Empower, Educate, Elevate On & Off the Mats

Elevate Jiu Jitsu Mag talks with Shama Ko about 2018.

In November 2017 Nicole Houle with Elevate Jiu Jitsu Mag was able to catch up with and interview Shama Ko to discuss the future of Girls and Gi’s in 2018.



Girls in Gi’s is an organization dedicated to building and strengthening The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community for females as a whole.  Shama Ko is the driving force behind this organization.  Girls in Gi’s has recently come out with a new “Strength in Solidarity” patch to support the movement of women’s Jiu Jitsu and the recent addition of the Women’s Masters 2-7 divisions for the 2018 Pans.   Please visit the Girls in Gi’s website at  to purchase a patch.  All proceeds go to fund the 2018 Sponsorship program designed to provide sponsorship opportunities for those in need.






Carlos Melo and Karen Peters Interview. The driving force behind the petition that changed history for the Master’s Women’s Divisions at the 2018 IBJJF Pans.

Written by: Nicole Houle


We did an interview with Carlos Melo and Karen Peters who were the masterminds of the petition that has quickly turned into a movement toward equality for women in Jiu Jitsu. Carlos and Karen are the true definition of the word humanitarians. We are so proud to present,  Uniting our Jiu Jitsu community through Equality and Competition. 



The steps that Carlos and Karen have taken are inspiring to us all. They have joined forces and truly changed the lives of 1000’s of women who compete in Jiu Jitsu between the ages of 30 – 70 years of age. They have worked tirelessly to keep this opportunity alive and moving forward in order for the movement to be successful.  They have also united our community as a whole. Congratulations to you both for not waiting for someone else to take ACTION!

Call to Action: We are calling all Women Masters 2, 3, 4, 5,6 and 7. ALL BELTS.. Please go sign up! If you need help getting there please look into going to the Girls in Gis scholarship and or reaching out in the 2018 Pan Am Master 2-7 Facebook group.

Everyone at Elevate Jiu Jitsu Mag  would like to express our thanks to all of the people who have stepped up to help in any way that they could.





Learn how to do “The Bully Pass” with Caitlin Huggins

Elevate Jiu Jitsu Mag presents Caitlin Huggins, Black Belt and Instructor out of Top Martial Arts and Fitness located in Pineville, North Carolina.  Caitlin shares with us “The Bully Pass” which is one of her favorite ways to pass the guard from the combat base when in open guard.  Look to see and hear more from Caitlin Huggins in the future from Elevate Jiu Jitsu Mag.





Elevate Jiu Jitsu Mag is hosting The 12 Days of Giveaways

*-*Starting December 14, 2017 Elevate Jiu Jitsu Mag will be giving away 12 gifts for 12 days.

To enter to win follow these 3 steps.

  1. Subscribe at

  2. Post a picture via Instagram & Facebook that shows us what you do to Elevate your Jiu Jitsu to the next level. 

  3. Tag #ElevateMyJiuJitsu @ElevateJiuJitsuMag to enter your photo in the drawing. 

Post your pictures now and stay tuned on

Instagram & Facebook

each day for the gift announcements!

Top 12 jiu jitsu related gifts that any Jujitera uses. 

Elevate Jiu Jitsu Mag - Stocking Stuffers

Any Jujitera needs gear to train in. 

Our gear was sponsored by Tatami.


You can’t go wrong with gifting water bottles, mouth guards, gift cards, heating wraps/creams and supporting women’s jiu jitsu brands, charities & organizations. 


We are thankful to our sponsors.

@TatamiFightwear @GirlsinGis @MightyDames @MyBruisesareFrom @RollWithItBJJ

Five days of Euphoria, Jiu Jitsu, Empowerment & the Sea

Written by: Jodi Schwartz

Sophia McDermott Lifestyle Camp Oct 2017 (67)


Sophia McDermott’s Lifestyle and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Camp took place in small but quaint town of Siesta Key this past October. A small patch of paradise in Florida where the ice cream comes in rainbow colors and the karaoke game is strong;  Siesta Key was not ready for the twenty five personalities coming. There was plenty of  bonding with the other Jiu Jitsu girls, lounging by the pool and playing at the beach; the only thing missing was a cabana boy and bottomless Mimosas.

Morning person or not,  all the ladies of the camp awoke early each morning to be greeted by a stunning array of fresh fruit before taking a short walk to the beach for sunrise yoga led by the brilliant and beautiful Jiu Jitsu Yogi, Jasmine Bienvenue . Each day, Jasmine explored different flows where she encouraged a connection to the body and breath before laying and meditating in a sweet Shavasana as the sun came up.




