Many of us talk about wanting to pick up our lives, move to San Diego, and immerse ourselves in living the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle, but only a few are brave enough to walk the walk. Purple belt Kelly Moore of Honu Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) was one of the brave. Three years ago, Moore and her husband left Phoenix, Arizona and headed west to the Jiu Jitsu mecca in San Diego. It wasn’t long before Moore was living the dream.
Who is Kelly Moore? How did you come about living the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle?
I am 39 years old (although my adrenaline tells me I am 22). I am currently a purple belt at Honu Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in San Diego, CA under co-owners Shawn Fowler and Branden Guptill (both are Saulo Ribeiro black belts).
I started training about 5 years ago in Phoenix, AZ. But my husband and I moved to San Diego in 2017 specifically for the SoCal lifestyle–the weather and jiu jitsu. Before moving to San Diego, we would visit every few months to train, hit the beach, and work Five Grappling events. So we were very familiar with the jiu jitsu community and our future teammates before we were officially “San Diegans”.
I have continued to work and support various jiu jitsu events like Five Grappling tournaments, ADCC, SoCal Women’s open mats, Josei Heishi Women’s Jiu Jitsu and Girls in Gis Seminars. But I try to stay behind the scenes!
What made you put on the gi and start BJJ?
My husband, Chris, who was a purple belt at the time, tried for months to convince me to train jiu jitsu, and I was not interested. One day, we were messing around at home and he put me in a head and arm choke. Then he told me to escape it. Considering I trained in Muay Thai (Thai Kickboxing) for several years, I tried to throw elbows and kicks which were completely unsuccessful! That was it. I was determined to never let that happen again and I started training BJJ the following week.I was hooked.
What is the biggest accomplishment you’ve made on your bjj journey?
I think one of my biggest accomplishments, so far, is my multi-role involvement in the first ever Five Grappling Women’s Cup in January, 2020. We had an amazing turn out of so many talented competitors! I am so proud of all my teammates, many who were first-time competitors. Win or lose, they were all amazing and walked away happy!
I am by no means a competitor, but I compete here and there to test myself. Not only did I have a tough division, but I also had a unique opportunity to compete in an exhibition match with a transwoman. I was happy to be a part of her competition opportunity that she might not ever get in the corporate tournament events.
Bringing home double gold was great, but it did not compare to what a historical and fantastic day we all had! Even Gabi Garcia made an appearance to support all the competitors!
Some of your teammates referred to you being the gym mom. When did that begin and how?
I carry quite a few titles at my gym: team photographer, secretary, and cheerleader are a few, but “Gym Mom” makes me giggle and the one I’m most proud of. It started within the first few months of joining Honu BJJ. I was a baby blue belt. Being the new kid in class and sometimes the only female can be intimidating for many people. So I always tried my best to welcome everyone, especially ladies. We started to have a consistent group of female students that we jokingly earned the nickname, “The Honettes”, like Diana Ross and the Supremes or something. It just naturally progressed from there.
I started organizing team trips to open mats and seminars. If I didn’t see someone in class for a bit, I would check in on them. Now more than ever, I try my best to encourage our ladies to push their limits and step outside their comfort zones, embrace their strengths. Most importantly I help them recognize and celebrate the small victories along the way.
I hold them accountable to their training and putting in the work to keep progressing in jiu jitsu. These last few months, I have been working with the female black belts within our association and organizing a monthly women’s open mat that rotates to different gyms within San Diego. Having all my teammates come together and embrace makes me a proud “Mom!”
Who inspires you to get better and why?
My biggest inspiration is my husband, Chris, who is a black belt and the reason I started training jiu jitsu. He is a phenomenal professor to our team; he challenges us and does whatever he can to help us reach our goals and surpass any limitations that we may think we have. He is an incredible motivator and makes training so much fun!
Chris is my best friend and partner in crime. He is so supportive of my jiu jitsu journey and women’s jiu jitsu in general. He has been by my side through the ups and downs of training, injuries, tournaments and jiu jitsu events. I adore him for always believing in me. Together, we have met so many amazing people and had some incredible experiences through jiu jitsu. I am grateful to have someone appreciate that the way I do.
What advice would you give girls that are just starting out in bjj?
To a woman who is just starting jiu jitsu, I would tell her what I what tell any person trying jiu jitsu for the first time: to be opened minded and just try it without fear… the warm up, the shrimping, the rolls, the drills, the techniques; just to do their best without having any fear of not doing it right or people watching them, etc. We were all the new kid in class at some point.
Ps: Have some fun! Rolling around trying to choke your friends is not considered normal. So embrace the weirdness of it!
About the author: Mindi is a purple belt under Headnod HQ in Granite City, Illinois under Josh and Steve McKinney. She is affiliated with TAC Team BJJ. When Mindi isn’t on the mats, she is writing, working in women’s ministry, or across seas as a volunteer missionary. Instagram: @fomindi82