An activist. A motivator. A coach. An athlete. A friend. A humanitarian. A mentor. A fighter. Anne Lieberman wears many hats. A Muay Thai fighter and coach at Renzo Gracie Academy, she spends her evenings training to fight other women. A program officer on the Sexual Health and Rights team for the American Jewish World Service, she spends her days trying to help them.
The second-ever female Brazilian JiuJitsu black belt in Norway is only twenty-four years old. With short blonde hair, a striking face, and eyes that are steeled in determination, it is almost hard to believe that this lethal weapon is simply from a farm in the small town of Stavanger. Ida Fløisvik is good at surprising people, and even better at submitting them.
A wide smile is prominent in many of Gina "Triple G" Hopkins' photos on her social media. She sports colorful and creative hairstyles along with her Brazilian JiuJitsu gis or her kickboxing gloves. Competitions fill up a large amount of her time, from Grappler's Heart to Strongman tournaments. The blue belt believes her purpose in life is to simply inspire others.
An amplifying aspect of Brazilian JiuJitsu is the emergence of female athletes making headlines, such as Mackenzie Dern, Karen Antunes, Raquel Pa'aluhi Canuto, and Claudia Gadelha. But what about the women who have been there all along? Cindy "The Sleeper" Hales is one such woman.
While female Muay Thai practitioners are not unusual, they are growing rapidly in population. With journalists and fighters prominently increasing awareness and education about the sport, it has become easier for interested parties to access information about it.
A car accident in 2008 left Samantha Twining a Complete T-9 Paraplegic. Faced with the possibility that she may never walk again, Samantha had two options: either accept that she was in a wheelchair and would be limited in what she could achieve, or give a big middle finger to that notion and do whatever the hell she wanted. She chose the latter.
As a business owner, instructor, wife, and mother, Leeann Morris had originally begun her martial arts journey more than twenty years ago. A 4th degree black belt in the Korean martial art Tang Soo Do, she originally didn't want to be involved in Brazilian JiuJitsu. She had been content with doing Tang Soo Do and didn't want to interfere with that training. It was only within the last six years, at the urging of her husband, that she began practicing and quickly fell in love with the sport.
Dana Minuta never has the same day twice. Zooming around New York, she works as a chef and cooks for some of the elite on the east coast. If she's not grilling in the Hamptons or whipping up gazpacho in Long Island, you can catch her in the basement of Manhattan's Renzo Gracie Academy. The blue belt has been training for the last several years and knows her way around an omoplata as well as an organic farm.
The voice of Erin Fairbanks can be heard all over New York City. The Michigan-born Executive Director of Heritage Radio Network hosts and moderates numerous shows on the channel. When she's not working on Brooklyn's famous food radio, she can be found making delicious meals herself. In between talking and cooking, Erin trains Muay Thai at Renzo Gracie Academy in both Midtown, Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Tamuira would show up with a swollen ankle, a wrapped wrist, on 4 hours of sleep, and her son Ollie in tow--who would run and do calisthenics off the mat with us during our warm-ups. To me and many others, Tamuira illustrated what it means to be a strong woman, a hard-working athlete, and an amazing mother.
What about those who actually like running? Who do it for a benefit beyond their respective sport, for reasons like having time to think, a way to relax...or even, for fun?