The practice was followed by a hearty,  nutritious breakfast which offered a choice of fruit, eggs, yogurt, gluten free or rye toast  with coffee and tea. All meals were prepared by a woman of many talents, Tina West, with help from sous chef Jodi Schwartz. 

At 10.30 a.m. Sophia McDermott taught the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu sessions. Sophia who is an  IBJJF Worlds, IBJJF No Gi Worlds and IBJJF Pan Am Champion as well as the 1st female black belt from Australia shared her knowledge of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with a particular focus on techniques that were better suited to women. The smiles in the pictures from a couple hours of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques and rolling don’t do the happiness and joy felt throughout justice.




After a good training session, the ladies worked up a serious appetite for lunch. For lunch we were greeted with a nourishing variety of protein, vegetables and  complex carbs before relaxing in the afternoon.The next three to four hours were open for whatever suited us.  Many of the girls went to the beach, some to the pool, some to shop, others to a movie, or many took a much needed nap. 




Evening activities varied day to day, but all included workshops that alternated between a focus on the body, mind and spirit. Sophia taught a toning & sculpting workout, a nutrition workshop, partner stretching and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Q&A session. Tina West took charge of the Warrior Within empowerment – workshops, sound therapy and guided meditations.

Dinner was always ready after the workshops to make sure that ladies were refueled and recharged from all the activities of the day. Although the focus of the camp was about health and good nutrition,  if needed the ice cream shop and convenient store were just a quick walk away for those with sweet cravings. It was a busy five days indeed, but what cannot be captured in words is the atmosphere. Here’s our best attempt in quotes from attendees:

“The camp consists of:  intense training,  brutal honesty,  massive growth, vulnerability, love and the unshakable sisterhood. Not one bad vibe for five days. These camps are really on another level. Worth every sacrifice and every last penny we have. I strongly encourage you to experience the next one in February.

“Attending the Sophia lifestyle camp and experiencing all of the components of sound, yoga, meditation, and BJJ training was like reaching inside of yourself and telling that Queen that it’s okay to start her reign. The power that is unlocked at the camp will change the world.”

“This camp could only be said in a few words, passion and purpose inspires others to become the best version of themselves.”

“Best things about camp: the absence of egos,  the welcoming feeling and the togetherness and learning a sense of real team after knowing each other for just minutes! Great group of women!”

“Being less than a year into my BJJ journey,  I was very nervous attending Sophia’s camp. I felt very welcomed, made amazing connections, and new friendships.  So happy I did this for myself.”

“This camp was exactly what I needed. It helped me connect my mind and body, and helped me learn how to help my whole self! I truly feel like a new person after one week at lifestyles camp. Words can’t express how life changing it was for me!”

“I love everything in the camp ! But the Best thing was meeting everyone and getting  to roll.”

And here is what Sophia had to say “The focus of my camps is for the ladies to get a glimpse into the lifestyle that promotes optimal health on all levels, body, mind and soul. Good nutrition is a major focus of mine, as well as working out to stay fit and strong. Mental health is just as important as physical health which is why I offer meditations and empowerment workshops and yoga as well as the opportunity to connect with nature.  It is so wonderful that I am able to offer this experience all because of  Jiu Jitsu – the sport that has connected us all. I think the best part about the camps are the lifelong friendships that are created. My aim is to connect the ladies regardless of age, country, belt rank or affiliation and to build up this sisterhood of empowered women so that collectively we can thrive.”

There is not much else I can add as I write this description of the camp. It is a euphoric feeling for five days where women from all over the US and World come together to meet, learn, experience, share and make lifelong connections. The sisterhood developed is on a different level than most have ever experienced. Each day and session seemed to light more of a fire within each woman, inspiring each one of us to be the wonderful person that we are, listening to our hearts and choosing our own paths.








Denise Houle shows the Arm Triangle from Top Half Guard.

Elevate Jiu Jitsu Mag presents Denise Houle,  Head Coach at the UFC GYM Perimeter in Atlanta, GA.  Denise has a philosophy from the Top Half Guard position, why not take the opportunity to try to submit from top half guard?,  If we can not finish from here then most of the time it forces an opening to pass.   Check out our video below and see if you can add this to your top half game.


The Ugly F Word.

Written By: Laura Mangham CPC, CHT


The F Word


The ugly F-word


You know the F-word. It’s what kept you from sleeping the night before your competition. It made you believe you had to lower your weight class to stand a chance. It told you that you weren’t ready, even though you’d been training for months. It made you doubt yourself upon facing your opponent for the first time. It distracted you on the mat, reminding you of that time you were injured in that very position. It made you feel as if everyone was staring, just waiting for you to slip. The F-word is what could have caused you to give it all up. Why didn’t you? Because of a much bigger word than fear; courage.

