If you follow Brazilian Jiu Jitsu news, you have probably recently heard about the formation of an all female Brazilian Jiu Jitsu league. They go by the name, the “IBJJWF“, or the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Women’s Federation. We are lucky enough to conduct one of the earliest interviews with the founders! These ladies are filled with ambition, fervor, zeal and skill. We are proud to support them and wish them the best in their endeavors!
WBBJJ: Who are the ladies behind the IBJJWF? This question has been asked in prior interviews but for the sake of this interview, we need to know. Sorry for the redundancy.
Luciana Bassoli and Holli Noel.
WBBJJ: How did you meet each other?
Holli Noel: Luciana and I met through a mutual friend and BJJ professor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
WBBJJ: Tell us a bit about yourselves. What belt rank are you ladies? Whom do you train under, and where?
Holli Noel: I am a 1st degree Blue Belt in BJJ under Professor Paulo Ribeiro, Gracie Barra, Naples, Florida.
Brazilian-born, Luciana, is a 4th degree Black Belt in BJJ under Master Joe Moreira, Los Angeles, California and 2nd degree Black Belt in Judo. Luciana’s 1st BJJ instructor was the late Carlson Gracie.
WBBJJ: It is said that you have offices in California, Florida and Brazil. Please explain the mechanics of this triangle.
Holli Noel: We first wanted to establish our offices where we reside and train, California & Florida, which are both major hubs for BJJ in the United States. We have people in place in Rio de Janeiro, for obvious reasons, to help organize the federation there. The President there is black belt, Luciana Neder, one of the pioneers of women’s BJJ. Eventually we plan to have satellite offices in additional cities in the U.S., and well as chapters of the federation in various countries.
What are some factors, rules and/or situations that currently exist in the IBJJF; that caused you to form a woman specific BJJ league?
Holli Noel: We are delighted with 2 major recent changes that the IBJJF has made regarding female athletes. First the lift of the ban of the Hijab head dress for our Arab sisters to compete in IBJJF tournaments. Second, the addition of weight classes at both the top and bottom. These were two top-line items on our list, which now have been resolved. Maybe they felt a little pressure with the creation of the IBJJWF?
Luciana Bassoli: In addition, we would like to see more age divisions for women in Masters, for men there are up to 5 masters divisions but no masters at all for women for the worlds. It takes the chance away for a women 30+ to be a world champ.
What happened to those world champs from ‘98, ‘99…? You could count on your fingers who was training and competing bjj back them. I know all these girls and the only ones who are still involved with BJJ is Leticia and Rosangela (Abu Dhabi). In the other hand Saulo, Murilo, Marcio Feitosa, most of those champions have successfully transitioned to professors. There’s definitely a huge glass sealing there for women.
“The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Women’s Federation is a collaborative organization created to promote, help develop and structure the female side of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The IBJJWF goals are to assist fighters and professors by creating equal opportunity for women in tournaments and to assist in spreading the gentle art through the eyes of female athletes throughout the world.” – IBJJWF Facebook Page
WBBJJ: Do you have any events planned for the future? If not, what do you envision as the perfect IBJJWF event?
Holli Noel: We are planning a Training Camp in Los Angeles to be held this summer. In addition we are planning tournaments for 2014, which will eventually lead up to the “perfect” event, which will be the IBJJWF World Championship, which is planned for 2015.
WBBJJ: What are some of the obstacles that you (as an organization and as a female BJJ practitioner) have faced so far? What are some of the obstacles that you foresee arising in the future of your endeavor, with IBJJWF?
Holli Noel: At this point, our obstacles have been few. We have been overwhelmed and delighted with the feedback, response and support we have received from both female and male athletes regarding the creation of the IBJJWF. We are moving forward without fear of obstacles, but in anticipation of huge opportunities!
Luciana Bassoli: The biggest obstacle are BJJ organizations and schools, who like the IBJJF, are doing the minimum to provide incentive for women’s BJJ, followed by tournaments like Metamoris and Copa Podium not bothering to understand there are women out there that can put on a beautiful show and also need money prizes to pay their bills. It’s nice to get a medal and be a world champ but at the end you can’t buy your groceries and training supplements with a medal. Kudos to money prizes for women at Abu Dhabi. The disparity of the payout amount between men and women is still very relevant.
