Leticia Ribeiro is one of the most revered female BJJ athletes of all time. Come read about this prolific athlete and how she continues to contribute to the art of Jiu-Jitsu.
Tactician (n):someone good at planning tactics: the specific means of accomplishing goals. When it comes to BJJ, Professor Ribeiro is like the keenest tactical general. She leads her garrison into battle with the most efficient and effective strategies in order to dominate their opponents on the mats. Her troops are prepared for what they will be facing and there is not one angle that anyone could approach from for which she is not ready with a counter. Although an adept tactician in her field of BJJ today, once upon a time even Professor Ribeiro was an eager apprentice. It’s time to take a look back and see how this sharp woman has become the heroin we have all come to admire.
BJJL: Where did you grow up, what was your childhood like?
LR: I grew up in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. My childhood was great! I still have a lot of great memories, back then we played a lot in the streets. It was safer more so then than it is today.
BJJL: What did your family think when you decided to start practicing BJJ?
LR: In the beginning it was hard, back then Jiu-Jitsu was a male sport. We had very few women training and competing. Soon as I started to train I fell in love with the sport and I knew that it was what I wanted for my life. After my mom really understood how I serious I was and what this meant to me, she gave me her full support.
BJJL: What was your first competition like?
LR: My first competition was the Copa Gracie. It was in 1995. I was a blue belt. I had three fights and three submissions by arm bar.
BJJL: Who or what motivates you and pushes you to achieve your goals?
LR: In 1996, that was the first time I knew I wanted to be a world Champion. I went to watch the first world championships ever. They didn’t have a women’s division but it was great to watch the black belts competing for the first time, especially Royler Gracie. I dreamed that one day I would be there and I worked for it.
BJJL: What has been your biggest challenge since you began BJJ?
LR: I think my biggest challenge and goal was to help develop women’s BJJ programs all over the world and to make the female divisions stronger. WE DID IT!!!
BJJL: What matchup would you like to have that has never happened?
LR: I have fought ALL tough fighters from my generation and after mine. I can SAY THAT I’m really happy, satisfied with my career. I have achieved a lot as an athlete and a teacher.
BJJL: What is your pet peeve as an instructor?
LR: I don’t have anything bad to say about teaching, my students, I love what I do so that makes my job REALLY easy.
BJJL: How does your tournament prep differ from your normal training?
LR: My routine changes, my day completely changes that’s why I decided not to compete so much lately. I’m focused on my gym and my students. If I decide to compete again, I will dedicate my whole day, my whole life, towards training.
BJJL: Any charities that you support?
LR: Right now, we are trying to support young talents from Brazil. We are helping them to have a better life living with the sport, just like us.
BJJL: What are your thoughts on the Equal Pay issue in BJJ?
LR: I think it is time for that. I talk about myself and many other fighters that I know. We train hard, we changed and dedicated our life for the sport. We do all that we can to see the sport grow and we ALL DESERVE better opportunities. I know how things once were and how they are, they are MUCH BETTER and getting better and better. I’m so happy with all the progress, even if it is slow but continuous.
BJJL: You truly fight for your students. You walked out onto the mat during World’s in 2014 (blue belt match). You wouldn’t let your student leave the mat (time had expired) until you had the ref correct his error. This led to your student winning when originally the ref had sided with her opponent. I’ve NEVER…seen anyone else do that. What prompted you to do it?
LR: Yes, I fight for them now. I know how hard they train and how much they want to be champion. I know being a referee is hard, they have to think fast and mistakes are going to happen. As instructors our jobs are to help referees also. Mistakes at worlds are sad for the sport and for athletes.
BJJL: How has BJJ for women changed in the last 5 years?
LR: I moved to the USA 8 years ago since worlds came back to the US. Things changed a lot for the better, the IBJJF is doing a great job. I can see the progress of the sport at each tournament and seminar that I teach and am so happy to be part of that.
BJJL: Would you like to see BJJ return to submission only?
LR: I would like to see more submission only tournaments, it’s fun.
BJJL: Are there any IBJJF rules you would like to see changed or completely removed?
LR: I think right now, the double pull. If they give two points for whoever gets on top, it will stop that a bit. It’s boring. They should do something to block it.
BJJL: So many are apt to return to the mat even though they are injured and they reinjure themselves (often worse). What advice can you give on injury prevention and proper recovery?
LR: I’ve had some injuries in my career but nothing serious thank God. I think the best way to prevent injuries is to workout in order to make your muscles stronger and keep your joints safe.
BJJL: As one of the female legends and pioneers for up and coming female BJJrs…what advice can you offer up?
LR: Believe in yourself, give 120% when training, keep going, dedicate yourself to what you want, DREAM…ACHIEVE.
BJJL: Proudest Moment?
LR: It was 3 years ago when I opened my first academy here in America and now I am opening my 2nd.
BJJL: Long term goals?
LR: I want to change people’s lives with Jiu-Jitsu and to be happy.
BJJL: Any regrets?
BJJL: Is there anyone you would like to thank, that you have never had the opportunity to thank for helping you get to where you are today?
LR: I’m thankful for many people in my life. First God, my family, my partner Morango, my friends, my students, and everyone that helped me to get to where I am today.
William Ward said, “the mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Professor Ribeiro started out on a journey 2 decades ago. Along with her peers she ushered in a brand new era for BJJ. She is a pioneer in the game, a brilliant professor, and a remarkable inspiration. Her contributions to BJJ will be felt for years to come. She has had a hand (be it directly or indirectly) in developing each generation and helping elevate the game and its competitors to ALL new heights.
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