1. Hi Yasmin, can you please introduce yourself to the BJJ Community of Eastern Europe?
Ola jiujiteiros! My name is Yasmin Sewgobind. I am 29 years old. I was born in Amsterdam but my parents are from Surinam, a small country above Brazil. I hold a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and I train with Jiu Jitsu Factory and Team Agua in Holland. I have competed since 2005 five times in the World championships. In 2007 I became world champion BJJ in the blue belt division and world champion No Gi in the blue/purple belt division. In 2009 I won double bronze in the purple belt division of the world championships and last January 2013 I became European Champion in the black belt division.
2. What’s your Jiu-Jitsu story?
My sister wanted to do fitness. I was not very interested but I approved to join her. I tried it and I like it a lot. Since then I started with intense training in a gym in a small city next to Amsterdam, Weesp, at the age of 19. I was very thin and had no muscle power. Just bones and some fat and I couldn’t even do a push up or a pull up. Later my sister wanted to do kickboxing, I was again not very interested but I said okay. We went to the University Sports center of Amsterdam but the kickboxing class was already full. So we tried karate. It was really cool. At some point my fitness instructor told me that there was a guy in the gym who was a very good martial artists. He did kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I was interested in the kickboxing but he was very passionate about BJJ. He showed me a few parts of the documentary Choke and invited me to a BJJ class. Soon I experienced the power of full contact sports, I almost directly stopped with karate and started to train kickboxing, mma and ofcourse grappling/bjj. I was very excited about BJJ because I was looking for a challenge and was able to compete after 3 months of training. At some point a teammate of mine recommended me to train with Cadu Francis. I contacted him and I started in 2005 with team Yamasaki in Holland. Since then I trained, competed and travelled a lot and spent many hours on the mat. I trained with legends such as Ricardo De La Riva (BJJ), muay thai& MMA trainer Artur Mariano, Marcos Barbosa (BJJ), Murilo Santana, Augusto Ferrari, Vagner Boca, Fernando Yamasaki and Lloyd Irvin jr. I also had the pleasure to train with topnotch female champs like Michelle Nicolini, Luanna Alzuguir, Nyjah Easton, Michelle Mata among many others. Nowadays I work on my skills with Mathieu Peters (Jiu Jitsu Factory) and Remco van Baardewijk (team AGUA). I’ve been abroad in total for 1,5 years to practise Jiu Jitsu in Brazil and the USA. In 2012 I received my black belt after almost 8,5 years. BJJ always has challenged me lot, take me out of my comfort zones, and pushed my mental, physical and social boundaries. It’s a great way to discover your potential and makes you a strong and happy person. It’s a fascinating human art.
3. Please tell us about your training trips to the USA and Brazil.
The first time I visited Brazil (RIO) for BJJ was in 2005. I just wanted to go because I was looking for the best training but for NO GI because I was driven by MMA and my teacher Cadu was going and some guys from my team. I wasn’t really interested in Brasil itself, but when I arrived there I absolutely loved it over there! And I started to appreciate the kimono. I was hooked! Even though my teammates were going to Brasa (now Checkmat) I wanted to discover what would be the best place for myself. Yes, I had my own will haha. Little did I know about the BJJ scene but I did know that De La Riva was some accomplished name. When I had to make a picture for my competitions ID I saw his name written on a paper. I asked about it, got the address and visited the academy. I liked it. I also visited BTT, some of the European girls were training there. But for me training at De La Riva was perfect considering the atmosphere, the location and many training options. I was doing actively the 7 am sessions, a perfect way to start the day. And then I could start at 16.00 again and mostly join later for another evening session. For me this was a very special trip, I really wanted to stay and called my parents that I wanted to extend my stay but they didn’t agree. I had to come back to face my responsibilities and finish University. So I returned, finished University, took a temporary job to save money.
