Meet Angelina, the 12 year old who used Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to beat bullies

I’ve had the pleasure to watch Angelina grow during her BJJ journey over the last few years. When I first met her she was a young, timid seven year old white belt having a hard time at school. Fast forward four years and the transformation is incredible.

These days Angelina describes herself as funny, brave, outgoing, and hard working.  She has been practicing BJJ for around five years and is a gun on the mats. Her impressive collection of medals are a token of her hard work and dedication. But don’t be fooled. Medals, podiums and championships are not what drew her to this martial art, or what keeps her coming back.

We sat down with Angelina and her mum Rosi to chat about BJJ, bullies, and their advice to others considering this martial art.

Angelina as a young white belt training with Ivan in Sydney.

How did you first get into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

I wasn’t doing any sports at the time, and I always wanted to learn a martial Art. My mum is Brazilian so I thought it would be cool to learn. One of mum’s friends recommended it. At the time people were being mean at school and I wanted to build up the confidence to stand up to them.

What did you think about BJJ at first?

I did it with a close friend so I could try it out with him. I was curious to know what it was. I thought it would be punching and kicking – like Karate. Then I found out it wasn’t at all!

What did you think Rosi?

Before she started to train Jiu-Jitsu she was always sad. She would come home upset because these girls were pushing her around at school. She was not happy. Since starting Jiu-Jitsu she has become more secure. It’s been so important in her life because it has helped her in so many ways. 

Angelina and proud mum Rosi

Do any of your friends at school train?

No, not many people I know of at my school train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Where do you train?

I train at Gracie Castlehill where I just earnt my yellow belt.

Who is your coach?

My coach is Marcos Nevel. He’s a 4th degree black belt. He’s Brazilian and he actually trained with some of the Gracie’s back in Rio.

Angelina and her coach Marcus Nevel.

What do you love about BJJ?

It’s good for me as a girl to learn self-defence and I love that I can beat the boys! I love going hard and working every day to be the best that I can. I love meeting new people and learning new techniques.

Do you think it’s changed you?

BJJ has made me stronger and has made me stand up for what’s right. Without Jiu-Jitsu I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Do you think you will keep training BJJ as you get older?

Yes. Definitely!

What would you say to other kids considering BJJ?

I would say it’s definitely not easy but it’s definitely not hard as well. I would recommend it to anyone if you’re being bullied or hassled at school and want to be able to stand up for yourself. For girls it’s good for self-defence. But it’s also good for meeting new people, and interacting with other girls. It’s great learning new techniques and having a skill you can take with you anywhere.

Angelina and friends on the podium at the Byron Bay Australian Open

Rosi, what would you say to other parents?

Well I support it 100% but I think it’s very important that parents let them try first. If the children like it, great. Don’t push kids to do sports. It’s so important that they enjoy it. The support of the parents is also so important. There are lot of parents who don’t have a good understanding of what Jiu-Jitsu is. A lot of mothers I’ve spoken to about Angelina’s training think it’s Karate! They don’t think their kids will enjoy it because they believe it’s kicking or something like this. But it has nothing to do with Karate! I think we need to keep spreading the word about what Jiu-Jitsu really is.


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