Each female on this jiu jitsu journey will have their own personal “firsts” that feel life changing. Your first class, your first stripe, your first competition, your first belt promotion are all major milestones. Professor Gina Franssen’s big milestone, promotion to black belt, also made her Minnesota’s first female Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt.
Gina Franssen, Black Belt 1st Degree under Prof Chris McCune – Rigan Machado Association is also a board member for the We Defy Foundation and owner and head Instructor of X2 Fitness in Minneapolis, MN. We Defy Foundation is a non-profit organization that helps disabled combat Veterans suffering from life-disabling injuries and/or PTSD through physical fitness and jiu jitsu. Gina has been a driving force for creating safe and welcoming spaces for all to train, and working with the We Defy Foundation she continues to give her heart and soul to her students.
“I don’t take my career path lightly. Being involved with organizations such as WDF and Mission 22 has opened my eyes to the realization that as a coach/instructor I can always give more, I can always do more to help people through the gift of teaching Jiu-Jitsu. It has made it even more apparent to me that everyone comes to the mat for different reasons, with different struggles and hardships yet we are all wanting similar outcomes: a sense of community/family, a healthy and positive outlet for our stress and most importantly, to better ourselves and our lives and by doing so, bettering the lives of others. I always thought that the culture of my gym provided these things to my students and now with the involvement of WDF and other Veterans organizations, I find myself actively working and striving to achieve this even more so, both professionally and personally.”
As jiu jitsu continues to be an outlet for all kinds of people, there is also a noticeable growth in the female community. At almost any academy and gym, you can find some type of womens’ class, self defense or other. The representation of women goes beyond classes, though, and Gina has taken notice.
“Women are being represented in every role (no pun intended) in the Jiu-Jitsu community. We are seeing more women’s only open mats, more female instructors on seminar line ups and more women’s only seminars taught by women, such as Girls In Gis, that bring women together from different affiliations and different parts of the country (or world, for that matter) to learn from and train with one another. This was unheard of when I was a white belt. I was stoked just to have a couple of female training partners…to have an opportunity to learn from and train with other women was a pipe dream. The opportunities that female Jiu-Jitsu practitioners have today are simply incredible.”
When asked where she sees herself and her gym in five years, Gina sees another expansion, more growth in her team and seminars.
“Opportunities present themselves so I’m open to anything. Why put limits on it? As long as I’m moving forward in a positive direction and continuing to make a difference in people’s lives, I’ll be more than happy. And I definitely wouldn’t mind a vacation somewhere in there.”
Girls in Gis staff writer
“Ariana is an teacher out of Austin, Texas. She loves coffee, wearing skirts, and trains Brazilian Jiu Jitsu out of Gracie Humaita- Austin”