Jiu Jitsu for Everyone: A Statement on Inclusivity and Equality from the Female UK Black Belts

As Jiu Jitsu athletes we condemn in the strongest terms, the misogyny which has reared its ugly head within our community. The reports suggesting that Ricardo De la Riva has excluded women from mixed classes in his gym, how this allegedly occurred and the subsequent discussion (or lack thereof) surrounding these incidents is a stark reminder of the prevailing barriers faced by women in our sport. 


It is deeply disappointing to see that an academy of such high status has unilaterally taken a decision to marginalise all women, and in effect discriminate against a group of athletes based on their gender. It is even more disappointing to witness the reaction of some members of the UK Jiu Jitsu community, in supporting direct discrimination of this kind. 

As female UK black belts, with a platform in the sport of Jiu Jitsu, we feel that we have a responsibility to speak up on this issue and we extend our full and uncompromising solidarity to the women that have been arbitrarily excluded from training at De La Riva’s gym. These concerns are not only exclusive to women; diversity and inclusion are values which we should all embrace. There is no place for sexism or misogyny in our sport. We are also conscious that we are currently living through the era of the Black Lives Matters movement, and we would like to take this opportunity to condemn all forms of racial prejudice and discrimination in our sport. We celebrate the achievements and diversity of all members of our community, including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals, women, the LGBTQ+ community and disability groups. 


Jiu Jitsu is a remarkably valuable martial art. In particular, it imparts key skills and can empower women of all ages and backgrounds. Many in the UK have worked hard to raise the profile of Women’s Jiu Jitsu; over the last decade we have made progress and some of our achievements include the following:

• An exponential growth in the number of women training and competing across the UK

• Women working as head coaches; teaching mixed classes in addition to leading women-only programmes and community-based self-defence initiatives 

• An increase in promoters willing to showcase the diversity, quality and talent of female athletes with headline fights and exciting female match-ups 

• Elite female athletes representing the UK at the highest and most prestigious levels of competition 

• Inspiring new generations of athletes and new participants from diverse communities to enter our sport for the first time and become active members of our community 


Despite these significant achievements, we are well aware that there is still much work to be done. ‘Jiu Jitsu is for everyone’ is a longstanding expression peddled in our sport, but to honour it and make it a reality we have to act now, and work together. 


We pledge to continue to actively promote women’s participation in our sport, equality of access and fair treatment for all. We thank everyone, including men and women of all backgrounds and ages, and all coaches and students, who champion equality on a day to day basis both on and off the mats. We call on our fellow athletes, schools, promoters and media representatives to add their names to this statement and share our pledge. 

Let’s stand united against sexism, prejudice and discrimination of all forms. We will continue to fight and we remain committed to not only making Jiu Jitsu a world-renowned sport but a sport truly for everyone.

Laura Barker, Gracie Barra

Ashley Bendle, CRA


Samantha Cook, Checkmat


Ffion Davies, ECJJA


Vanessa English, Gracie Barra


Kat Hill


Chelsea Leah Bainbridge-Donner,  Escapology BJJ/Rolling Dojo


Olga Lyashevska, Carlson Gracie


Arizona Mercedes Brodie 


Sarah Merriner, ZR Team


Leoni Munslow, New School BJJ


Nina Navid, Roger Gracie Academy

Joanna Ziobronowicz, Roger Gracie Academy

Tayane Porfírio, Roger Gracie Academy

Gret Zoeller, Gracie Barra

Christine Martin, Gracie Barra

Anna Mayne, CFS

Carol Fan, CFS

Rosie Sexton, Pariah BJJ

Rose El Sharouni, Black Belt, BJJAA Amsterdam/Checkmat


Elizabeth Moore, Blacksmith Jiu-Jitsu 


Caroline Welling 


Christian Sayer – Gracie Barra 


Oyinda Oduntan


Eira Culverwell


Nadia Lassoued


Melanie Doran,  Gracie Barra 


Wei Tran 


Jolie Boyle, Brown belt, Lamude / Mill Hill BJJ


Drew Mikhael


April Parks, Black Belt, RCJ Machado Black Belt from NY


Melissa Bardfield, 1st Degree Black Belt and Head Instructor,  Renzo Gracie St. Maarten.


Mollii Khangsengsing, Leticia Ribeiro black belt, founder of Sweaty Betties and Tuff Love Fitness


Liza Koomen, BJJAA Amsterdam 


Kimberly Kaye, FMCH and purple belt


Tom Peurifoy


Sam Taitel


Paola Diana, Roger Gracie Academy, Blue Belt, Master European Champion


Sinead Harper, Carlson Gracie London, Blue belt


If you would like to sign this please email: inclusivityinbjj@gmail.com


For the full list of those who have signed, click  here