Shama is the program director for Girls in Gis. She began her martial arts training in 2000 first training in Muay Thai for three years and in 2003 she started training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She is a Brown belt. She spent close to a decade as a full time competitor in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competing throughout the Mainland US, Hawaii and Brazil. Jiu Jitsu has changed her life in so many positive ways and has largely contributed to who she is today. She is also a photographer. She enjoys traveling and having adventures in her free time. She loves to laugh and not take life too seriously.
Although her competition career came to an abrupt end when she was injured in 2010, a new door opened for Shama with Girls in Gis. Shama has dedicated her life to the Girls in Gis movement and structuring the organization. She describes it as her purpose and has provided an opportunity for Shama to blossom. She has found an outlet to utilize all of her skills which include photography, video editing, marketing, writing, advertising, networking, event planning and public relations. She considers herself lucky to have been in the right place at the right time.
“If not for the support of some ladies that started a women’s only class in 2003, I wouldn’t be on the path I am now. That is why I am so passionate about the work that Girls in Gis does. Some girls like me just need that little extra push and a strong support system to help them find their strength.”
Suay has had the pleasure of wearing many hats so far in life: a military veteran / wife, a mom (now a grandma), Jiu Jitsu nerd and now a BJJ academy owner. Suay is the 2nd female black belt under Master Luiz Palhares. She is also a level 3 certified Ginástica Natural instructor under Professor Alvaro Romano. She is one of only two instructors in San Antonio. She is also a nikyu in Judo. She is very active in charity work with Girls in Gis, We Defy and a few other causes. She loves to teach self-defense seminars. It is something she feels very strongly about and believes it is a vital step towards empowerment, self-esteem and awareness.
“It’s never too late to prevent being / stop being a victim. And of course, never too late to start Brazilian Jiu Jitsu! I started in 2009 and it has been one of the best things I have done! I was a middle aged, out of shape mom that found a great network of mentors that helped propel me to a better lifestyle. It’s why I love the networking sisterhood of Girls in Gis. We support each other and help one another navigate through tough times on and off the mats. It’s a connection you just can’t describe!”
Kristine is a black belt at Peak Performance where she teaches kids and women classes. She started training 2001. She is a mother, a wife and runs the Women’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation.
“My favorite thing about Jiu Jitsu is the structure it gives my life. It brings me balance. I love how I can travel and find people that have the same passion as i do. It allows me to make friends everywhere i go.”
Ashley is the founder of Girls in Gis and a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well as a pharmacist, wife and mother. She has been training Jiu-Jitsu since 2005 at Elite MMA.
“When I started Girls in Gis I had no idea the impact it would have on women in Jiu Jitsu and now as a mom of two girls I’m so lucky to be a part of something that makes this huge difference in people’s lives. I want my daughters to grow up knowing themselves as strong, powerful women that can do and accomplish anything and I think Girls in Gis is a place where many women have seen that for themselves.”
Jill is a brown belt under Dennis Thomas and trains at Street Jitsu in Roanoke, Texas.
Jill fell in love with martial arts after joining the judo club in college. After a 10 year hiatus from Judo, Jill was tired of being out of shape and enrolled at a local BJJ academy. The mental aspect of the jiu-jitsu game appealed to her inner nerd. Having been the only girl in her judo club and being the only consistently training girl in her BJJ school through purple belt, Jill was excited to discover the Girls in Gis organization.
“I believe that my involvement with Girls in Gis ignited my passion for Jiu-Jitsu. It is empowering to belong to a fabulous community of strong women all across the country. Girls in Gis has allowed me to meet tons of new people, make lifelong friends, learn great techniques and travel all over the place doing what I love to do…Jiu-Jitsu.”
Off of the mats, she is an elementary special education teacher and wife of a fellow jiu-jitsu addict.
Zantha Sanderlin is a purple belt at Peak Performance Mixed Martial Arts under Paul Halme in Keller, TX. She, like almost all female BJJ practitioners wears many hats. She is a physical therapist working for Keller ISD, owner of a Rodan + Fields skincare business, a mother to a son in high school, a band mom and jiu jitsu addict.
She became intrigued by this sport sitting on the sidelines watching her son Dade on his BJJ journey. Dade had been training for two years when she finally decided to join him on the mats. So, in July of 2012 at 36 years old she started on her own path and hasn’t looked back.
“I distinctly remember my first Girls in Gis event. I was invited by Kristine Felts, and I remember being amazed that there were this many women getting to train together all at once. Even in our biggest classes, there usual was only 2-5 girls at a time. I was so impressed with organization and comradery of all these ladies. I started helping out however I could at the local events. When the opportunity to become an ambassador came up, I jumped at the chance to be officially part of this fantastic organization!”