When it comes to female black belts, Jena Bishop, of Gracie Humaita San Diego, seems to be the talk of the town. She has won not just one, not just two, but three double golds this year- in Master Worlds, Pan Ams and Europeans.
With these new feats on her resume, Bishop is no newbie to competition. She began training jiu jitsu in 2007 and competed in her first tournament just four months in.
“I haven’t stopped competing since,” she said.
And Bishop remembers her first competition very well. It was the Arnold Classic ran by NAGA. “I was very nervous, but had Tyler (my husband) by my side. I think I had 10 matches that day (gi and no-gi) and I went home undefeated,” she explained. “I was completely hooked from that moment forward.”
Born on Feb. 22, 1986, Bishop said she has always been a competitive person.
“Jiu jitsu has been an outlet for my competitive nature. It gives me confidence, keeps me in shape, and it has given me a second family and great friends,” said Bishop. “I’ve gotten to travel to places I wouldn’t have dreamed about because of jiu jitsu.”
Bishop trained from white to black belt with JW Wright at Gracie Humaita in St. Louis. In 2016, she and her husband, Tyler, moved to San Diego, where they are jiu jitsu instructors at Gracie Humaita under Regis Lebre. Bishop teaches the kids, women and adult classes, where she trains 15-20 hours each week.
A typical day for Bishop includes getting up and takes her fur babies, Niko and Toast, who are Shiba Inus, on a long walk.
“I do my hard training at noon every day and after training I work out,” she explained. “Then I come home, eat lunch, wash some gis and head back to the academy to teach or train again.”
She used to be a personal trainer, but once she moved to San Diego, her main focus has been her jiu jitsu. However, she still follows a strength and conditioning routine two to three times a week, which is how she stays in shape, without weight cutting, for competition.
While competing is always fun for Bishop, she said she still gets nervous before stepping on to the mat.
“I think a little nerves are healthy,” she said. “As soon as I slap hands with my opponent, that feeling disappears and I’m just having fun.”
Bishop competes not only in her weight class, but also in the open classes, where she has been winning matches against much larger women. Because she trains with men who are bigger and stronger than her every day, she said she thinks this helps her in strategizing against a larger opponent.
“I don’t do anything special to prepare for the open class, but I have to play a smart game,” explained Bishop. “I think I’m a little more conservative in the way I fight a larger opponent because there is no room for error, so I stick to the basics.”
And when competing in the adult versus master divisions, Bishop said the one huge difference is a 10 minute match versus a 6 minute match.
“I think the game is faster paced in a shorter time period,” she said, “but there are tough women competing in both divisions.”
Bishop said she is still chasing after that World Title at the Black belt Adult division and said, “I feel like my jiu jitsu is the best it’s ever been.”
While she has been competing a lot over the past year, she does not have a set plan for her next competition.
“I need to take time to let my body rest and heal up a little bit, but you may see me at NOGI Worlds,” Bishop said.
So, be stay on the lookout for Bishop; follow her blog at https://bishopbjj.com/, or watch some of her videos for inspiration.
She believes the secret to her success is surrounding herself with the right people, seizing every opportunity and training smart.
“Come to class with a purpose, as well,” she concluded. “I like to work hard, but I like to have fun in my training.”
Girls in Gis writer
Mindy Yager and her husband, Lance Yager, own Select Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Waco, Texas. Mindy is a purple belt who teaches several days a week, mainly focusing on the Youth and Junior Jiu Jitsu classes. She has a 2-yr-old son who has been training jiu jitsu since he was in the womb. Mindy has a degree in journalism from Baylor University and a blog called Jits My Life (link is jitsmylife.wordpress.com)