As the sport of Grappling grows across the nation and around the world, more people will find out about the amazing athletes who are among the pioneers of the sport.
One of the most impressive is two-time USA Grappling World Team member Felicia Oh of
For Felicia, who at 41 years old is considered one of the world’s best grapplers, it is not just about competition. Competing in martial arts, such as Grappling and Jiu Jitsu, is all about making the most out of life.
She got involved in jiu jitsu at the age of 33, when she was pursuing a career in broadcast graphics after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in art. During an unpleasant outdoor adventure, when she was part of a group of people who were climbing
“We went on a bad hiking trip,” said Oh. “We climbed at
Oh went to the gym and watched practice. Shortly after, she joined the class and was soon working out two days a week. The next thing she knew, she joined some of her teammates by entering a tournament. The rest is history.
“Nothing was planned out; it just unfolded,” said Oh. “My life has been like that. In general, most things I end up doing didn’t even exist before I got involved. I fell into it and I just kept doing it.”
Oh had an athletic background, but was not a high achiever in sports. However, in Jiu Jitsu and Grappling, she found something that she could excel in and pursue competitively at a high level.
“As a child, I was in gymnastics and did a lot of sports,” said Oh. “I was decent, but I was not the star on the teams. Later on, for the rest of my life, I was always athletic.”
Her involvement escalated over time. In 2005, she tried out to compete at the ADCC World Championships, but was an alternate to the team. Although she did not get to compete, she attended the event and enjoyed watching it. Competing at that level became one of her goals.
“The next year, they had a North American trials, and I earned a spot,” said Oh. “In 2007, the event was in
Oh was among the pioneers who competed on the historic
The next year, when FILA created a separate Grappling World Championships in
Oh helped the
“They were both great experiences,” said Oh of her two U.S. Grappling World Teams. “They were different experiences. The first year, by having a training camp, we were able to feel like a team. You created bonds with the teammates. I love it. As it grows, this is going to be great. The question is how do you help grow it.”
Her passion for competition also caused her to make a change in her professional career. She got out of broadcast graphic design, her profession for a decade. She also stopped teaching digital media at the
She is currently teaching and training at the
“It is hard to build a program for women,” said Oh. “It is a rough sport. The body takes abuse. It is hard emotionally. You get beat up a lot, especially when you first start the sport. We have a great environment. We have between 6-10 women a night. It is a very supportive environment. We have a good core group of women.”
In addition to Grappling and Jiu Jitsu, Oh plans to pursue Mixed Martial Arts. This year, Oh became a member of the club’s Fight Team, and looks forward to her first professional MMA fight.
She is also becoming an innovator within the sport. Along with fellow U.S. Grappling Team member Valerie Worthington and Canadian Grappler Emily Clock, they have started holding women’s Grappling camps. There is a limit of 30 participants, and the women get a variety of martial arts training from these three experts. They have held one in
“At these camps, you copy how other people behave,” said Oh. “It is also an opportunity to teach for some women who may not have taught the sport before. All around the country, there are one or two women at any BJJ school. Here, we can get a large group together. It is an amazing experience.”
Along with teaching techniques, Oh often teaches life skills. Her life has had many changes and challenges, and she shares her positive philosophy to all who are willing to listen and learn.
“You live your life and take opportunities,” said Oh. “I tell students to take steps toward what they want to do. It is possible to live your life like that. I ask my students – ‘what do you really want to do?’ I encourage them to be an active decision maker in what they want their life to be.”
Meanwhile, after overcoming an illness which kept her out of training for awhile, Oh is healthy and training hard. She is focused on winning the U.S. Grappling World Team Trials in
Oh turns 42 during the week of the World Championships. She is confident that her experience and passion will lead to success on the World level.
“My goal is to make the team and to go and represent the