Interview with Kris Shaw, Founder of BJJ Legends Magazine

by Ryan Fiorenzi on February 11, 2013

Kris Shaw

From left to right: Jocelyn Chang, Cindy Omatsu, Leka Vieira, and Kris Shaw.

Kris Shaw is the Founder and Editor of BJJ Legends Magazine.  She has competed a lot and her titles include:

  • Pan Americans 2007 Silver Brown/Black
  • Pan Americans 2002 Gold Purple/Brown/Black
  • 3rd American International Championships 2001 Silver
  • Pan Americans 2001 Bronze
  • Campeonato Internacional Master & Senior de Jiu-Jitsu 2000 Gold
  • Campeonato Internacional Master & Senior de Jiu-Jitsu 2000 Gold
  • Absolute
  • Campeonato Brasileiro 2000 Bronze
  • 7th Annual International Championships 1999 Silver
  • California State Championship 1999 Silver
  • American International Championship 1998 Silver

How long have you been training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

I started in Feb 1997. I’d never done anything physical before. Anything. In high school I was the volleyball team manager so I could get out of my P.E. credits. I was a Unix System Administrator, working in a cubicle, when a fellow nerd walked in with a black eye. Computer types don’t get black eyes. He was doing “Reality Combat.” Fast forward 12 months and I’d landed a job in Manhattan Beach and found out that that reality combat I’d been doing was Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

When did you get your black belt and from whom?

Rigan Machado gave me my blue and purple belt. Leka Vieira gave me my brown and black belt (5/2005). I started at Rigan’s in the Fall of 1998. Leka visited in 2000. She took over the women’s class. Luka Dias had taught for a while and Chris Haueter too.

Leka invited me to join the women’s class. I told her, “No thank you, I needed to train, not have a tea party.” The next time I was at the academy she did the men’s class, got paired up with me and kicked my ass. I joined the women’s class. We took 8 girls to the Pan Ams, when they were still called that, in 2001 and 12 girls in 2002.

As a woman, I’m sure you’ve had to deal with some issues that a lot of men have not had to deal with. What is it like, as a woman, training Jiu-Jitsu?

Being a woman in Jiu-Jitsu has been pretty much pretty awesome. But getting my foot in the dojo door was a trick.

I showed up at Rorion’s school and told I could do Rape Safe in the little room. I had my gi, a Century Judo A5, with me and I wanted to go upstairs. I was told NO. But I’d been training ~reality combat~ for over a year!

I called Rickson. His wife answered. I told her I needed an address so I could attend class. She said, “You’re a woman, no women.” And hung up on me. So I called back and said I wanted my son to train? She said, “Same woman.” And hung up on me again.

I’d met Richard Bustillo at a Filipino Martial Arts seminar. He told me that I should look him up if I was ever in the LA area. Without a place to train BJJ I called him and started JKD classes twice a week. One night after class, two guys in gis started rolling. I asked to roll with the smaller of the two. After, the bigger one asked me to join his American Team and with that, I joined the Machados and started my long road to black belt. Those two guys were John Machado and Fabino.

What advice do you have for women grapplers?

Take your time when finding a Jiu-Jitsu home. Visit lots of schools. Talk with lots of people. Train around. It’s your money so invest it wisely. You shouldn’t feel pressured to stay. If you’re going to do  Jiu-Jitsu, never miss a class. NEVER. Of course, you will miss classes. You’ll miss classes when your work sends you out of town, or when you get the flu, but don’t miss class because you left work late etc, etc, etc. You do this for a year and you will thank me so much. You’ve started a great habit that will be with you for the rest of your life.

What would you say to men who grapple with women?

I can only speak for me. One, I don’t give a fig about my hair. About the only time I’ll slow the game down because of my hair is when you are standing on my ponytail and I physically can’t move. You don’t have to say sorry when you grab a bunch. When you hear me go ‘oooohhfffff’ it’s because you’re heavy not because I’m weak. Keep rolling. Yes, you have to apologize for an elbow to the nose or a knee to the head but I’ll apologize when I do it too. And, for goodness sake, finish me. Don’t almost get it and let it go out of respect. I know I’m in a bad way but maybe, probably not, but maybe I’m working a funky new escape.

You are the editor of BJJ Legends Magazine. Who are some of the most interesting Jiu-Jitsu practitioners you have interacted with?

Cobrinha he’s my most interesting interview. His place is beautiful, he’s a pastry chef and I love his Jiu-Jitsu.

Robert Drysdale he’s so real. During his interview, he talked about how hard it was to be everything for everybody. About owning a BJJ gym in Las Vegas and the characters you see walk in.

Tinguinha he’s my coach, I’ve been with him since 2004. The more I learn about him the more respect I have for him.

Royce was one of our first interviews. We rented out a LA Boxing for his photo shoot. A UFC fan leaving the dentist next door saw him through the window. Walked in and asked, “Are you REALLY Royce Gracie because the dentist just gave me a whole bunch of pain killers.”

Hillary Williams, she’s in medical school. When we were on our way to the Pans she told me that her medical schoolmates saw her Facebook profile and where like what gives? Why do you have 5000 friends?

Chris Haueter, the BJJ history he’s personally seen, his energy, and his stories.

Mafu Kobus is my spiritual compass. Spiritual might be too heavy, I look to Mafu when I want to go deep.

Sharon Schleif my BJJ BFF.

Then there are the crazy wonderful people who help me to make the magazine like Monta Wiley and Matthew Corley. These guys give and give and never ask for anything in return.

What are your plans for the future with Jiu-Jitsu?

I’m currently looking for a Jiu-Jitsu retirement. I want to be that 80 year old that still gets out on the court and lobs tennis balls but doesn’t run after them anymore. Can you play Jiu-Jitsu like that? The handful of old timers I’ve questioned have said yes, you just need to pick your partners carefully. I’m still at the King-Kong stage where in my mind I can wrestle anybody but I pay for it the next day.

Thank you Ryan, thanks to Kaizen for the hospitality you guys have always shown me and thank you

Thank you so much Kris!  You have done a lot for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and it’s an honor to have this time with you.

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