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Copa winners inspire, give advice

By | Copa de Marianas | No Comments

The Copa de Marianas competition ended with Kristina Barlaan of the United States taking home the gold after defeating the 2017 World Black Belt Champion, Talita Alencar of Brazil.

Brazil-born California resident, Tassia Pimenta, who trains with Gracie Barra black belt Romulo Barral, took the the bronze. And China’s first female black belt Emma Xiong took the fourth place finish.

California resident Kristina Barlaan, 31, who is of Filipino background — her parents are both from the Philippines — spoke of her struggles.

Although Barlaan was born and raised in the U.S., she struggled with her accent when she started school. She first started Muay Thai and watched a lot martial arts movies from Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li and more.

Barlaan did not start jiujitsu until she was 20 years old and she’s been training for 10 years.

Barlaan actually went through a lot of physical and emotional, abuse when she was younger. Her self-esteem was very low, which led to depression.

“Now I enjoy jiujitsu because it gives me strength and power to showcase what we can do as women,” said Barlaan. “I feel empowered and nothing else motivates me when I’m on the mat.”

“Jiujitsu showed me how to lead and be a voice in the community.”

Barlaan, who is also an instructor added, “My legacy with my students will be that I’m competitive. There are three girls who I believe will be good role models and contenders for the future — Nara, 10, Toni, 13, and Milagros, 14.”

As a competitor, Barlaan advises to “Take care of your body, train smart and treat your body right.  You need to know if you are hurt or if you’re injured because you don’t want to take risks.”

“Eat well, this is a lifestyle.  If you’re competitive – take care of your body and health,” she added.

“Perseverance – it is my motto through jiujitsu.”

Talita Alencar

Talita Alencar, 27, from Brazil is the 2017 World Champion and also a jiujitsu instructor who has been training for 13 years.

Alencar grew up in a home pained with domestic violence where she felt helpless to defend her mother against her father. One of the reasons she got into jiujitsu was to defend herself and her family members.

Alencar has brothers who are also fighters but primarily street fighters.

In her training and instructing she said, “I’m known for passing and being on top.”

“I hope my students will remember what I’ve taught them and follow in my footsteps.”

Tassia Pimenta

Pimenta, 34, also from Brazil is a jiujitsu instructor who lost her father when she was 16 years old and her life didn’t get any easier after that.

However, she found Brazilian jiujitsu in 2000 when she was 17 — nobody wanted to support her besides her brothers who were also fighters.

Pimenta has worked with kids in the past but now only focusses on herself and has been at it for 17 years now.

But she said, “I have girls following in my footsteps now.”

In training she said, “You need to go with people who challenge you. I train constantly until I get better and improve. Train smart — if you want to do something you love, you take care of yourself because it’s very hard to live this lifestyle.”

Emma Xiong

The 26-year-old black belt from China, Emma Xiong, is the first female black belt from her country and currently also instructs Brazilian jiujitsu.

She was 22 years old when she started her white belt and worked her way up the ranks and it took three years and four months to become a certified black belt instructor.

And although Xiong’s professor taught her well despite her drawbacks with being female, she was determined.

“I just had to train hard and never give up. I am not one to quit or give up, rather I stay positive,” said Xiong. “ I push myself and that’s how I train. Of course, we have to watch what we eat as it is part of your training routine.”

Xiong is also doubling as a student and she has expressed that it is hard work to eat well, go to school, and train.

This article was originally published on PDN on Oct. 29, 2017. View here.

U.S. black belt Kristina Barlaan wins gold, cash

By | Copa de Marianas | No Comments

Kristina Barlaan of the U.S. upset the 2017 World Champion Talita Alencar at the 2017 Copa de Marianas Jiu-Jitsu tournament held Saturday at the Father Duenas Memorial High School Phoenix Center.

The female black belt competition highlighted a day of grappling for about 200 competitors gathered at the school.

Guam is a hotspot for jiu-jitsu competitions, and it attracts grapplers from all over the world. The four international female black belt fighters all competed in the 55Kg division.

It featured Emma Xiong from China who is the first Chinese female black belt; Talita Alencar from Brazil and the 2017 world champion; Kristina Barlaan from California, who is a black belt from Caio Terra team and lastly, Tassia Pimenta from California born in Brazil who trains with Gracie Barra black belt under Romulo Barral.

For the first match, Alencar took the win by a choke-hold from the back against Emma Xiong.

In the second match, Barlaan wins by a toe-hold with 15 seconds left on the clock against Pimenta.

In the final match for the Gold medal and $2,500, both ladies put on a good show up to the last few seconds on the clock.  Kristina took the win, her advantage for a sweep attempt gave her the title. Barlaan is the first ever Copa De Marianas Women’s 55kg black belt Champion.

This article was originally published on PDN on Oct. 28, 2017. View here.

Copa de Marianas features four black belt women fighting for $4k

By | Copa de Marianas | No Comments

Registration is closed, and the brackets are online for the 2017 Copa de Marianas BJJ Gi/No-Gi Championship Tournament, scheduled for Saturday at the Father Duenas Memorial School Phoenix Center, starting at 8 a.m.

The 10th Copa de Marianas will feature the first Women’s Black Belt Division, with elite competitors from around the world competing for a combined cash prize of $4,000. A Master’s Division (37 years and above) was also added this year, for all belt levels. Other divisions include Kids, Teens, Female, and Adult Divisions.

“We’ve got about 200 entries, which is about average for the Copa,” said Steve Shimizu, owner of Fury Promotions, which has produced this event for the last decade. “This tournament is generally for the athlete field and their families, but since it’s the 10th, we wanted to do something special.”

Shimizu said that four “bad—” black belt champions competing against each other in the 55-kilogram class is reason enough to watch. There’s Emma Xiong, China’s first BJJ black belt, and Talita Alencar, the 2017 world champion. Kristina Barlaan, from the U.S., is a black belt under the Caio Terra Team, and Tassia Pimenta is a Gracie Barra black belt under Romulo Barral.

For these women, first place means a $2,500 prize, while $1,000 and $500 go to second and third place, respectively.

Shimizu also announced a new division, the Master’s Division, for those 37 and up. These masters will receive the same top three medals as winners in the other age, weight and gender divisions.

“We’ve got medals for the top three finishers, but basically what they’re winning is bragging rights for a year until the next Copa,” said Shimizu. “This tournament is a good way to keep the blades sharp until the Marianas Open, which is right around the corner.”

Copa de Marianas is open to the public, all ages are welcome to attend the event – tickets will be sold at the door. Food and vendors will also be on site.

The 2017 Copa de Marianas is Presented by 76 / Circle K and Sponsored by: Bank of Guam, Aloha Maid, Fokai Industries, the Stations of KUAM, Paradise Fitness, Crust Pizzaria, Pacific Solar & Volotaics, Mat’kadot Engravers, THE WHITE HOUSE | Productions, Affiliated Lifestyles, Shut Up & Fish, Strictly Tees and Café Takoyaki Tama.

This article was originally published on PDN on Oct. 25, 2017. View here.