Nikki Sullivan may be a down to earth lady, but she sure does enjoy turning herself upside down. This professional jiujiteira is known for her wicked inverted guard. She’ll use it to block, sweep and submit her opponents with impressive results. On January 2nd, 2019, Nikki earned her black belt from André Galvão. Though only a year under her black belt she has won 1st place at the IBJFF Masters World Championship and 1st place at the Portland Open, both in 2019. If you look at her competition history from before her black belt, you know more is to come. Currently, Nikki trains at Atos Jiu Jitsu out of San Diego, but that’s not where her journey began. Nikki decided to try Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as an undergrad at the University of Indian. he started with Tae Kwon Do but found it less practical for self-defense. She then moved over to both Hapkido (also a black belt) and her true passion BJJ. She studied elementary education at the university, and upon graduating became a preschool teacher and occasional nanny. Nikki continued to train BJJ while working as a teacher, but eventually she began to feel underappreciated in her career. She worked extra hours without pay She wondered if she could turn her passion for BJJ into a career.
With encouragement from her BJJ family in Indiana, Nikki decided to make the leap and pursue BJJ full-time. In August 2017, Nikki said goodbye to her Indiana life and moved to San Diego to train with Atos Jiu Jitsu. At first the transition was difficult, since Nikki knew very few people. Through her Atos and church family, Nikki has found her place in Southern California as a professional. She competes often, having placed at IBJFF Pan Championships, ADCC US West Coast Trials, IBJFF Los Angeles Pro and, most recently, the World No Gi Championship.
Nikki also gets to use her training as a teacher, both at Atos for women’s and kid’s classes, as well as seminars throughout the country. In fact, Atos has become her home, and she credits her Jiu Jitsu family for pulling her through uncertain times: “Build bonds with your team, and especially with your fellow girls. You will push each other, encourage each other, cry together, and become family to one another. We can’t do this alone.”
Even when we are feeling upside down, we can find inspiration in women like Nikki, who took a risk and made the most of it. As for Nikki, she will continue to invert as she conquers the upcoming European IBJJF Championships and will share her expertise both at Atos and at academies around the country. Even though Nikki has had a successful Jiu Jitsu career, like many of us, she has felt defeated and frustrated. She wants to encourage those who are struggling: “There will be times when it’s tough and you don’t feel like you are progressing, but don’t give up. You are stronger than you ever know. . . “
Have faith in your strength and keep moving forward.
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.