The Southern California ladies of Jiu Jitsu had been begging Shawn Fowler of Five Grappling to organize an all-women’s tournament. He tried a few, but as much as the women said they wanted this opportunity, very few would actually sign up. Jiu Jitsu has grown rapidly in the state, and in fact there are well over 125 female black belts throughout the state, the most in the United States. After waiting a few years, Shawn decided to try it again, resulting in the Women’s Cup on January 12th, 2020, held at New Breed Academy in Santa Fe Springs, 15 miles southwest of Los Angeles.
This time, this all women’s tournament was a huge success, with 204 competitors throughout 58 categories, ranging from the Kinder categories for girls 5-6 to the Seniors categories representing all belts. Shawn chose New Breed Academy specifically for its moderate size. He wanted the first-time competitors to feel comfortable, and the packed house had a supportive vibe. New Breed was large enough, though, to host four separate bouts at the same time.
Felicity Smith, a 26-year-old blue belt who trains out of Aloisio Silva Academy in Yucaipa, CA. Felicity commented, “I decided to sign up for a competition just because I really wanted to test my skill set. . . I really enjoyed it, it was incredibly exhilarating and I was able to leave knowing exactly what I needed to work on.”
Heather Culver is a white belt out of Outliers BJJ who competes often, and showed her skills as a white belt in the Masters division. Heather noted the atmosphere of the competition, “I really enjoyed the atmosphere at the Women’s Cup tournament because it was all women there to support and cheer on other women.. . being surrounded by so many amazing and powerful women who were all there for the same reasons was indescribable.”
The event also highlighted several vendors, acai stand, and a tent for massage and cupping therapy. It was easy for competitors to track their upcoming matches through an app that updated real time. Overall, the event ran smoothly and on time.
The absolute highlight of the event was an appearance by Gabi Garcia herself, who just opened an academy, Alliance Eastvale, in Ontario, just 30 miles west of New Breed Academy. She has multiple world championships as a black belt, including a record four ADCC championships and three IBJJF world championships. Gabi spoke to the dozens of girls waiting to see her, posed for selfies and offered words of encouragement.
The tournament was so successful that Shawn is already planning another one for May 16th and 17th. Unlike the Women’s Cup, this event will also include NoGi categories. As Jiu Jitsu grows among women throughout the world, here’s hoping for many more events like this.
About the Author:
Darisse Smith is a freelance journalist and blue belt training at Aloisio Silva Academy in Yucaipa, CA. She is an Army and Iraq veteran, and lives with her husband, Jeff, and 7 year old son. Her favorite move is a kimura from guard–simple yet vicious.