Another obstacle are schools with no women’s only classes. Not everyone likes to be crushed by a 200 lb. man. I understand that there’s not as much money in an all women’s class as a men’s class but it has to be done for the sake of BJJ. They talk about BJJ being in the Olympics, but with the number of women participating it it is almost a joke to me. Training with women is not a burden, it is a privilege, not only it will complement your BJJ but it will help your flow and the use of less strength. I have friends who are big advocates for women’s BJJ, and their academies are so successful. I also have friends who don’t care about helping women develop their BJJ, and they don’t understand why their businesses are failing. A-holes attract A-holes, good professors attract good people. Women need to be able to feel the energy and avoid red flag schools like that.
WBBJJ: Are you attempting to lure women away from the IBJJF, or are you trying to further the cause of women in BJJ, by creating additional opportunities for female BJJ athletes? Please elaborate.
Holli Noel: It should be very clear that we are in no way attempting to lure women away from the IBJJF, or any other federation, for that matter. Our goal is to support women by encouraging them to compete in as many events as possible.
Luciana Bassoli: I just want to make it clear that what we intend to accomplish in helping women to thrive goes beyond helping them to win a medal. We understand that not everyone wants to compete, women come to my classes for many different reasons and we need to accommodate and cater to all. That being said IBJJF is just a small part of our goals. I’ve been a professor for over 15 years and If you just focus on the technique you have failed. A professor in Martial Arts has the responsibility to train you for life in all its aspects. The dojo is the microcosm of your life. Safety comes 1st. Makes me sad what happened to that student who got raped by her instructor and colleague. IBJJF did nothing about it.
Another day a girl came from San Diego to train at the academy all full of injuries. She’s very petite, and told me that there’s not other girls or small guys in her school. That’s a red flag for me. Her rib got broken when a 215lbs guy passed her guard and dropped his weight on her. I was like “who’s your professor that allows that?”, “why did’nt you leave after all those injuries?” She’s a brown belt, so can you imagine how many years of brain washing? Women are very loyal students and very easy targets for those money machine BJJ schools.
WBBJJ: When we talked about doing this interview you mentioned that you would like to help/sponsor female BJJ athletes. Tell us more about that.
Holli Noel: We know that, as with men, many female BJJ athletes juggle many roles in their daily lives, including jobs, families, school, etc. We realize that these responsibilities, coupled with finances and possibly living in a remote area are factors that may prevent them from competing. We believe there is a lot of untapped talent out there, that may never be showcased, if these women are not able to compete. After we are established with sponsors, we will be selecting women from time to time, based upon their personal situation and real need, to help further their careers.
Luciana Bassoli: With the help of sponsors and donations we want to provide all our services for very low rates or free. That’s the ideal. Women make 30% less of the dollar than men, in addition we have extra expenses because of our biological differences… so why are we paying the same fees?
WBBJJ: A genie in a bottle grants you three wishes for the future of IBJJWWF. What are your three wishes?
Holli Noel: 1) Big international sponsors (both within and outside of the traditional BJJ circuit of sponsors), so that we may help as many women as possible. 2) To play a major roll in growing the sport for women, filling all divisions at competitions, and filling academies across the globe, and to inspire all women, both inside and outside of BJJ. 3) That we are recognized not only as a federation holding tournaments, seminars, camps, etc., but also as an organization that is generous and caring by having the ability to lead and support many charitable initiatives.
Luciana Bassoli: Holli you read my mind!
WBBJJ.com is about having fun. So, we have some fun questions to ask!
WBBJJ: What’s on your iPod right now?
Holli Noel: Everything from Jimi Hendrix to Pitbull… Janis Joplin to Pink.
Luciana Bassoli: My Pandora radios I listen the most these days…Animals, Rio Baile Funk and Dire Straits.
WBBJJ: What was the last movie you watched?
Holli Noel: Wolf of Wall Street
Luciana Bassoli: Me too!
WBBJJ: If you could pick someone to roll with, who would it be?
Holli Noel: When I first started BJJ, Hillary Williams was still heavy in the competition network, before taking time off to complete her medical degree. She was one of my first inspirations, and remains until this day.
Luciana Bassoli: Jigoro Kano, Carlos and Helio 😉 Im fascinated with Kit Dale style I would love check it out to see if works. The current world champs Gabi and Luanna.
It is free for any female to register with the IBJJWF! To do so, click here.
Check them out on Facebook. Their website will be up soon. For now, Facebook is the best place to keep informed about the latest IBJJWF news.
I hope you all enjoyed the interview!
– Tony Peranio WBBJJ