If you don’t know Professor Kristina Barlaan, allow me to introduce you. Quick BJJ stats: she is a decorated world champion, a Caio Terra black belt, and Jiu-Jitsu instructor who travels tirelessly 2 hours per day in traffic to teach her classes and run Inspire: All Female Open Mats. But you probably knew all of that, so let me introduce you to the Kristina underneath the gi.
It’s one thing to dedicate one’s minutes to being an IBJJF world champion. But it is another thing to dedicate your time to championships and inspiring others to fulfill their own dreams- whatever they may be. Kristina is a multi-dimensional athlete. She not only has a formal background in dance and music- which she has poetically incorporated into her Jiu-Jitsu- but she also has a burning passion to help others by sharing her story: a self-proclaimed open book.
Her personal journey of triumph started about 4 years ago when a romantic engagement ended. Barlaan explains the result of the breakup as confronting. In the relationship she shared that she lost herself. Like most chics, we give up a lot of ourselves to accommodate the relationship even if that means the relationship impedes on our own dreams. “I had to move back home which I resisted because it brought up all of the things about myself that I was trying to hide from.” Coming out of a bad break-up and emerging into something great is no a small feat. Kristina candidly shared that she had changed a lot in that growth process. Learning how to overcome obstacles like losing, and like dealing with a broken engagement. Those two things would cripple the feint at heart. But not Barlaan. According to her, “I have a lot of fight in me.” She went through a deep experience of introspection where she learned self-confidence, and how to love herself win or lose.
So instead of dating an impediment, she learned to be selfish: in a positive way, of course. Learning to do so helped shaped her identity not only as an athlete, but it also harnessed her power as an instructor. “I would take being a positive influence over a paycheck,” she adds, “I have the maturity and awareness now to know the difference between goal and obsession, and that my self-worth isn’t attached to winning. I know where my validation is.”
But even a Trailblazer needs a time out, right? When she’s not working on that mean open guard, Kristina likes to chill with her friends, cook, eat, play guitar, sing, write, and soak up the sun. She’s not only a martial artist, but a true artistic soul with so much depth underneath that gi.
Jenifer Hordinski and her husband own and operate Katharo Training Center. Jenifer enjoys cooking almost as much as she loves eating. She also appreciates people who are spontaneous and well-crafted jokes. But above all, she loves training and teaching Jiu-Jitsu and spending time with her family over any savory impulsive joke.