Raina Tumminello is only 9 years old and is already inspiring others to work hard to continue to do what they love despite any physical limitations. She struggled to learn the new jiu-jitsu concepts and the coordination needed was especially difficult to understand. After a full year of persistence, her parents decided to seek private guidance from her BJJ coach (Nate).
She quickly became one of the hardest working BJJ students and fierce competitors placing 2nd at the Pan Americans Kids BJJ tournament. Her achievements have shocked even her strongest supporters and proved that no matter how difficult it is to learn something or if the odds are stacked against you, you can still prove doubters wrong and become the person you were meant to be.
Raina continues to show growth in both her maturity as a person and skillset as a martial artist. This article is a great source of inspiration for anyone else having difficulties learning and can be reassuring for any parent or guardian with a child that may be having difficult times.
Raina Was Bullied & Struggled To Learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ~ Now She's...
Submission Shark Community | Instagram: @rainatbjj
Full Name: Raina Donatella Tumminello
Belt Colour: Gray
Professor: JT Torres
Short Term Goals: To be able to go to as many tournaments I can to get better. Win or lose
How long have you been training jiu-jitsu for?
Almost 3 years now
Where do you train BJJ out of?
Do you prefer gi or no-gi?
Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu?
Yes, my professor JT, Coach Nate & Jolanda help me with my school work. Professor JT was my Heros project and Coach Nate helped me with my How To Do Project. Coach Jolanda helps me with my schoolwork sometimes.
What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that apply to everyday life?
To work hard and focus, my professor says Hard Work Works. My coach Nate says to control my emotions too and focus.
How often do you train?
6 days a week unless I am sick or on vacation
What made you want to start training?
It was my Zio Johns idea. I have two cousins that train at American Top Team, who I saw compete at a Fuji Tournament in August 2017 right before 1st grade. After I watched, I told my dad I wanted to do it too, but he said I was too small.
We forgot about it after that, but once school started in September of 2017, someone was stealing my pins from my bookbag and I was scared to tell anyone who it was.
Eventually, after asking the person where my pins were they punched me in the head and we started fighting and fell down the stairs. Shortly after that my dad called my Zio and asked him where he can send her to train. That’s where I found Essential Jiu-Jitsu in Hartsdale.
Do you plan on training your whole life?
Yes, I do, as long as my dad and mom let me
What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?
All the friends I have at the Gym. I have old friends and young friends
What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?
It has helped me get stronger and faster.
Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?
It has helped me focus and control my emotions.
If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything differently?
No, I like Jiu-Jitsu
What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?
Don’t give up no matter how hard it is, you will get better
Do you have any aspirations in jiu-jitsu?
I want to be a blackbelt and win a world championship. My coach and professor tell me I can be a world champion, if I work hard, focus and control my emotions.
What’s your favourite move?
I like to pull guard but single leg X sweeps and doing X guard is what I like doing.
If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?
I would probably be playing Lacrosse, but I like Jiu-Jitsu better
Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?
Yes, I want to see more little girls like myself do it.
Have any of your training partners pushed you to reach your full potential?
Yes, all of my teammates push me to get better, most of them are bigger than me so I get to train up all the time.
This is how we roll @essentialbjj
We are the tristate wrecking crew. Look how small I am compared to everyone else..lol
When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?
I was not able to do a lot of things, I had a hard time doing forward and backward rolls, hip escapes, and understanding the concept of what was needed. It was not easy for me at all.
Raina's Dad & Mom here:
She is not aware of this, she was born with a few learning and physical disabilities that caused her to have a difficult time at the beginning of Jiu-Jitsu and life.
She was born with Torticollis which caused severe delays in muscle strength and coordination for her. It was pretty severe that she received physical therapy up until 7 and until today she receives Occupational therapy from it. She also had a difficult time with coordination and had issues walking from it. We still remember assisting her going downstairs while going up them was not an issue.
On top of all of this, she has processing/language issues and has difficulty understanding things and communicating back in the beginning. She needed a lot of repetition when learning new techniques.
We realized about a year into her training that receiving private lessons from her Coach Nate is when she really started to take off. He was able to concentrate his lessons on what she learned during the week and repeat it during their one on ones. Luckily, as she got stronger and matured she was able to overcome a lot of this.
Overall, she has proved her Mom and Dad wrong, because I can tell you this for sure, I did not think she would have this much success in this sport so early. I have to admit I thought this was going to be a 6-month sport for her.
If you told me she would be getting a silver medal at 8 years old in the Pan Americans almost 3 years ago I would have laughed at you. We are very grateful that she has this type of drive at such a young age.
If you could roll with any practitioner, dead or alive, who would it be?
So many, I watch all of them with my dad when he comes across their videos, Jessa Kahn, Mr. Josh Hinger, Leoni Munslow, Ffion Davies, and Harriet Slym. I also took professor JTs back before. He denies it to this day
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?
It is definitely not Karate
What has been the most memorable moment you've had on the mats so far?
My favourite moment was at my first Kids Pans when I made it to the finals and got Silver out of 14 girls before that was my first IBJJF tournament in Las Vegas International getting 3rd out of 8 girls
What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?
I want to show other little girls that you can do what the boys do and never think you are too small.
Do you have any advice for anyone else that's been bullied and is looking for support?
Make sure you tell your Mommy and Daddy who it is. I was not talking to no one about it for weeks until my book bag was ripped and my parents saw this, eventually, we got into a fight.
For those that may not know, what is Torticollis?
Congenital muscular torticollis is a condition in which an infant's neck muscle is shortened causing the neck to twist. Congenital means present at birth and torticollis means twisted neck. The condition is sometimes called wryneck.
Do you have any advice for someone that may be going through a similar condition and is afraid to do what they love because of it?
Parents need to not be embarrassed about it and if they notice it talk to their doctor. Luckily it's not a permanent situation, depending on the severity of it you can obtain physical therapy to correct the issue. It's important to finish out therapy too because just because the neck is straight it does not mean other areas of the body are ok too.
Are you ever nervous before competitions and do you have any advice for controlling that fear?
Yes, I get really nervous before tournaments but the more I do the better I have been able to deal with it. I tend to talk to myself a lot when I get closer to the match. To make it better, I try to become friends with the kids that show up at the same tournaments.
Its usually the same kids at every major event so I become Instagram friends with them so I can talk to them the next tournament. It gives me familiar faces to talk to when I go. I also think the more tournaments you do the less nervous you get.
How was your overall experience competing at the 2020 Pan American Tournament?
It was so awesome, so many people and I saw all of my friends. I also liked hanging out with my teammates, we hung out for 2 nights. There was 11 of us that went out to Long Beach
Does your family train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as well?
If so, what's it like being able to share the mats with them? Yes, my dad and mom train they are both 3 stripe white belts. I like rolling with them during an open mat. My cousins all roll and my Zio John rolls too at American Top Team. I love it when my cousins come to my gym and train with me
What would you like to say to everyone that has supported you on your journey?
Thank you for being patient with me and helping me out and always letting me spar with them even though I am a little kid.
If you enjoyed this article, make sure to show your support in the comments below! Raina's story is a great example of how beneficial Brazilian jiu-jitsu is for kids. Here are 7 life-changing reasons why every child should train BJJ if you are still unsure about the effectiveness of this art form. Interested in more martial arts articles? Check out the school or sharks for exciting reads and insightful help or learn what the best martial art is for the kids.