Full Name: Barbara Fleuret’
Belt Colour: White, 2 Tip
Professor: Derek Tc Richardson
Short Term Goals: There are only long term goals for me. To get as far as I can until I die.
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Inspiration can come in many forms. For Barbara Fleuret', it came as a multiple-time world champion, Claudia Do Val. In this article, we discuss how a little motivation and kind encouragement can go a long way as well as the many benefits of BJJ. After experiencing multiple heart-breaking moments, Barbara has managed to find relief from these devastating life events thanks to the support of her BJJ community.
This interview is a great example of how much of an impact Jiu-Jitsu can make for its practitioners and is a clear reminder to never be afraid to promote this art form as it may just dramatically change someone's life for the better.
How long have you been doing jiu-jitsu for?
Just over a year.
Where do you train out of?
Do you prefer gi or no-gi?
Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu?
Yes, I have 3 professors and in the time I have known them they have helped me and my family in hard times and as well as just needing a person to talk to. So yeah they have helped outside of Jiu-Jitsu.
For example; my Sensei Derek was one of the first to show up when we lost our home to a fire a couple of months ago to help us look for our cats.
When my husband needed knee surgery in May, all the guys and gals at the dojo rose up to help however they could, and the same when I lost my mother and grandmother in July.
What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that apply to everyday life?
There are so many that I have learned. Self-control, faith in people, patience, self-worth, getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Facing your fears. It has helped me in more ways than I can name.
How often do you train?
I try to train 4-5 times a week but when I’m not doing that I’m working out at home.
What made you want to start training?
Well, my story is a Lil cool. My husband started about 2 years ago and he along with the others at the school including the professors always joked with me to get on the mat and try. Well, I was scared because I had physical and mental issues with it.
So about a year ago, a special guest came out from Brazil the 3x black belt BJJ worlds gold medalist, #1 ranked IBJJF Gi & NoGi, and Absolute World Champion Claudia Do Val to do seminars around Charlotte and one of my professors knew her well and our school was lucky to have her around for a week.
Well during that time I got to sit down with her and talk to her about my fears and issues with Jiu-Jitsu and she helped me understand them and made me promise to try it one time before she left so I did the next day. I tried to make an excuse but she wasn’t having it haha.
So my professor handed me a gi and I went to change. I was so scared I’m not gonna lie but I went back in and got on the mat. I did my first lesson with her for the whole class. (Not many can say their first lesson was with a gold medalist). I was hooked and started taking private lessons for about a month or so then started joining in classes.
Do you plan on training your whole life?
I plan on training as long as I can. It helps me in so many ways.
What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?
The zen feeling I get from training. The feeling of doing things I never thought I could.
What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?
My health has changed so much I quit smoking cigarettes, started eating healthy, I have lost a little weight and toned up a little. I am easily in the best shape of my life.
Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?
When I started Jiu-Jitsu I was in a dark and nasty place. I wasn’t happy with my life and the way I was. And if I didn’t change my ways I was gonna lose everything and who I really was inside.
If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything differently?
Yes, I wish I would have started as a kid or teen so I could enjoy it longer.
What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?
I would say take the leap because if you don’t, maybe one day you will look back and say I wish I would have at least tried it once, and I don’t really believe in leaving interests left untouched.
It isn’t a cliche, Jiu-Jitsu will change your life.
Some will say your 37 gonna be 38 why start doing Jiu-Jitsu now. I say why not? You're never too old to do something fun and good for your body. I have never been an athletic person in my life just for a few things and a short period of time. Doing Jiu-Jitsu has changed my mind, body and soul.
Do you have any aspirations in jiu-jitsu?
I would like to compete a few times, and I think it would be cool to earn my black belt today. Ultimately I just wanna be a better person and Jujiteira than I was the day before.
What’s your favourite move?
Omoplata the first move I was ever shown and Claudia’s signature move.
If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?
Oh, man. If I didn’t start Jiu-Jitsu I don’t think I would be here it saved me and kept me from losing myself.
Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?
I would love to see it become more mainstream. It’s a great sport and can bring people together as well as help people.
Have any of your training partners pushed you to reach your full potential?
Every time I train. Being the only girl most times the guys push me so hard I love it and they inspire me as well. I love the challenge.
When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?
What to do period. I have never ever seen Jiu-Jitsu before my husband began so I watched and kinda thought it was gonna be an easy thing but nope ... I was soooo wrong haha.
If you had to describe Jiu-Jitsu to someone that's never heard of it before in under 5 words, what would those words be?
The ultimate test of oneself.
If you could roll with any practitioner, dead or alive, who would it be?
Oh man, I don’t know that’s a hard one to answer right now. But right now it would have to be someone I have met and never really got to roll with it would be either Claudia Do Val or Silver Fox. Or Maynard James Keenan as I am a big Tool fan.
What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?
Jiu-Jitsu has changed my life so much that I share my journey on social media in hopes it can impact and save someone the same way it has for me.
Was there a difficult moment in your life where jiu-jitsu helped you get through it? If so, please explain.
As I mentioned above, this year has been very rough. My husband required knee surgery in May, in July my mother and grandmother passed away 8 days apart, and less than a month later we lost our home in a fire. Without Jiu-Jitsu, I would have cracked and I don’t know if I would have made it.
What would you like to say to someone that might be going through a similar situation right now and is having a difficult time because of it?
Keep your head up. Take the blows but keep getting up. Never ever give up. Ever. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Do you believe more women should begin training? And how can martial arts academies encourage more ladies to give it a try?
I do think more women should join or at least try it. Academies I know do what they can to influence women to join but it’s up to the women to make the move. So academies do everything to make them comfortable the women just need to join and not be fearful of it. Learning Jiu-Jitsu could save their life or dignity one day.
What would you like to say to the women (Claudia do Val) that spoke to you and inspired you to finally give it a try?
Man, I can say so much to her and have because we do stay in touch. But I would let her know how much she has changed my life since that day and how I don’t know how to repay her. She saved my life from turning upside down and I will always have a spot in my heart for her.
What would you like to say to everyone that has supported you on your journey?
I would say thank you so much for pushing me as much as they have and being such amazing inspirations to me and my journey. I couldn’t do it without you all.
Where can people find out more about you and support you on your journey?
Facebook: BarbaraF Model Page
Tumbler: Model Barb F
When the journey is over, how you like to be remembered?
I would like for people to say she worked really hard and was a great inspiration to others.
If you enjoyed this Brazilian jiu-jitsu story and want to become inspired by more interesting stories, I'd highly suggest you check out how Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu helped this indigenous lady recover from alcoholism and domestic abuse. If you are already an active BJJ practitioner or athlete, I believe this article with Nattie Boss (BJJ brown belt) can dramatically help you train smarter. She will show you the 4 most crucial areas where you need structure as an athlete.