-5 days a week. That’s 4 hours a day I’d be on the mat, as a white belt. Thankfully my work schedule allowed me to train more than the average full time working adult. I mentioned getting sucked in and allowing Jiu-Jitsu to change me and my life. If I had not been open to the change, I would’ve never accomplished what I have today. Always the responsible adult, who took pride in always taking care of herself, I made a life changing decision while still a purple. I was far from being a young college kid financially dependent on her parents, but still decided to leave my job of 17 years to become a full time Jiu-Jitsu student and competitor. Many have dreams of making Jiu-Jitsu their life, but I garnered the courage to take that plunge. Taking my decision seriously, I made and smashed my goals.

1. Compete and medal at high level competitions. DONE! No need to spew off titles. Anyone can look up IBJJF results from 07′-13′ and will see my name. My best year being 2013, as a brown belt middle weight. I hurt my back in early 2014, which took me out of competition.

2. Learn to teach. DONE- also a never ending process, but I’m onto something.

3. The ultimate goal: open an academy. Done! DONE! DONE!!!! Me and my best friend, with Royler Gracie’s blessing, opened Gracie Humaita North Las Vegas August 1, 2014. My friend, Leticia Ribeiro, was a huge inspiration. The support from Royler, Mica, and Leticia made my dream come true.

My plans are to focus on my academy, my students, and get back to competition. I miss competition. The stress of competition makes me absolutely NUTS, but I love being able to pull it all together once the ref says “Combate”. My time off from competing was a blessing. With that focus taken away from me, I placed my focus on teaching. My instructor, Amilcar Cipili, and my best friend and business partner, Bryan Glenn, gave me the opportunity to learn and mold me into a teacher. Teaching has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Passing on the art and watching people grow because of it.”

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