Girls in Gis Staff


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Shama Ko

CEO, Program Director

Shama is the program director for Girls in Gis.  She began her martial arts training in 2000 first training in Muay Thai for three years and in 2003 she started training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She is a Brown belt. She spent close to a decade as a full time competitor in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competing throughout the Mainland US, Hawaii and Brazil. Jiu Jitsu has changed her life in so many positive ways and has largely contributed to who she is today.

Although her competition career came to an abrupt end when she was injured in 2010, a new door opened for Shama with Girls in Gis. Shama has dedicated her life to the Girls in Gis movement and structuring the organization. She describes it as her purpose and has provided an opportunity for Shama to blossom. She has found an outlet to utilize all of her skills which include photography, video editing, marketing, writing, advertising, networking, event planning and public relations. She considers herself lucky to have been in the right place at the right time.

Although her competition career came to an abrupt end when she was injured in 2010, a new door opened for Shama with Girls in Gis. Shama has dedicated her life to the Girls in Gis movement and structuring the organization. She describes it as her purpose and has provided an opportunity for Shama to blossom. She has found an outlet to utilize all of her skills which include photography, video editing, marketing, writing, advertising, networking, event planning and public relations. She considers herself lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. She is solely responsible for building Girls in Gis into the largest internationally recognized women’s Brazilian Jiu Jitsu organization. She still currently oversees all areas of the organization.

“If not for the support of some ladies that started a women’s only class in 2003, I wouldn’t be on the path I am now. That is why I am so passionate about the work that Girls in Gis does. Some girls like me just need that little extra push and a strong support system to help them find their strength.”


Suay Alaziz 

Ambassador Program Manager

Suay has had the pleasure of wearing many hats so far in life:  a military veteran / wife, a mom (now a grandma), Jiu Jitsu nerd and now a BJJ academy owner. Suay is the 2nd female black belt under Master Luiz Palhares. She is also a level 3 certified Ginástica Natural instructor under Professor Alvaro Romano. She is one of only two instructors in San Antonio.  She is also a nikyu in Judo. She is very active in charity work with Girls in Gis, We Defy and a few other causes. She loves to teach self-defense seminars. It is something she feels very strongly about and believes it is a vital step towards empowerment, self-esteem and awareness.

Suay oversees the Girls in Gis ambassador program which is a leadership program that currently has 50 ambassadors nationwide. The Girls in Gis ambassador program is designed to provide leadership roles and well as training for women and girls in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community. Leadership skills learned though the program not only empower strong women by provide transferable skills that can be applied to women’s careers and day to day life.

“It’s never too late to prevent being / stop being a victim. And of course, never too late to start Brazilian Jiu Jitsu! I started in 2009 and it has been one of the best things I have done! I was a middle aged, out of shape mom that found a great network of mentors that helped propel me to a better lifestyle. It’s why I love the networking sisterhood of Girls in Gis. We support each other and help one another navigate through tough times on and off the mats. It’s a connection you just can’t describe!”


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Caroline Vanek

Scholarship Coordinator

Caroline Vanek, a New Orleans native, became Louisiana’s first female black belt June 15, 2013 under NOLA BJJ. She started training in 1998 and was the only female for years.  Never did she think that she would be on the mats with 60+ females as guest instructor at her first Girls in Gis event.  She is passionate about being a part of Girls in Gis and building comradery and a comfortable place to train within the female BJJ community.  She teaches a monthly women’s workshop that is free and open to anyone regardless of gym affiliation and experience.   She also teaches a regular women’s class and helps with the kids’ program.

After Katrina, her academy NOLA BJJ was homeless and she and her teammates used a training partner’s garage as a gym until they found a permanent space.  Her teammates are family to her and she has been training with many of the same people since the beginning of NOLA BJJ.  She is grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of and witness the evolution of BJJ, and especially to help grow the female community that didn’t exist when she started training.

Caroline Vanek oversees the Girls in Gis scholarship program which provides tuition assistance, uniforms and competition stipends to underprivileged women and girls worldwide. The Girls in Gis scholarship program is designed to provide opportunities for women and girls to achieve their goals in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by eliminating the financial barriers that may stand in the way of achieving them. .


Ashley Nguyen

Founder

Ashley is the founder of Girls in Gis and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well as a pharmacist, wife and mother.  She has been training Jiu-Jitsu since 2005 at Elite MMA. Although she is no longer active in the Girls in Gis organization she is an avid supporter.

“When I started Girls in Gis I had no idea the impact it would have on women in Jiu Jitsu and now as a mom of two girls I’m so lucky to be a part of something that makes this huge difference in people’s lives.  I want my daughters to grow up knowing themselves as strong, powerful women that can do and accomplish anything and I think Girls in Gis is a place where many women have seen that for themselves.”