Brazil-021′s Hannette Staack Overcoming Obstacles to Make Champions for Life
By Shama Ko, Contributing Writer
World renowned BJJ black belt Hannette Staack throws in her twenty-five on the State of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Hannette Staack is a rare combination of a no-nonsense woman that can balance both toughness and warmth. She is one of those people that light up a room with her smile and touch your heart with her warm embrace when she greets you. She’s also a strong woman that isn’t afraid to speak her mind.
Her roots in Jiu-Jitsu span over a period of fifteen years. Staack’s record includes 3x Brazilian National Champion (2x Absolute), 7x World Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Champion, World Champion (No-gi World Championship) and 3x ADCC Champion (2x weight division, 1x absolute).
Hannette Staack is considered to be one of the most accomplished women in the history of the sport. She was recently recognized for her accomplishments by being inducted into the IBJJF Hall of Fame, alongside legendary women like Leticia Ribeiro, Kyra Gracie and Gabriel Garcia. Along the way she has played a huge role in shaping the way women are seen in the sport and in paving the way toward change.
Last month, Staack was in Dallas Texas for a Women’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu seminar at RCJ Machado Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy. We hope that this will be the first of many of her Women’s seminars in the Lone Star State. Forty-four women from all across Texas came together for this amazing opportunity to learn from one of the best female black belts in the art. Staack’s keen attention to detail and deep rooted understanding was impressive but most noticeable was her big heart and unconditional love for Jiu-Jitsu.
Read about Staack’s most recent seminar, how we can grow the sport even, the obstacles women faced in the past, how to make jiu-jitsu better and her mission to make champions in life.
Interivew – Hannette Staack (Brazil-021)
You just finished up your first Women’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu seminar in Texas. Can you describe that experience?
I had a great time in Texas, a lot of women came and participated and that was great. It’s good to see more and more women in the sport, representing the art. There is a huge community of women training BJJ in Texas and it’s very nice to see the growth of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu among the women.
More women are training now than ever before. What do you think is the driving force behind the increased number of women in the sport and art? What is the key to continue to increasing these numbers?
I think more women are training now because they can see the benefits of BJJ. Before it wasn’t very clear, a lot of people associated Jiu-Jitsu with the UFC and many of them didn’t want to train because they didn’t understand the principals of the art. They didn’t know that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the art where a small person can defeat or survive a bigger opponent, which is great for everybody, especially women. More women are getting involved because they are spreading the word and I think that is the best way to get more people to join the art, by word of mouth.
In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, do you think females have more opportunities now than they did in the past? How so? What has changed?
I think so. When I first started they didn’t have all the weight divisions that they have now. There was only two, light and heavy, and purple to black belts all fought together. Now we have one division for each belt, the weight divisions are bigger. In the past we used to compete on the first day with the blue belt divisions and now we fight on the same day as the male black belts. There were no sponsors for women in Jiu-Jitsu. With time we have proven that we could fight hard and give a great show to the public, even more than the guys sometimes. Because, no matter what we always fought with heart and passion.
I think the biggest difference between men and women was we had to prove to everybody that we were capable of overcoming many situations to stay in the sport.
Competing, was the easy and fun part, the hardest part was, training in a completely “manly” environment and facing the comments from people that didn’t know what the sport was about while splitting our time between work, studying, taking care of the house and still having a life outside the mats.
Most of the time we were misunderstood because most of the guys at the gym associated our presence with the fact we might want to find a date and not train BJJ. So, they didn’t give us attention. And in fact we sure had a lot of women coming to the gym to find a date, but there was also a great amount of women, like me, who wanted to train hard and become a champion, like I did. I am very grateful that I persisted even with all the difficulties at the time.
What else do you think needs to change?
There are still many things to change. There is a huge difference in the prizes for some tournaments. For example, the ADCC prizes between men and women. I think we still need to have more weights division, like the guys. I know with time and more women getting involved in the sport we will make these changes. For example we now have one division for brown belts and a separate one for black belts. This is great. At least in the IBJJF tournaments we are seeing the progress of the sport.
Another essential change is the rules. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for me is much more than competition, a 10 minutes match and a win by advantage or points doesn’t show who the best is. Grand Master Helio Gracie said: Jiu-Jitsu is all about submission, which is the way to see who the best is. We need some improvements in our rules, because we cannot allow people to go to the tournaments and compete for one advantage match. This is unacceptable. Also the steroids in the sport, it’s a shame to the entire community. Something must be done.
Where do you see the future of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Now people can live only doing Jiu-Jitsu, because we have tournaments paying cash prizes for the winners and if you are a good professional, you can teach and make a living from it. But I still see many people going into the MMA business, because of the popularity of the sport these days, with the UFC and other big shows. I am sure in the future we will have more people coming back to Jiu-jitsu, because everybody needs Jiu-Jitsu to go to the “cage”, but the real BJJ can go to the “cage” without anything else.
If you teach the real principals of the art then you will have students forever, because Jiu-Jitsu is much more than “rolling” and doing techniques. It makes you a better person in many ways, and that’s why I think the only way to go is up. Progress always, that’s what BJJ is all about.
What’s on your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu bucket list and how do you want to make an impact to the future of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
My goals now are to help kids get more from the sport, as I did. I want to not only make Champions in Jiu-jitsu, but in Life as well. We have a project in Brazil and we are starting it in the USA as well.
I want to get more women involved in the sport and empower them through Jiu-Jitsu. A lot of women don’t know their inner strength and they don’t have confidence in themselves. Once they know what they are capable of, they became better as a person not only in the BJJ world, but in their normal life. I know many women who were afraid to be themselves before Jiu-Jitsu and after they stared doing it, they changed for the better, they are more confident and stronger physically and mentally.
My goal is show the other benefits, besides the athletic ones.
About the Author
Shama Ko has actively been a part of and contributed to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community in Texas for close to a decade. She is a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu purple belt at Gracie Humaitá Austin, a champion competitor, a photographer/owner of Mean Streak Photography, a community/event organizer for Girls in Gis and Austin Women’s Open Mat, and most recently a contributing writer to TXMMA. Follow Shama’s endeavors online through any of the links above or through any of these sites: Twitter, Facebook, The Adventures of Shama Ko, ShamaKo.com, and SKOphoto.com.
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