Hey there, and welcome to our first installment of BJJ For Good: Charity Profiles! For our first profile, we interviewed Emily Coleman of Female Grapplers Foundation, based out of Kansas City.
Organization name: Female Grapplers Foundation
Motto: All women are worth fighting for!
The original members include Renata Pinto- Secretary, Luis Felipe (Ninja) Pinto- Co-Chair, Christian Hidalgo- Treasurer, and Emily Coleman- Chair. Christian and Ninja have known each other for about 15 years and he officiated our wedding in Costa Rica. It was so cool, Ninja is an excellent officiant! Renata and I have been training partners since Ninja started his BJJ classes approximately 8 years ago. Christian has since relinquished his position as Treasurer. We each own our own businesses, as well, and it's an honor and privilege to work so closely with such talented and driven individuals.
Chair members/other contributors:
FGF is super lucky to have added three new members to our Leadership Team: Rachel Williams- Logistics and Data, Tanya Lakins- Outreach Facilitator, and Bridget McKenzie- Social Media. These ladies are going to help FGF rise to the next level and are a great step towards accomplishing our goals of empowering women and girls in our local community.
FGF was officially incorporated as a non profit organization in the state of Kansas in January 2015. The idea was hatched mid year in 2014 and the original members put together the first Girl's night in May 2015. We rocked it with 7 attendees!
We have two main goals: to empower women and girls in KC area through self-defense, situational awareness, and community building. We also aim to strengthen coaching and competition opportunities for local female Brazilian Jiu Jitsu participants.
Specific ways you go about achieving the mission:
Thus far we've held two self defense seminars. Our second was lead by the amazing BJJ black belt Leanna Dittrich and we tripled our participation from the first event. We are in the process of creating an outreach program that we can take to community schools, churches, businesses, etc. By reaching out to younger girls we are hoping to give them the knowledge that they absolutely have a say in their future and can make decisions that will keep them safe. We want them to see how strong women can be and how strong THEY are already.
What’s the story behind it? What caused you to take action and start a non-profit? BJJ is something that will always be a part of our lives. After a several year hiatus due to pregnancy and burnout, I realized how empowering it was for me as a sport. It's helped me build my self control and self reliance which was a huge benefit to my confidence. When I would speak to women about it I would always talk about its benefits for self-defense since it's traditionally a sport that favors 'the little guy.' However, many women don't see past the close contact and exchange of sweat that happens between BJJ practitioners to the benefits that the sport has to offer them. There's simply not a lot women practitioners and BJJ, as it is today, is a competition sport that requires a significant investment of time and money to be able to excel in the ranks. What good can we accomplish if the people who would benefit most are never exposed to the core message? By tailoring our curriculum to basic self-defense strategies and situational awareness that women of any age or size can use, these techniques have the opportunity to make a difference in someone's everyday life. And if, in spreading that message of empowerment, we attract some new members to the sport then that wouldn't be so bad, either!
How does BJJ tie into your organization’s mission?
My answer to the last question touches on that so I'll expand on the subject. Our original motivation was born of the complaint that access to good women's competition and instruction is limited for female BJJ participants in the Midwest. Renata and I realized that we had as much responsibility for growing our sport as anyone else and that we couldn't grow the sport by catering solely to women already involved with BJJ. It was a natural leap to self-defense and we ran with the thought that if we could make this sport applicable to the broader population that we had a better chance of reaching our goal in growing women's BJJ
How can people get involved?
That's easy, call me at 913-302-6790. Right now we are looking for self-motivated individuals, male or female, to add to our team. Our next meetings are Tuesday October 27, 1 pm at Brazil Academy in Lenexa, or Sunday November 1, 10 am at Panera at the Legends in KCK.
Know a BJJ-related cause we should feature? Email us -- service(at)fightingrocktopus.com and let us know.