TXMMA – Texas Mixed Martial Arts

That’s What She Said: A Tribute to The Most Important Women in Our lives, our Mothers

By Shama Ko, Contributing Writer

Three inspiring mothers talk about how Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu helped them to better themselves and strengthen their connection with their daughters.


Photo: Shama Ko Photography


Is it possible to “get your fitness on”, raise a family, have “girl time” and better relate to your daughters all at once? According to three outstanding mothers, the answer is yes. They agree that no matter how busy their lives may be, the most valuable qualities in their relationship with their daughters are open lines of communication and sharing a common interest like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.


Photo: Carol Midboe


Carol Midboe is a busy single parent mother of three, Zac who is twenty, Katrina age seven and Hannah, age five. She is also a full time Production Engineer at Spansion.  Midboe describes her day-to-day life as being similar to most parents who work full time and run a household. On a typical workday, Midboe first takes care of the animals and plants and then gets her children up and ready for school on time. She works from eight to five and often finds herself running errands on her lunch break. Midboe describes her career as demanding, challenging and always changing, which fuels her passion for her area of expertise. After work Midboe says her evenings are spent cooking, cleaning, helping her children with homework and spending quality time with them until their bedtime. She also has guardianship of her father and cares for him on a daily basis. She says she does her best to balance work and family life while training in Jiu-Jitsu.

This very busy mother is nothing short of extraordinary. After surviving a personal tragedy, Midboe has worked hard to overcome and build a better life.  In her spare time, Midboe also helps with fundraising for Zac, who was diagnosed with a midline brain tumor last May. She finds inspiration her courageous son who lives outside the home, works full time and continues to go to school.

Midboe and her girls all practice Jiu-Jitsu. It has helped all of them individually and as a family. When Katrina and Hannah were asked why they like training Jiu-Jitsu, they replied, “Because it’s fun and it makes you stronger.” They say the best part of having a mom to train with is getting to wrestle with her.

When asked what they were doing for Mother’s Day, Katrina replied, “I can’t tell you because it’s a surprise,” and Hannah had a short and sweet message for her mom, “I love you”.

How did you hear about jiu-jitsu and what initially attracted you to it? 

A friend suggested BJJ as Segway back to normalcy after surviving multiple rapes in the spring of 2009 followed with being stalked by the rapist.  My primary initial attraction to jiu-jitsu was two-fold, one is proficiency with physical close combat self-protection techniques and the other was the mental training to build and instill a pervasive fighting spirit.

Darrin Lillian at Paragon Texas started training me and my daughters first in June 2011.

What benefits have you experienced from training jiu-jitsu as a parent and on a personal level? 

Well, I can do an arm bar and triangle and choke now. My physical strength, balance, and overall fitness are improved. I have less stress, can better manage scary situations, and I have more friendships and a sense of connection with BJJ women across the United States.

What benefits have you seen jiu-jitsu have in your daughters?

My daughters have learned more self-control, discipline, and a have greater sense of sportsmanship now.  Jiu-Jitsu has strengthened their leadership skills, confidence and ability to stand up for themselves.

Has this experience brought you and your daughters closer? How so?

We have always been close, but we are closer in a new sportsmanship way that we didn’t previously have.  To be able to enjoy, share and train in the same sport is powerful and gives us another healthy way to relate to each other .For example, they often ask to do Jiu-Jitsu with me before going to sleep and at random times in the day they want to practice a new technique.

What other activities do you and the girls like to share?  

My daughters and I share several indoor and outdoor activities including baking, playing games, painting, singing, dancing, swimming, hiking, gardening, exploring museums, parks and listening to different music genres.

Would you recommend jiu-jitsu to other mothers and daughters?  Why?

Yes, it is important for women and girls have a pervasive fighting spirit, to know how to tap into the warrior mentality as needed, and to be proficient with a set of techniques for scary situations.  This spirit, knowledge and toolset will help carry girls and women through life’s challenges.

To make a donation to help Zac, visit here.


Photo: Shama Ko Photography


Debra Ibarra is a forty-four year old that works full-time as a Paralegal for a major oil and gas corporation. She openly admits to having been an out of shape, a mini-van driving, and conservative soccer mom turned Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, because of her kids.  Ibarra is married with two children, Emily is fifteen and Benjamin twelve. Ibarra says that she and Emily love to shop and get pedicures and do “girly” stuff together when they are not sweating on the mats. Ibarra proudly proclaims to the world, “ My children are two beautiful band nerds !”.  The Ibarra household enjoys going to the high school football games and watching Emily march in the band during halftime.  Another passion the family shares is being involved in Relay for Life. The Ibarra’s have participated and raised money for the American Cancer Society for the past 10 years.

