Female Jaguar from Brazil
(From K-1 Files, Spring 1999)
from the Japanese by Roberto Pedreira
the middle of April when the cherry blossoms are still in bloom, a
female jiu-jitsu fighter named "Leka" arrived in Japan. She
is an "idol" of the "kakutogi" world, appearing in
magazines and television in her native land of Brazil. It is an
incredible tale. It might be unbelievable to Japanese that a female
fighter can be a "professional" and earn a living from
fighting and teaching. By tracing her history in jiu-jitsu, we can see
the present situation of the female jiu-jitsu fighters in Brazil, and
also find out why Leka came to Japan."
Leka, hitting the
weights. (Photo by Mr. Tsuno)
Question 1: When did you begin to learn
I started in 1992, seven years ago. I remember the exact day. It was
2: Why did you learn jiu-jitsu?
At that time, I was a 16 year old high school student. I had a
friend who was going to Dojo Jiu-jitsu. She said why don't you come
and see the training one time? Actually, when I was a student I was a
little fat. I had heard that a jiu-jitsu diet would be good for me to
lose weight. In fact, my friend had been overweight too, and had
slimmed down due to jiu-jitsu training. So, that
made me a little interested in jiu-jitsu. With the
intention of just watching, I finally hauled my feet to the academy.
3: It's hard to believe you used to be fat.
Thanks to hard training, my body fat is now 8 %.
4: 8%! that's like a young male athlete. Returning to the
subject, what was your impression when you first saw jiu-jitsu?
Leka: I was impressed seeing small fighters
throwing and controlling bigger fighters.
5: When was your first fight?
It was 6 months after I began training at Dojo Jiu-jitsu. At the Rio
State Championship, I fought a member of the Carlson Gracie team. The
result was disappointing. I lost by decision.
Question 6: It was a white belt fight?
No, blue belt.
7: You received your blue belt within six months of entering the
academy, didn't you?
It was faster than other people. My case was a little different from
the average person's. At that time, female fighters
had four years of experience and as much as 20 kilos heavier than me.
An average girl could not have competed with them, but I did.
8: Up to now, what was your most memorable
There were many but, the most memorable was at the
1995 Brasil Championship. I was a purple belt at the time. Since the
previous year, even though my career was "shallow" and
despite my low belt color, word was spreading that I was a strong
fighter. So only two others entered the tournament. One of them was Vera, who was 36 at the time. She had not
fought for a long time, but before that she had a long string of
fights and always won. She was a legend among female jiu-jitsu
fighters. When she was a purple belt, finally no
one wanted to fight her, so she stopped practicing jiu-jitsu. Then she heard about me and decided to compete again,
specifically to fight me.
9: Did you defeat Vera?
Regrettably, things didn't turn out well. Three
fighters were competing, Vera, myself, and one other. I fought Vera
twice but I was defeated both times. Actually, in
the first fight, I absolutely think I won, but the
referee didn't agree, so Vera was the victor. I immediately challenged
Vera to a rematch, but she didn't accept, and retired again
undefeated. I wasn't able to erase the shame of having been defeated.
10: There are few "entries" [fighters
in the competition], but is the number of "entries"
No, not really. In last year's Rio State
Championship there were about 200 fighters. In our Dojo there are
almost 35 female fighters.
11: Ok, let's change the subject a little. When did you become the Brazilian champion for the first time?
In the 1996 Brazilian Championship. However,
I didn't have any fights. The next year also, I was the champion,
although I didn't have any opponents. In the Rio States championships
also there was no one to fight. Everyone ran away from me.
12: So now you don't have any rival, right? You
have no rivals who can give you a tough fight like Vera, isn't that
true? You have no choice but to retire then?
No, I have two rivals now. They appeared last year.
First, in May was Daniella. Then in December was Patricia. They, and
I, are the three black belt female fighters now. Among them, I'm now
the "top" female fighter. However, even though I am the
"top" fighter, I haven't had easy fights with them. Actually, I've lost some times. Therefore, I train everyday
thinking about these opponents. Everyone wants to beat me.
13: What is your training schedule.
I train 2 hours in the morning, and two more hours in the
afternoon. In the evening I teach jiu-jitsu classes. After class, I
train for one or two more hours.
14: You spend half of your day in the dojo. Typical young girls
wouldn't consider that an enjoyable way to spend their time.
Jiu-jitsu is my life.
15: Aren't you thinking about marriage?
It isn't because I don't want to marry, but now isn't the right
time. There are many things I want to do first.
16: What are your dreams for the future?
I don't have any personal dreams. I want to promote jiu-jitsu
for females. By the way, just a little before, I said there were few
entries in my division in the competitions, but in
fact several fighters came to Dojo jiu-jitsu to test their abilities
against me. Before last year's Mundial, two female fighters came to
Dojo for a "challenge match". After the match, we had a good
understanding and trained together. One of those females won 3rd
place in the championship. Now, my purpose for coming to Japan is to
improve the "appeal" of female fighters in Japan. And I hope some Japanese female fighters will visit my dojo in
Training hard pays off.
takes opponent's back at 1999 Mundial., and takes
home a shiny gold medal. Photo by R. Pedreira.
For more about
Leka, see Dojo.
(c) 1999, Roberto
Pedreira. All rights reserved.