Courage assured you that you can rely on your strength and skill to compete against your opponent. It reminded you of the hundreds of drills you’ve practiced and have now mastered. Courage reminded you that your opponent is human, feeling exactly as you do. Courage told you that you’ve learned from your mistakes and will deliver better results this time.  It allows you to bask in the positivity of all who support you and are waiting to see you win. Courage is what pushes you forward in your toughest moments.

Fear is a big ugly word, but it’s no match for the size of your courage.


“Black Belt Suzanne Ramsden of Maverick Training Center shares her experience in priorities, perseverance and passion.”



Elevate readers want to know what inspires you to reach your goals?

My inspiration has always been my mother, who passed away about five years ago.  She was a very good person who was always there for anyone.  She even lived in a convent for awhile before getting married. My Mother never changed; she never let the world affect her. And that is a huge inspiration for me and I strive to be more like her.

My inspiration has evolved in the way I want people to see Maverick. I want it to be known for excellent instruction and high standards, but also to be a positive force in the community as well.  When you leave a positive atmosphere, you spread that feeling to others.


Tell us about the evolution of Maverick Training Center and how it originated?

 In 2004 I began teaching Muay Thai and Boxing, which I learned from training at a local gym for a couple of years and from Richard Bustillo.  In 2005, I began training with Helio Soneca when I was just over 40 years old. I would practice the techniques I learned from him on my students. My Academy grew from that. I decided to devote myself to Jiu-Jitsu and I kept records of what I learned from Soneca. I also had him here many times. I soaked up everything I could learn from him. I received my black belt in December of 2014. I concentrated, and still do, on quality and environment.  So we just kept growing, slowly and steadily. I have students that have been with me for many years and I will have my first black belt soon, my son.


We know you’ve been a mother throughout this process; can you tell us how you balance the demands of family life and the pursuit of your Jiu Jitsu goals?

 Oh man, looking back I do not know how I did it as I would drive three and a half hours (one-way to a different time zone) to train with Soneca.  I had to get up really early to get to class on time all while making sure my kids were in school. Then I would train and rush back as soon as class was over so I could pick them up. It was extremely difficult. Of course, there were times that I had to miss practice because my children came first. Like times when they were sick or sometimes I could not afford to travel. It was a whole lot of work. While building Maverick, I was able to bring them in with me. Thankfully they took to these martial arts and they are very good at them as well. They grew up at this gym and with the people in it. That is why I wanted a family atmosphere. Both of my kids are great at Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai. You know, it has been very hard to balance, but your family has to come first. I always made sure that the bills were paid, the children were taken care of and what was left over went toward my training. Sometimes I had to miss months if I just could not swing it, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I kept working. I didn’t have a set goal, like my goal wasn’t to become a black belt. My goal was to just keep moving forward. Just as long as my kids were fine, I would keep moving forward. Sometimes I would have to take a little pause.  Looking back, I don’t know how I did it because it was really hard, but here I am. I DID IT. [laughing]


It seems that you must have really had an internal drive to learn Jiu Jitsu?

For some reason I was so driven; Jiu Jitsu just got under my skin. I was like, I have to know this. I would be exhausted, but I would train and feel great because I learned a little bit more. I was excited to see if I could use it. I really did not do this for belts; I did it for knowledge. In fact, I told myself it’s going to be a long time before you get to any belts so I put it out of mind. I would think thoughts like, I am going to be behind most people; I am going to show up and this person I am training with is going to be ahead of me because they train more than me. So, I thought, don’t worry about it. I was driven – I just had to do it.  Every time I went, it was like getting food. It was like I needed it, you know what I mean? I just needed it!  I still need it.


How do you feel the community has received the idea of a female owned and operated gym?

 Well, now I do not get a lot of flack so it is pretty easy.  Occasionally, someone might say something, but in the early days it was not so much fun. I have had some very unpleasant and embarrassing things happen. For example at tournaments, where my students won and the coach of the opponent would not shake my hand or was embarrassed because his student lost to a student trained by a female coach. I have had people say some stuff online and that sort of thing but I just believe in focusing on what you want to do and staying positive. I did not react to these things. If I did, it would take my focus away from moving myself forward. I have this thing where I need to keep moving forward in some way. If I had wanted to retaliate, complain or go after somebody, it would take away my focus. My feelings would be hurt, yes, but I would just keep moving forward, and ignore it. And now, you know, I feel I have respect from some of the community I hope.




