Building Character Through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

When it comes to Martial Arts Kelley Perotti is no stranger. She has around twenty one years experience and counting. She began her Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training seventeen years ago. She says that she has always enjoyed the evolution of practical martial arts and was lucky to have been introduced to BJJ at the turn of the century. It was when she saw a 145 lb guy smoke a 200 lb plus guy that she instantly realized that she need to learn what he what he was training. Fast forward and before you knew it Kelley became the first woman in the United States to receive a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from Master Charles Gracie. Not to mention she opened her own academy, Conviction Martial Arts in Reno where she teaches MMA and BJJ.

What do you think are the benefits of Martial Arts for women? Which art do you think is most effective for women? 

I believe their are so many benefits to martial arts for women. Most important though is Confidence! When you learn empowering techniques your confidence is boosted. When you are confident you carry yourself different and limit your chances of becoming a victim. I believe in street self defense and Jiu Jitsu (training long term) is the most effective Martial Art for women. Street self defense teaches women how to protect themselves in bad situations in the quickest and most effective way possible. I believe in Jiu Jitsu as well because it teaches you to problem solve, not panic, fight back, and address the issue of size and strength.

Do you think the dynamic has changed when it comes to women training now verse when you started? If so, how?

The dynamic has for sure changed! I was literally the only girl at my gym for a lot of years. The fact that there are so many women in the sport now is so exciting. I love Girls and Gis because it brings all of the women together. I think a lot of times even when the woman are in class they roll with the men because it’s okay to loose to them. I think it’s important for us to always roll with each other and push each other to be the best we can be. The guys do that with each other and we need to do the same. That is where we test our true Jiu Jitsu, against each other. Then men will never roll as hard with us as they do with other men out of respect. We owe it to our selves to train hard with each other.

What changes would you like to see? How can we make them? 

What I’d love to see in the future is more women and young girls learning Jiu Jitsu, being empowered and enjoying all the benefits it has to offer.

Do you find it more difficult as a female to run a martial arts academy? If so, how have you overcome these challenges?

I believe it can be more difficult being a women. Especially with Jiu Jitsu, big guys come in and see me as the instructor (laughs) and think “oh I’m learning from you?” (laugh). But the beauty of it is I have a ton of big guys, women and children. The fact that the men are willing to come in and learn from me shows that they probably don’t have a big egos. They want to learn rather than just come and beat dudes up. I also have three other black belt guys that help me teach so there is a male presence as well that has helped.

What has been your biggest obstacle on the mats? How did you overcome it? 

Gosh, I would have to say finding a balance of teaching, training my students and also getting my training time in as well. Setting a schedule has been key.

If you could give the white belt Kelley advice what would it be?

If I could give myself advice as a white belt it would be to always stay positive even in times of injury or rough training days. How we react to hard times that builds our character

What would you like your legacy in BJJ to be?

I just hope to be remembered as a great coach and someone who gave others an environment where they learned to love BJJ as much as I do.



 Shama Ko

Girls in Gis staff writer

Shama Ko is a brown belt with Gracie Humaita out of Austin, TX.  She has been a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner since November of 2003.  She is a photographer, writer, community organizer and activist. She heads the Girls in Gis organization or as she calls it the “movement”. She describes herself as both a lover and a fighter. She loves to laugh and not take life too seriously.

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