Caroline Vanek, a New Orleans native, became Louisiana’s first female black belt June 15, 2013 under NOLA BJJ. She started training in 1998 and was the only female for years. Never did she think that she would be on the mats with 60+ females as guest instructor at her first Girls in Gis event. She is passionate about being a part of Girls in Gis and building comradery and a comfortable place to train within the female BJJ community. She teaches a monthly women’s workshop that is free and open to anyone regardless of gym affiliation and experience. She also teaches a regular women’s class and helps with the kids’ program.
After Katrina, her academy NOLA BJJ was homeless and she and her teammates used a training partner’s garage as a gym until they found a permanent space. Her teammates are family to her and she has been training with many of the same people since the beginning of NOLA BJJ. She is grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of and witness the evolution of BJJ, and especially to help grow the female community that didn’t exist when she started training.