Each month I post a short interview with interesting BJJ people I meet on the UK scene. For April 2010 ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the very excellent: Leoni Munslow.





Leoni Munslow is a prolific competitor on the UK BJJ scene. Fresh from her double gold winning performance at this year's BJJ British Open, I chat to Leoni, or She-Ra as she cheekily likes to call herself on the forums, to find out more about her background, goals and passion for jiu-jitsu:

Meerkatsu: Hi Leoni, just for starters, give us your age, rank and serial number?

Leoni Munslow: I'm 23, blue belt and train at BJJ School under Felipe de Souza.

MK: What is your fight record (win-loss), medals won, prominent titles etc?

LM: I don't know WLD or number of fights. White: 2 x gold, Blue: 9 x gold, 4 x silver and 1 x bronze. My biggest competition win to date is double gold at this year's BJJ British Open.

MK: What made you begin BJJ in the first place? Had you done any MA before?

LM: I started training in traditional Jiu jitsu under Ross Iannoccaro when I was 6 and I loved it. It gave me the basics of strikes, throws and groundwork. I did that right through until I was 18. When I went to University, in Swansea, I took up Judo to improve my throws for JJ. After 3 years of Judo I met a couple of guys who did BJJ so I went along with them and was instantly hooked.

MK: When you moved from Swansea to London, you chose BJJ School, what made you choose this academy, over others?

LM: I was training under Kevin Cox (Pedro Bessa, Swansea) but then I got a job in London so moved down in summer 2009. I went to a few different clubs when I first moved down here - infact I spent more time looking for a new BJJ club than looking for somewhere to live. Pedro recommended training with Felipe and said he had a good academy here. BJJ School instantly felt good. The people were really friendly and welcoming and I could see immediately that the standard was high. I was also really drawn by the fact that Jenn Webb was here - I was excited at the prospect of training with a girl who would kick my ass!

I do feel that going into a new club as a graded BJJ player there can be some pressure and I feel that even more so as a girl, that often I need to prove myself that I am a decent blue belt and I train as hard as anyone. At BJJ School I never found that and I have since made some really great friends there, I definitely made the right choice of clubs.

MK: Do you miss your old training pals in Wales? And what do you like about BJJ school.

LM: I miss the welsh boys like you wouldn't believe!! I cried my eyes out when I left, friendships at BJJ always seem closer, I think because you got through a lot of highs and lows together. Kevin Cox is the best corner man in the world for me and we worked so well together when I fought that it felt like he was fighting with me. He also helped me incredibly when I came back to training after a few months off when I had to step back because of other commitments, I honestly don't think I would still be training now if it wasn't for him. The rest of the guys at the club are brilliant, so funny and everyone on the competition scene knows them as friendly and good guys. I look forward to competitions as much to see them again as to fight, I think.

MK: How do you prepare for a fight, I am told you incorporate mental coaching strategies?

LM: Yes, obviously as everyone does I step up my BJJ and my cardio training but I have also started working on my mental game as well. I get really bad nerves, I always have, and it got to a point that they were really affecting my performance. I started working with Eamonn Madden in November 2009 and fighting in the Kent Open felt a whole new experience for me. Despite the fact that I was fighting a GB Olympic judoka who was 12kg heavier than me, I felt pretty good. Eamonn's skills have made a huge difference for me and I am definitely going to keep working with him in the future, I owe him a lot!

MK: What happened at the Euros this year?

LM: The Euros did not go well at all for me this year. I dropped a weight category and felt fitter and stronger than I have ever been in my life. I came up against Paula Almeida first - who medalled at the previous 2 European's - and I tried to pass her arm bar attempt and was DQ'd for slamming!

I can see why the referee called it but it was never meant to be a slam at all, and I did feel hard done by. I was also really upset with myself as I felt like that was a big chance for me to earn some respect on a high level and prove myself. In the absolute I met Sarah Merriner from LFF who I fought in the finals for the British Champs 2009. She is a good fighter who works really hard in training and I respect her a lot, but it was the world’s most boring BJJ fight and I lost by 1 advantage which was for at least bronze. I have learnt a lot from the experience of Lisbon though and for that reason it was not a wasted trip by any means, and my passion for a European medal hasn't subsided!

