Written By: Natalie Whitson


Another Portland area Jiujiteira of note is Jen Whetsell, a blue belt at Next Level Martial Arts & Fitness. On deck to earn her purple belt, Jen started the sport in 2012 after watching her cousin take kid’s classes. Jen figured if she was already at gym, she might as well sign up.

More significantly, the previous year, Jen had been rushed to the hospital five days after dislocating her patella. Diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis, double pulmonary embolism, and partially collapsed lungs, doctors told her that she had narrowly escaped death. Jen later returned to the hospital that same September with another embolism. Now having almost lost her life twice, Jen lay in that hospital bed, and decided then and there to make changes for herself and experience life, so that she could look back with a sense of accomplishment.


Jen Whetsell (1)

Since then, Jiu Jitsu has afforded Jen the opportunity to meet amazing people. “It’s a sport that allows one to workout, learn self-defense, and become a great problem solver. It’s a sport where you can’t just talk you have to show up, do the work, and prove it on the mats every practice”.  

Among Jen’s related achievements are helping to lead the kids program at Next Level. “I love the “Ah-ha!” moments and consider myself extremely lucky to be apart of their journey”.  Jen’s second achievement this year was competing in the Pan IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi Championship. It was the her first major world competition and she had several bumps in the road during her training to even get to Pans, but she placed second in her division against some incredibly strong women.  “It was an amazing experience to compete out of state”.

Jen’s advice for other women who are just starting out is to walk in with the mindset that “no matter what you’ll learn something.  Try to set aside perfectionism, and just do the movements the best you can.  With repetition you’ll see perfection”. For those along in their journey, Jen advises, “don’t give up, and strive to learn something from everyone you roll with.  Everyone has something they can teach you just be open to it”. To everyone, Jen adds, “Trying something new can lead you to unexpected places. Take the opportunity, seize it, and make the best of it!”