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.
Lisa Littrell was first introduced to Jiu-Jitsu in 2013 while living abroad in the South Pacific islands of American Samoa, but her training didn’t truly begin until she moved to New Orleans, Louisiana in 2014, where she found her Jiu-Jitsu home at NOLA BJJ. In 2016, Lisa earned her blue belt under Professor Matthias Meister owner of NOLA BJJ and is now working towards obtaining her Purple belt. Lisa is also now an assistant coach for the NOLA BJJ kid’s classes. Lisa found Girls in Gis in 2016 when GIG had their first ever Louisiana Event and immediately fell in love with the GIG vision. From that first event, Lisa has volunteered at every GIG-Louisiana event and in 2018 became a GIG, Ambassador. When not training Jiu Jitsu, Lisa is training for ultra-marathons and working as a Public Health Nutritionist for a non-profit program that services low-income families in Orleans Parish.
“I love Jiu Jitsu for the mental and physical challenge that it offers. Throughout the years, my confidence outside of the gym has grown tremendously due to the lessons I have learned and the skills I have gained from the sport. I have a sense of empowerment now that I did not have before and it is my desire to offer that same opportunity to other women. It’s so exciting to see women go from their timid first day of class to breaking arms and choking necks just a few months later.”