How did you hear about jiu-jitsu and what initially attracted you to it?  Who started training first, you or your daughter? How long have you and your daughter been training? 

Before September of 2009 I had never even heard the word jiu-jitsu. We were looking for some kind of physical activity for my kids.  We had just finished several years of competitive baseball and softball and had decided to take a break from that, and my daughter ended up not having a physical education class when she started 7th grade.  I asked my kids what they wanted to do and my son had always been interested in martial arts or boxing.  I goggled “martial arts for kids” in my area and Elite MMA was the first hit I got.  It ended up being the perfect fit for all of us.  My son started BJJ first in September 2009 and my daughter started cardio kickboxing (she was a little bit intimidated by all the boys on the mats the first time she tried it).  She didn’t sit out long and the first week of January 2010 she started BJJ as well.  I didn’t start training until June 2010 in a women’s only class and then in September 2010 I started the regular adult BJJ class.

What benefits have you experienced from training jiu-jitsu as a parent and on a personal level?  What benefits have you seen jiu-jitsu have in your daughter?

Training jiu-jitsu has been life changing for me on so many levels.  I am healthier and I strive to live a healthy, active lifestyle every day now.  Jiu-jitsu has shown me just how strong I really am.  I feel that the life changes I am making as a result of training will give my children a legacy of health and fitness that they would not have had otherwise.   I would have to say that the biggest benefit for my daughter is confidence and empowerment.  For young girls, learning a martial art like jiu-jitsu is invaluable.  It teaches you real life skills that you can put into practice if the situation arises.  As a Mom, I feel a certain level of security knowing that my daughter knows jiu-jitsu.  This security is empowering for both of us.

Has this experience brought you and your daughter closer? How so?

Jiu-jitsu has definitely brought us closer together.  We have a common interest.  It’s something we both love and we love to talk about it…and talk about it…and talk about it.  I’m sure my husband gets tired of hearing about jiu-jitsu, but we can’t help ourselves, there’s always something to talk about.  We can compare notes on techniques we learned in class and fill in the blanks if one of us missed something.  We can support each other when we are going through a rough phase in our training.  Plus, it’s pretty awesome to have someone on the mat that loves you unconditionally.  Jiu-jitsu by nature is a very close, personal sport and having my daughter out there on the mats with me is something that I treasure.  When we step off the mats, no matter what happened during training, we have each other.  I am so proud of her accomplishments and I can’t wait to see where her journey takes her.  There’s nothing like being out there on the mats watching your baby girl train and realizing how amazing and beautiful and strong she has become because of jiu-jitsu.

Would you recommend jiu-jitsu to other mothers and daughters?  Why?

I highly recommend jiu-jitsu to other mothers and daughters.  It is a wonderful, physically challenging activity that you can do together.  The sport will promote a healthy, active lifestyle for all members of your family.  It will bring you closer together and help open the lines of communication.  While jiu-jitsu is definitely not for everyone, I encourage anyone, of any age, shape or size to try it.  You might be surprised.  I was a forty-something, conservative, mini-van driving mother of two when I found jiu-jitsu.  I was out of shape and was athletically challenged.  I was hooked from the moment I stepped on the mats almost two years ago.  I am thankful each and every day that I get to train, and that I get to train with my kids.


Photo: Shama Ko Photography


Emily Ibarra said when she first tried jiu-jitsu for the first time she thought, “OMG, I don’t like this, this is absolutely NOT for me.” But as she watched her brother train she saw that it was amazing, and she couldn’t just sit on the bench and watch people play a sport. So she said she gave that “jiu-jitsu thing” another try and so began her journey.

Emily says her absolute favorite part about having my mom train jiu-jitsu with her is that she know whenever she train, so does her mom.

“No matter what, she is going to be my biggest motivator. She can be the one to comfort me when I have those outrageous break downs and cry like a baby, because that’s just what girls do. Also, she will ALWAYS have my back, no matter what. If all else fails we will be there for each other,” said Emily.

Emily wanted to say something special to her mom for mother’s day.