In the Netherlands I wasn’t just doing BJJ, but I was still practicing kickboxing and mma. And then I met a very good boxing coach from New York on the mat. I started with boxing and it was great. I went to New York for 5 weeks to sharpen up my boxing skills. It was truly a great experience. A few month laters I went to Brazil to compete in the Mundials for the second time, but this time prepared. I booked a trip for 2 months, trained hard competed but lost my first fight in the blue belt division. After two months just training with the gi I missed the boxing. I got introduced to Artur Mariano from Champions Factory, a small thaibox and mma gym in Rio. Mariano was immediately very enthousiastic. He said : “I like your style, you wanna fight MMA? “ I definitely wanted too, but wouldn’t it be strange if Im from Holland to train in Brasil in an muaythai gym while I had the choice to train with Nova Uniao and No Gi legend Roberto Leitao? Well, I choose for the first. This time I extended my ticket for 4 months. I didn’t realize I would face national mma champion and black belt Michelle Talvares but training with this small dedicated team was really great. I trained hard, was in great shape and had the chance to fight at Showfight, lost on decision but I was satisfied. In 2007 I went again, this time I stayed in Sao Paulo, training with Barbosa and Murilo Santana. Competition training was hard. One time Barbosa introduced semana de guerreira, warriorweek, based on Japanese tradition. This meant waking up 4 am to join the 5 am class, then to another session at 12 and another at 16.00. I survived and didn’t get sick haha. Back then Luanna was a brown belt training there too. When I flew from Brasil to the USA it give me confidence that I trained so hard and that I trained a bit with Luanna. I mean, there would be no blue belt better then her. I was definitely in great form, I mean, I trained the year before 6 months in Brasil and I prepared for another mma fight for 4 months in 2007 which got canceled. Even though I wasn’t just training BJJ, I felt very strong in my division, I had one very tough fight though against Tove Sodersten. Becoming a worldchampion in the blue belt division was amazing. After the worlds I went to Maryland, where the Yamasaki Academy is based. In total I stayed there for about 5 months and visited a few time San Diego where my teacher Cadu was. In 2009 I organized again a competition trip from brasil to the USA. This time I trained with Checkmat and Barbosa. I did fine in the Worlds as a purple belt and took the second time 2 times bronze. I have faced the best female in my category competitors such as Tove Sodersten, Nyjah Easton, Sofia Amarante, Gezary Matuda in my jiu jitsu career, and that has always been goal to face the best to get the most out out of myself.
4. Please guide us through your matches at the 2013 Europeans where you took Gold.
I immediately got in my opponents game, a type of guard not being played in my team. But I feel sharp during the fight. I focus my balance and try to keep stable and put pressure. I tried to control her head from the half guard on top. At some point I almost got the mount, but she quickly recovers to her guard. She tried to go for a single leg sweep a few time, I managed to keep my balance and we end a few times on our feet. From there I go for a takedown, right after she surprised me with a kneebar. I feel that she is continuing the pressure but I’m able to free my leg. We start standing again, I try to do the same thing, but she keeps her balance, now she get a control of my head from the half guard on top. I try to create space to get rid of the pressure on my head. I succeed and I’m able to put her in my closed guard. I feel good over there, I tried to do a final moved and lock her in my high guard, but the time is over and I win by points.
5. How do you manage your time between your professional career, social life and training BJJ at a profesional level? Do you prioritize?
It’s all about prioritizing! I search for the right balance all the time, and that is not always easy. I have a full time job in a sports training centre in the Olympic Stadion in Amsterdam named Medico Vision as a marketing manager. I planned a tight schedule to prepare optimal for the Europeans, fortunately I have great colleagues who are supporting me in my sportive journey. Actually, they are part of my sportive journey and have all a heart for sports. I even have a few who are practicing BJJ 🙂 My manager Rick Ramsahai, a blue belt in BJJ arranged an awesome sponsor deal for my strength & conditioning and my nutrition program with dr. Kumar, a specialized doctor in naturopathy. It’s a matter to choose certain surroundings too, and of course some timing & luck! If you want to reach your full potential for a specific goal, then you need to focus! I put a part of my social life “on hold”. The good thing is, is that BJJ part is of my social life too, so I safe time with that J. But you need to make sacrifices with food and other social activities, so that has a big impact on your lifestyle. In 2011 I found another passion, which is dancing (salsa&zouk), and that takes place during the late hours. For the Europeans I quit dancing because you can’t be the top athlete in BJJ if you are dancing in the night. That was a big change, but now the competition is over I can add dancing back in my lifestyle fortunately, combined with more food haha. The Europeans is probably one of my lasts BJJ tournaments though, it’s time to realize other (BJJ) goals.