MK: What is your most memorable tournament fight? And what personally do you learn from competing, win or lose?

LM: Hmmm tough question. In all honesty it was probably being battered by Camilla Hansen at Bristol 2009. No one had heard of Camilla and she came in and cleaned up! At the same competition I fought Julie Morgan who had just medalled in the European's and is a black belt in Judo - I had no idea and shot in for a takedown and won. I was a definite underdog for that fight and that felt great to win as I had just come back from a year of not competing.

MK: You recently did a self-defence seminar? Is this a regular thing? How did it go and what format does it take?

LM: I am just starting to teach self defence now through BJJ School's Future Champions project. I love it, it's early days but it's going well. I did traditional jiu jitsu for 12 years so it's nice to bring some of the self defence back into the front of my head.

MK: What is your ambition over the next couple of years?

LM: To win the worlds! Isn't that everyone's? Short term, I want to win Seni. I've never done Seni as a blue belt. Next year I'd like to have another shot at the Euros and possibly pan ams. It's all finances that are stopping me temporarily but I'll get there. For the next few years I just want to get my head down and train train train, I'm lucky that I don't have anything stopping me so I will take full advantage of that. Now that I am sponsored by Black Eagle, I'd like to use their help to really make a name for myself on the BJJ circuit. I'd like my self defence classes to become a success and get more involved in coaching the kids classes at BJJ School.

MK: Who do you admire in the world of BJJ - abroad, uk anyone you want to say inspires you?

LM: There are some pretty awesome women fighting from the UK at the moment, people like Camilla Hansen, Christine McDonagh and Sarah Merriner are living and breathing BJJ and it shows. (People looking for new athletes to sponsor take note). They also have incredible attitudes towards training and other competitors and at 18-23 have promising BJJ careers for a long while yet!

I recently had the pleasure of training with Ana Maria India and she is very cool. I love her attitude and having sparred with her, I saw first-hand how good she is. I don't want to be cheesy because he is my instructor but I really admire Felipe de Souza. In such a short time BJJ School has grown into a force to be reckoned with. With its focus on team unity and huge support across all levels I think he has done a fantastic job. I love the work that Future Champions and the youth academy does and anyone that sees the children from BJJ School compete will know exactly what I mean!

MK: What do you think needs to be done to get more ladies into BJJ and in particular, competing at events - or is it always gonna be a sport that only attracts a few?

LM: I wish I knew! Some women (as with some men) just won't enjoy rolling around on the floor with sweaty men. I think the support of instructors for the women's only events is key, they really work as a forum for sharing views, techniques, training and general support. I know a lot of people have problems with them but seriously, they are encouraging more women into the sport which is always going to be a good thing. Instructors that have female students will ultimately attract more women so keep hold of the girls you've got! Italo Ferreira and Darren Yeoman had a big team of girls at Bristol and that was really encouraging to see. I don't understand why more women don't compete but we just need to keep working to get more women training and take it from there. But refusing to award prizes for the women's absolute when the men get prizes definitely doesn't help! We need to offer incentives not take them away.

MK: Finally, why She-Ra?

LM: She's the princess of power, what's not to love there!


 
Thanks to Leoni for taking the time to answer my pestering questions, here are a couple of recent videos of Leoni in action:
 
Leoni Munslow vs Emma Baker - Welsh Open 07/03/10



Leoni Munslow vs Jacqueline Morgan - Welsh Open 07/03/10


Leoni Munslow vs Helen Wenger


Top and middle photos (c) James Olouch-Olunya / Combat BJJ Photography
Bottom photo: moi

3 comments:

Georgette said...

Wonderful to see an up-and-coming fighter profiled... I look forward to following her career! Thanks Seymour!

A.D. McClish said...

Great interview! It makes me wish I lived closer to train with all those awesome girls!

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