“Mom, thanks for everything you have ever done for me. I can’t say thank you enough, and I probably don’t say it as much as I should. You are always there, for EVERYTHING. You are my mom and my best friend. My jiu-jitsu partner and my life coach. I don’t know what I would do without you. You make my world go round. I love you with all of my heart and more. Forever and ever, until the world ends,” said Emily.


Photo: Shama Ko Photography


Kristina Vannest characterizes her day-to-day life as being immersed in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Vannest is a mother of three, two boys ages fourteen and twelve and her daughter, Isabelle Zeringue, age ten. Vannest works full time with the state, and also trains and works for Gracie Barra. Vannest is a program director for GB Round Rock. She says, “ This is my dream job! I work with awesome team of staff and instructors including Professor Ricardo Franco Moraes and Fabiana Borges and Coach Shane Zeringue.”

Much of the Vannest/Zeringue family life is based around Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since everyone trains and competes. They enjoy going to tournaments to support each other and their teammates. Vannest and her daughter also like to listen to music, play timed word searches, go shopping, play scrabble, trivia and be outdoors and active. They also have a lot of fun with the Gracie Barra Pink team at various team events.

Isabelle says her favorite part of training Jiu-jitsu with her mom is when she’s having trouble with a move and her mom will show her the correct way. Isabelle is her mom’s personal coach and she had some words of encouragement for her mom, “I love you mama and keep beating those boys!!!!!!!”

How did you hear about jiu-jitsu and what initially attracted you to it? 

Sixteen years ago I met a guy who just watched the 1st ever UFC. He was inspired and had this dream of doing jiu-jitsu and building a life around it for the both of us. I was attracted to the intelligence of jiu-jitsu and the fluidity of it. I loved how this was a game of leverages and transitions. Every movement was a calculated one. But it wasn’t until I walked into the welcoming environment of Gracie Barra North Austin two years ago that I saw it not just as something I loved to watch other people do. But something I can do too. Then soon after I began training Professors Ricardo Moraes and Fabiana Borges were brought into the academy. I learned a lot from the both of them, but my outlook on training and my realization of what I or my daughter can accomplish in this sport as a female has been greatly influenced by Professor Fabiana Borges. Having a female instructor really balances out my game and I realize how lucky I am. As for that guy sixteen years ago, that would be Coach Shane Zeringue, he’s now a brown belt, a certified GB instructor teaching in GB N Austin and GB Round Rock and we’re expanding the horizons of that dream.

How long have you and your daughter been training? 

I have been training for two years and Isabelle one year, but she has been around jiu-jitsu all her life because her father teaches and trains. It wasn’t until she watched me in tournament for the first time, after I had been training for one year. The funny part is she was coaching me because she knows a few moves from watching it. She was so overwhelmed and exited for me. I won first place and I told her I couldn’t do it without her coaching me, from that day on she has been training.

What benefits have you experienced from training jiu-jitsu as a parent and on a personal level? 

Training BJJ has made me self-aware and I think that has really shaped me into a better and more understanding parent/person than I may have been before.

What benefits have you seen jiu-jitsu have in your daughter(s)?

Confidence- she is not intimidated by any task given to her and respect for others.

Has this experience brought you and your daughter closer? How so?

It has brought us closer in a couple of ways. One, because in a house with three guys (her dad and two brothers) who all train it’s fun to team up and put them in their place. But on a deeper level I think It has brought us closer because not only does she see how jiu-jitsu has helped me in spirit, health and confidence but I think, or should I say, I hope that when we talk about problems she is having with jiu-jitsu techniques that will carry over to any personal problems that she may have in life.

Would you recommend jiu-jitsu to other mothers and daughters?  Why?

I most definitely recommend training with your daughter. Whether it be the kinetic energy between partners in jiu-jitsu or just the lifestyle as a whole jiu-jitsu creates a bond and with that bond and a common interest, lines of communication open, which is invaluable in a mother and daughter relationship. I feel jiu-jitsu is the best medium for this because for your daughter to see you vulnerable to submission, yet watch you breathe steady and wait patiently and then by sheer technique put yourself into the position you wanted to be in. It shapes their way of thinking and ultimately their lives.

To all the amazing mothers in the world including my own mom, thank you so very much for giving us life, inspiring us, teaching us life’s lessons, loving us unconditionally and investing in our future.  Happy Mother’s day to all, and I love you mom.


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, FacebookThe Adventures of Shama KoShamaKo.com, and SKOphoto.com.