Earning a purple belt in jiu jitsu takes plenty of time and dedication. Imagine the commitment it would take to become a medical doctor, a purple belt, a professional MMA fighter, and a musician. . . all before the age of 30! Allow me to introduce you to Bunmi Ojewole, a 30-year-old doctor from Durban, South Africa.
Ever since she received her first doctor’s kit as a little girl, Bunmi wanted to be a doctor.
“I tried to do minor operations on my naïve little brother, with useless plastic instruments,” she said.
Bunmi followed her passion and went on to earn a medical degree Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, in South Africa. She has been a doctor for nine years, with a focus on orthopedic surgery. She believes the best part about being a doctor is, “fixing people up to get back to what they love doing and hearing their positive success stories.”
In 2013, fellow doctors introduced Bunmi to kickboxing, where she trained as a way of keeping fit. Soon kickboxing became a part of her routine. Later, she switched to training jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts in 2015.
Known as “The Bone Bender” in MMA, Bunmi is an Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) fighter with a professional record of 5-2.
“I enjoy the mental aspect of this physically taxing sport. It’s a stimulating, full body workout,” Bunmi explained. “There’s a sweet science to it and there is so much to learn.”
Training can be a great outlet that allows Bunmi to escape the frustrations she encounters at her day job. She said she looks to jiu jitsu as a way of meditation.
“It makes me a more calm and happier person in general,” she said.
Bunmi is a purple belt under Professor David Verster (a Marcus Soares black belt) at Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu in Durban, SA. Somehow, she’s figured out how to balance her training with everyday demands.
“Where there is a will, there is a way,” she exclaimed! “I just train as often as I can.”
When she is not on call and working overnight, Bunmi finds it easy to attend evening classes, as well as training on the weekends when she is free. She also has to worry about the injuries that come along with the sport.
While injuries happen in contact martial arts, Bunmi knows she needs to take care of her body. She has noticed that she has accumulated a number of small injuries over time.
“My injuries need to be respected, so I now try to train smart and focus more on consistency,” she explained.
While no day is typical in her life, Bunmi gave us a rundown of what a day in her life could look like: “In the early morning, I play with my dog (Rex the terrier) and feed him while I down my first cup of coffee and a small brekkie. Then I head off to work where I’m never really sure what’s waiting for me. Sometimes I spend my day in the calm theatre and do some cool operations. Other days I entertain several patients complaining about all their body aches and keep my own small permanent injuries to myself. Then there is the chaos of working in the trauma area where all sorts of weird and unfortunate things pop in (or out). Then after work I can’t wait to get to class after a pitstop at home. I try to do jiu jitsu and MMA training on alternate days. When I can, I join the early morning boxing classes too.”
Along with her busy schedule, Bunmi also makes time to play guitar (electric and acoustic).
“I am apparently a hopeless romantic who loves serenading,” she laughed.
While her job as a doctor is very technical, she likes to think of martial arts and guitar playing as her artistic side shining through.
“Martial arts have taught me that I am an eternal student, and it is ok to fail, but I should always try to succeed,” she stated.
Bunmi is not only a BJJ practitioner, but she is also a competitor. She came in second at the Abu Dhabi BJJ World Pro. She said she has learned the most not from her wins, but from her losses.
“I think my greatest accomplishment is the fact that people that I don’t necessarily know have come to know me and respect me just for being the friendly face in the crowd that’s always keen to compete and have fun doing it,” Bunmi said.
Jiu Jitsu and MMA have allowed Bunmi to forge lifelong bonds.
“It has brought me a new family and I have had too many happy memories with this new family,” she said. “It has taught me how to be patient with myself and others. It has taught me that I really am a powerful being. . . strength is a relative term, and it means nothing unless you know how to use it correctly.”
Her goal is to keep training and competing for life. She’d like to coach future female champions and to be able to share her knowledge and positively influence as many people as possible with this beautiful art,” she exclaimed.
Mindy Yager is co-owner of Select Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Waco, TX, where she is a brown belt. She has a degree in journalism from Baylor University, where she also teaches self-defense courses in the Health, Human Performance and Recreation department. Mindy is a mom to two boys, Abram and Hawk, and is married to Lance Yager. You can follow her on Instagram @jiujitsumindy or on Facebook as Mindy Poehl Yager