Congratulations to our newest black belt, Vanessa Nancy Griffin! After 9 years of training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Vanessa earned her black belt from Julius Park at Crazy 88 Mixed Martial Arts on June 19, 2020.
Her journey started because she was desperately seeking an activity to do as a teenager. She originally looked for a place to do kickboxing, but was able to find Crazy 88 instead. Although Vanessa was never interested in grappling, after her first class she was absolutely hooked! Her first coaches were Jon Delbrugge and Keith Cebula. Because she was so close to the gym, she was able to walk and get there early for class and was eventually involved with the kid’s classes. It didn’t take long for Julius Park to notice her and invite her to the adult classes.
Before the pandemic, Crazy 88 was running 4 kid’s classes a day. Vanessa would run the advanced class and also assisted with the fundamentals class. During this pandemic, they have narrowed it down to 2 classes per day. She dedicates about 5.5 hours of the week for private lessons for kids and she tries to train at least 6 days/week, with one day of strictly drilling. In her free time, Vanessa likes playing video games (mainly Fortnite) with the kids at the gym, fidgeting with Rubik’s cubes, and she recently took up skateboarding because, “it’s fun and will help me with my balance.”
Currently, Vanessa is attending the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) with a major in Media and Communications studies and a minor in Entrepreneurship. “The hardest part about being a student athlete is balance, especially that I also run the kid’s program at Crazy 88,” Vanessa explained. She also adds that although her schedule is hectic, going to school kept her more disciplined and has made her life a little more fulfilling. Now that she’s a black belt, she’s able to learn at the highest level in Jiu-Jitsu and in school. “My advice to others trying to balance activities is to ensure you plan some down time to relax and fun things to do to keep yourself happy and motivated,” Vanessa shared, “It also helps when you love what you’re doing; if you aren’t happy with where you are or what you’re doing, don’t be afraid to take risks and find your true passion.” She plans to graduate with her Bachelors by the end of the Fall 2021 semester.
Vanessa’s plan as a black belt is to compete as much as possible, with the goal of becoming part of the IBJJF Hall of Fame with four world titles. Her next fights will be at the IBJJF Pan Americans, which will be her black belt debut. She’s definitely the one to watch! Congratulations, Vanessa!