How did you get involved in BJJ and how long have you been training?
-God blessed me. My friend, Blase, saw a post I had put up on Facebook about a fight I had gotten into and asked me if I was a fighter. I responded, “no,” and he asked me if I would be interested in training. I didn’t really think it would go anywhere but figured, “why not?” and said I was interested. Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into… I didn’t even know what Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was. Blase took me to different academies and the first time I hit the mat, I fell in love with it and I became a mat rat. I started training August, 2010, so it has been a little under a year.
Where are you currently training and what's a typical training week like for you?
-A month ago I used to train BJJ 6x a week, but they cancelled the Jiu-Jitsu program at one of the academies I was training at, so currently I train BJJ only 4x a week. My coach, Jorge Barraza, a Brown Belt under Comprido Rodrigo, is about to open up his own school in Dundee, IL, so once that ball gets rolling; I’ll be back to training 6x a week. In the meantime, I’ve been training with coach Comprido at FLO MMA. I also do resistance training with free weights, power cage, bars, bands, kettle bells, medicine balls, bosu ball, stability ball, steps, and a few machines. I do a little bit of cardio training as well. I train on my own about 3x a week. Some days I do '2-a-days', incorporating BJJ training. We work technique, some stand up and roll. Typically, Sunday is the only day I rest.
What is your best experience as a fighter? What is your worst?
-My best experience so far would have to be the Corral Combat Classics tournament. I had competed in five tournaments previous to the C3 and placed 2nd in four of them. I was just itching out of my skin for 1st place and I finally got my first taste of victory. Not only was it my first, 1st place, I also placed 1st in absolute and also beat a Blue Belt on the way. It felt so good to finally make my team proud and to give back to them. It was also my best experience because that is when I realized that, this is how I needed to fight and train to get first and I will never forget that feeling.
-I can’t really think of too many “worst” experiences. I mean, I hate losing but its still knowledge gained and I’m the type of person who always tries to see the glass half full. I can make excuses for why I lost a certain fight and I do have reasons for some, but it’s just a lesson learned for next time. The only thing I don’t like is when I’m training and a new guy will come in or something, and when we roll he goes super light and easy on me, barely moves, just giving positions, sweeps and submissions to me that are so easy. I really don’t like when guys treat me like that because I like working hard to earn what I deserve, not an easy handout because I’m a girl. I’m not saying go all crazy on me, but just saying, I know what I signed up for… hahaha.
What are some of the hurdles that you think women in MMA/BJJ need to overcome before women's MMA/BJJ will be considered a top level sport like Men's MMA/BJJ is today?
-I don't think “Women” need to overcome anything. I think Men, or society as a whole, needs to overcome the fact that women can do the same thing and that we deserve the same respect as men for the same sport that we do. In fact, I feel most women work harder than men because we are doubted. We are the underdogs. We are living in a “man’s world”. This gives us more motives to prove ourselves and to fight harder to earn our respect, even though we shouldn't have to fight for it. Respect is something that should be a given, but unfortunately, that's not how the world works. Of course we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.
What or who are your inspirations in BJJ and life?
-My coach inspires me. He has taught me mostly everything I know and he has opened up my eyes to BJJ. He's not afraid to say it like it is and I appreciate and respect that. Some misunderstand his brutal honesty as too blunt, but I call it tough love. Comprido is also a big inspiration to me; I hope to be as successful as him someday. Seeing other women who are fighters and their success is a huge inspiration as well. Knowing that anything is possible and the potential that I have to become World Champion makes me want to work harder every day. What inspires me the most is when people tell me I inspire them; it’s the best compliment I could ever receive and gives me purpose for what I’m doing. God, my family and friends inspire me to live an honest life. They are the reason I want more out of life; I want to make them proud and be able to give back for all they have done for me and that they have put up with. Lastly, the ones that doubt me "inspire" me. It gets my blood going and I get all anxious when someone says "you can't" because I'll find a way to show them I can.
Who are your favorite MMA/BJJ fighters?
-Jorge Barraza, Comprido, Jonatas Novaes, Felipe Costa, Jacare, Christiane Cyborg, McKenzie Dern, Caio Terra, Showtime, Vieira, Gina Carano, Tito and last but not least all of my Brasa family - they mean a lot to me.
How do you enjoy your free time when not training or fighting?
-I love working out. I like doing activities that require movement. It's nice to just sit around and chill all day sometimes but I always have so much energy in me, I just need things to do. I was a swimmer for 13 years prior to jiu jitsu. I also played water polo for 2 years. I love snowboarding, cliff jumping, roller coasters, watching movies, looking at and creating art, shoe shopping, playing with my hair, nails, makeup and listening to music. I listen to mainly underground hip hop and dance music. I love, love, love to dance!
Any future plans or dreams?
-I travel about 80 miles a day to train so I plan on moving soon so I can be closer to the academy. My dream would be to do jiu jitsu all day, every day, for the rest of my life. To make it my life, my career, what I eat, breath, sleep and dream so I can become World Champion.
Thanks for taking time out to speak with us Jiyoon and we are inspired by your heart and determination to be the best. We are honored to connect from the early days on your journey to becoming World Champion! Jiyoon will be at the Buckeye Border Championship tomorrow and the Chicago Open next month. Say hello to Jiyoon on Facebook, on Twitter @jiyoon_jitsu and check out Team Barraza on Facebook.