Interview with Author and Jiujiteira Giselle Carrillo

jiu jitsu latina martial arts women in jiu jitsu

Meet Giselle Carrillo, Jiujiteira, author, surf babe, entrepreneur (Founder of Courage Camps) and an overall Chingona. Giselle, like many of us, has a story behind her Jiu Jitsu journey. Jiu Jitsu helps develop character, builds confidence and sparks creativity. We are excited to share Giselle's Jiu Jitsu journey and the inspiration behind her NEW book Courageous Camila


Question: What gym to you train at?

Giselle: Recently moved - so looking for a new gym. I am kind of a nomad Jiujiteira.


Answer: What first got you into Jiu Jitsu?

Giselle: I had always admired martial arts - from the first time I saw an action movie, to my love for the Kill Bill movies featuring Uma Thurman. Growing up, my parents did not have money to put me in any sports. And in my culture, there is the belief that certain activities are not for girls. So I never even thought it could be for me. At 25, my entire life fell apart. Having my life fall apart gave me an opportunity to put the pieces back together in a new way, with the things I had always been curious about. Jiu Jitsu was one of those things. I looked up gyms, went to my trial class, and signed up immediately after. Not because the first class was easy, but more so because there was this total certainty that I wanted to keep trying to figure out this beautiful puzzle.


Question: What keeps you coming back?

Giselle: The constant challenge and endless lessons - I have tried so many sports, from boxing to skateboarding. Those sports have limitless lessons as well - but there is something about Jiu Jitsu that feels different. What I love is that it takes about 10 years to earn a black belt, roughly the 10,000 hours it takes to gain mastery in anything. And even after you earn your black belt, the lessons continue. It is a forever journey.

Question: What benefits have you gained from Jiu Jitsu in other aspects of your life?

Giselle: Jiu Jitsu has taught me courage and strength to confront difficult, hard, or intimidating situations. Because the same racing heartbeat you feel before a match, is the same rush of emotions you feel in real life. As a martial artist, you learn to manage those emotions so you can better respond in any situation. I also feel like the world is now boundless for me as a woman of color - many people like me, hesitate to live out life because of the fear of being in a situation where they may not be able to defend themselves. I used to tell my Dad that I wanted to move to New York for college and travel the world for fun - he would discourage me by saying that it wasn't a good idea, that it would be different if I was a boy. Jiu Jitsu teaches you that no matter your size or gender, you can stand up for yourself both physically and mentally. It is the great equalizer.


Question: What has been your biggest challenge in BJJ or competing?

Giselle: My greatest challenge in BJJ was and continues to be believing that I can be great too. They say Jiu Jitsu turns "the humble into the strong, and the strong into the humble". I am the humble person who through Jiu Jitsu has found a stronger side of me. Almost, an alter ego who is fearless, athletic, focused, and aggressive. But it takes a lot for me to turn that on - I am not motivated enough by being the best in my class for the day, but I am motivated by inspiring other little girls who look like me. That form of motivation is not always there, and so - finding a way to train with that same level of commitment is something I am still working on today.


Question: Tell us about your new book! How was this idea born?

Giselle: My new and first book ever is called Courageous Camila! It is inspired by my own story, but through the experience of a younger little Latina from Venice Beach. Camila's curiosity leads her to peek through a window of a Jiu Jitsu gym. And even though she hesitates, her immigrant mother motivates her to try and to keep going, even when it seems this new sport of Jiu Jitsu is too difficult. Together they navigate the waves of learning something new. And in the end, Camila ends up finding her courage a lot closer to "home" thanks to the help of her Mama.


Question: Where did you find inspiration for this story?

Giselle: The inspiration came from my own life - at 25 years old I embarked in a total transformation of my life. I committed myself to doing the things I had always been curious about but always too scared to try - like surfing, skateboarding, and Jiu Jitsu. My only regret in this new journey was that I had not started sooner. But as a first generation daughter of immigrants from Mexico - that had just not been possible for me for many socio economic reasons. So the book is for all the little girls who are growing up now - who are curious to try new things different from what they see in their families or neighborhoods. In Camila, I hope they see a window of opportunity to follow that little voice in your heart that leads you to your courage and strength - regardless of where you come from.


Question: Will you be writing more books like this?

Giselle: Absolutely! My co-author Naibe Reynoso and I would love to expand Camila's story into a book series where she conquers other sports and unlocks other levels of her courage.


Question: Where can people purchase their copy of Courageous Camila?

Giselle: At (a Latina-owned publishing house) or Amazon.


Question: How do you balance life, work, and business?

Giselle: Balancing life, work (I also have a full-time job), and business becomes possible when you embrace it not looking super pretty or neat each day. You have to know your values and your priorities, and then create your day with those in mind. I love what the book "The Four Agreements" taught me - it says "Do your best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret." One of my highest values is peace - therefore I remind myself to never sacrifice my peace for my purpose. No day is perfect, each day just is.


Question: Who is your BJJ role model?

Giselle: My BJJ role model is so many women who I admire - and in a way, I feel like I am still looking for one who I know personally and can grow with. From afar, I love to watch women who are both strong and agile, aggressive and patient. When I watch Leka Vieira, Raquel Pa'aluhi, Beatriz Mesquite - something in me just wants to run to the closest mat.


Question: Do you have a role model off the mats? What about this person empowers you?

Giselle: I have so many as well - but I have to thank all of the books I read that helped me change my heart from a fearful heart to a strong heart. And it all started with Oprah and her book "The Things I Know For Sure". She introduced me to the power of peace and opening up our old scars. And I hope I can do that too someday for my Latino community.


Question: What is the biggest piece of advice you have for beginners in Jiu Jitsu?

Giselle: The Jiu Jitsu journey is a wave - some days are great, some are devastating, but always strove for a little growth, a little change. I love this quote - "Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change." Have fun and focus on one small step forward each day. It is a sport of patience.


Question: Favorite post meal/snack after training?

Giselle: Rice, greens and salmon! I love to meal prep healthy eats for me, so I do not mind eating the same meal throughout the week. :)


Question: Gi, No Gi, or both? 

Giselle: Both


Question: Where can people find you on the 'gram?

Giselle: @gisellecc


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