Weight loss decision leads to martial arts stardom - AmericaNowNews.com

Weight loss decision leads to martial arts stardom

The jungle sounds and lion roars spilling from a small workout room at L.A. Boxing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana can mean only one thing: The Little Ninjas are hard at work. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor Jessica Guedry puts the mini-martial artists through their paces.

Two years ago, Guedry admits she would not have made it through the first 10 minutes. 

"I was about 260 pounds. I guess I was just looking for something, a way to lose weight and get in shape," she says.

Guedry had tried diets and exercise on her own with some positive results, but after losing 50 pounds, she reached her weight loss plateau. That's when a friend suggested boxing classes. 

Gabe Miller, owner of L.A. Boxing, remembers the day Guedry walked into his gym. 

"She was really shy. It was almost like she wouldn't look you in the eye," he says.

At 210 pounds, Guedry was not ready for the intense workout slugging heavy bags. 

"I tried my first class. It kicked my butt for sure! I was hooked. From then on, I was in here five, six nights a week," says Guedry.

Five months later, she was down to 160 pounds and the heavy bags were not enough of a workout. 

"Trainers started noticing how good she was on the bags," says Miller.  That is when trainer Josh Mancuso talked Guedry into climbing into the boxing ring.

"Oh my gosh," Guedry says as she remembers that day. "Sparring; they punch each other.  I didn't want to get a bloody nose.  I didn't want to lose any teeth."

From the boxing ring, it was a short hop to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which Guedry calls her life right now. BJJ is a sport of throws and chokes, and big guys grabbing all over each other practiced mostly by mixed martial arts fighters.

"Tap, snap, or nap" is the mantra BJJ grapplers live by. Opponents either tap the mat to surrender or risk a broken bone and unconsciousness.

At just over 5'5" and 150 pounds, Guedry got a few stares her first day on the mat.

"They didn't take me seriously at first," she laughs. "I don't think they thought I was going to stick with it."

She took the same determination she had poured into losing weight and focused it on her new sport.  Guedry quickly tore through the women's competition in Louisiana and Texas, but she is slow to boast about her accomplishments.  Miller does that for her.  "She's competed in multiple tournaments.  Won multiple tournaments in multiple divisions,"

Earlier this summer, only eight months after first stepping onto the mat, Guedry found herself at the World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships in Long Beach, Calif.; a rookie in the midst of the best grapplers in the world.

Guedry made it through the tournament with only one loss and became the first Louisiana woman to place in a world BJJ championship, ever.

Miller marvels at the transformation. 

"She came in here to lose weight – to shed a few pounds – to now, one of the top women's Jiu-Jitsu grapplers in the world," he says.

Guedry may have surprised the field in Long Beach, but coach and training partner Mancuso had a feeling Guedry possessed the qualities it takes to be a champion. 

"She's not blessed with any more than anybody else, but she's got determination and the will to work," he explains. "That's what's brought her to the level she's at."

Guedry credits her gym family for her success. 

"My teammates are my family.  They've just changed my life completely," she says.

But her success on the mat and all the weight she has lost is second to what she has gained. 

"Confidence, first of all," she notes. "A better understanding of myself. If I say I'm going to do something, I find a way to do it, now." 

Miller agrees, "It looks like it's changed the way she looks at herself. It's changed the way she looks at life."

Guedry is not resting on her success. She hopes to be back in world competition next year with a real shot at bringing home the gold.

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