Taking The Long Way Home

Have you ever taken a break from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu? A few days, a week, a month or even years? At first it feels like your heart gets ripped out, right? “Oh my what do I do with all this free time?” You have to reinvent yourself, but after a while it becomes normal. Eventually life takes you on a different path and before long fourteen years have gone by you are married have a degree, started a career and have two kids.  Well that’s what happened to Lora Heinen Heaps.

Having always been interested in jiu-jitsu since the early UFC Lora tried her first jiu-jitsu class in 1997 with her then boyfriend (now huband). She trained for a short period of time, but wasn’t able to train consistently because she says she was young, broke, and it was a commute to the gym. However, what is truly amazing about Lora’s story is that six years ago at the ages of 35 years old Lora returned. She says her oldest daughter, who was six at the time, started training and it wasn’t long after that her husband and she started as well. Then like a ripple effect her other daughter and both her brothers also started training.

Lora says that the decision to come back was a tough one. She made excuses at first then finally gave in and took that first step at Zingano Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

“I asked myself if I was too old, too busy, or too out of shape. It was easy getting back into it after I actually started. I was fortunate to find an academy that is very welcoming and has a great beginner program.”

She says now that she has no doubt that she will be a black belt someday.  Although she says it may take her longer than some. She also wants to motivate and inspire people through jiu-jitsu.  She loves coaching kids and plans to work with women more in the future.

“I think you just have to make jiu-jitsu part of your life.  Some weeks you can train 5 days a week, sometimes only 1 or 2.  You have to take time off for injuries or family commitments, and sometimes you have to ramp up for competition.  Just don’t quit coming.”

Lora says that it can be challenging at times to find training partners her size since she is on the small side. However even though it can be challenging, she feels like it’s helped her explore her technique in a way she might not have otherwise had the opportunity to do.

She says that jiu jitsu may not be for all all women, but it really depends on the female. Not all females feel comfortable jumping in with male partners.  Her solution to making females feel more comfortable are all-female beginner class or women’s self-defense classes to ease them in. A one on one or small group lesson with a female coach or a male coach could help them feel comfortable if they are on the fence about training. However Lora thinks it’s important for women to eventually train with men because if jiu jitsu is ever need in a self defense situation, its most likely the attacker would be a man.

Perhaps the timing wasn’t right for Lora in 1997. Perhaps her life needed to take her in a different direction and she had to learn different lessons before she continued her journey on the mats. The fact is that despite her fears and self doubts of returning she did. Therefore, she never really quit, she just took a long intermission. Who knows why life takes us in the directions it does but as long as we keep learning and growing that’s what matters.



 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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