What attracted you to the Atos affiliation and how do you see that translating for your school in the future?

Well, what attracted me to Atos is their professionalism and reputation. They have a great reputation. I have a really good friend at Atos, Tim Sledd.  He is one of Andre Galvao’s black belts.  Tim had been to Huntsville before for a business trip, and while he was here he visited Maverick and we stayed in touch ever since. This was around four or five years ago. I was looking for a professional team with the ability to create and innovate the Jiu Jitsu. I was looking for some really good people. When I was looking for a team,  it was very important to have people behind me that were  professional and supportive. When talking to Tim I saw that that’s what Atos is. So, I began the process of becoming a part of Atos and I worked a lot with Professor Angelica to become affiliated.


As far as what Atos affiliation has done for my gym, it has energized my gym and me personally. I can’t say enough about Atos as far as the Jiu Jitsu goes; it is great for my gym because their Jiu Jitsu is beautiful. They have solid fundamentals all the way up to great creative Jiu Jitsu, which are our principles here. The fundamentals have to be a certain way and then you create. Andre Galvao has that mindset. Also, it does not hurt having Atos on your window as far as people knowing you are working with someone who is well respected. It helps the school because it helps me. I feel I have a really good friend in Professor Galvao as well as  a great instructor because he legitimately wants me to succeed. He asks me what he can do for me, which is so generous. It’s so nice to have this. I am even more excited about Jiu Jitsu, which translates into Maverick’s energy. Maverick is growing because Andre is funneling his great personality and his zest for life into us. He wants to see us succeed. That translates through me here. I am so happy and Atos has done a great deal for the gym and for the vibe in here.  We had a really good vibe before but being a part of the Atos team has really picked us all up. I am so excited to go to San Diego and train with Andre and bring back his knowledge to share with my Maverick family.  It is a pleasure to work with Andre and Angelica – they are amazing people.


You have overcome and accomplished a lot. What are your future goals for Maverick now?

 Well, I want Maverick to keep growing. I want the gym to grow to where my children, Evan and Julia, can continue the gym if that’s what they want to do. I want to have more instructors in my gym. I currently have a non-family brown belt here who is a great instructor. He is extremely technical with wonderful Jiu Jitsu. My goal for the gym is to grow more people from within. If they want to be an instructor here one day,if they want to help me run the gym, or they just want to be a great hobbyists, they can. I want the gym to grow in a purposeful and deliberate way with really good solid students with really good solid Jiu Jitsu.

Another goal I have for Maverick is to work more in the community.  I have a social project called Champions In Life. I would like to teach children who cannot afford to come here for free.  As Maverick grows, I would like to be able to devote more of my time to that. Julia currently teaches Muay Thai and Evan currently teaches some of the Jiu Jitsu classes. My hopes are, at some point, some of my other high ranking students will start to teach some classes so I can back away a little. This would allow me more time to work more on my social project. That is something that I am interested in doing more of, but right now I am so busy with running Maverick it is hard to do both. So, I do it on a small scale. In the future I would like to do it on a much bigger scale for example get some donated gis for the kids, etc.., and just really go for it!


How has Jiu Jitsu elevated your life?

Jiu-Jitsu has given me a way, as a single mother, to make a living. Even more importantly, Jiu-Jitsu is a vehicle for me to reach people in a positive way. Here is the final line from our mission statement at Maverick, “we truly hope that our positive spirit of shared discipline can spread outside the gym and help to make our community and world a better place.”


 Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers that we have not mentioned?

I would like to tell the Elevate readers this – just keep moving forward. If you are passionate about something and you have felt like, ‘I do not have the money’, ‘no one else has done this before’ or ‘it’s too hard to do it’, keep looking ahead. Don’t get caught up in what I call the noise and the chatter. instead keep listening to what’s inside you. In the past if I had told people, I am a white belt who would like to own a school and one day have my own black belts under me all while being a single mom without any money, people would say, you are not going to do it. I have done it! The idea that you can accomplish anything sounds a little cliché, but you can. You just move one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward toward your goals. Do not listen to anyone else. It is important to surround yourself with good people. It does not matter if you are a woman or a man. You can do anything you want to do. I am really excited about the future here. I am happy.



Open Guard Sweep with Christy Synan

Elevate Jiu Jitsu Mag had the honor to recently meet with Christy Synan, owner/instructor of Fighting Chance Fitness in St. Augustine, Fl. and a brown belt under Roberto Traven.   After spending time with Christy at a local Girls in Gi’s event, we headed over to the Atlantic Ocean where Christy shares one of her favorite open guard sweeps with us.


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