6. Please tell us about your academy in Holland.
Well, I train at the two great academy’s, one in Amsterdam, team Agua, and one in Utrecht Jiu Jitsu Factory. They used to be one team under my teacher Cadu Francis (former Yamasaki black belt). Mostly I train in Amsterdam because I live near the academy but also because I have great trainings partners there. We have a lot of high level skilled lightweights included a group of strong female athletes. There are also some heavy weights, but if you want to train with big boys, please go to Utrecht. It’s funny to see how each of the BJJ teams reflecting the characteristics of the city and country. In Amsterdam we have the most nationalities in the world and that you’ll see that in team Agua, pretty sure that we have one of the most diverse teams in the world! Further, the Netherlands has the tallest people in the world. You can find a great selection of them in Utrecht, the heart of Holland. Some crazy big and strong fighters! Both teams have their qualities and own ambiance and I am happy to be part of the best teams in Holland. I love them both, like my divorced parents.
7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Great question..! I hope to realize an academy with good facilities and where we can extend our jiu jitsu programs such as competition training, fundamental classes, womens and kids classes. Just a normal dream for a passionated BJJ fighter 😉 I also like to contribute in women’s empowerment and have a cooperation with schools. Besides that I want to help to reveal the effects of the food industry in human’s health. I wrote my bachelor thesis on pharmaceutical sponsoring and it’s really ugly to see how people are getting mislead, the same with a lot of other industries, and a big one which affect tons of people, is the food industry. Further, if my life allows to and I take my biological clock into account then I could see myself having kids, but first having a partner in less than 5 years haha
8. How do you see women’s Jiu-Jitsu evolving in Holland?
Very very positive. There is a big sports culture in Holland and the youth here got fed with judo. You see now that most girls who are doing BJJ in Holland have already a strong background in other martial arts like judo, karate or kickboxing. In the Europeans championship almost all the Dutch female competitors took a podium place. There was even a Dutch female finals! But also if you are not having an athletic background, like myself, you can be successful. It’s a very powerful art in several ways and that ‘s why I want to share it with women. I try to create special female events to train together. This year I will organize the 4th edition of my female summer trainings camp in Eindhoven and there will be one held in Spain in the first weekend of June. For the Europeans I invited the girls to train together and stay at my place. These types of initiatives create a positive female sports culture. I believe that this will evolve female jiu jitsu, not just in Holland but in whole of Europe.
9. What is next for you and your team in 2013?
Next for me is teaching a bit international. I will go to Girona, Spain to teach at a female BJJ camp, teach a seminar in Istanbul and in the summer I will go with the head trainer of team Agua, Remco van Baardewijk, and one of my favorite trainings partner Thirsa de Boer, to Curacao and Surinam. Doing some rolling at the beach and in the jungle haha Further I will organize the 4th BJJ Ladies Summer Camp in Holland and I’m considering doing the Asian Open in Tokyo. Who know’s! I will also start BJJ classes at my Medico Vision in the Olympic Stadion and hopefully with a female BJJ class! A few other ideas are in progress, I’ll keep you posted!
10. If you want to thank somebody or sponsors, feel free
I like to thank my teachers Cadu Francis, Mathieu Peters, Remco van Baardewijk, my team mates from Jiu Jitsu Factory and Team Agua, my colleagues from Medico Vision, in special Rick Ramsahai & Karlijn Melenhorst, my S&C coach Joey Kraan, my physical therapist Rick van Dijk, dr. Kumar, my family ofcourse, my dear friend Thirsa de Boer and last but not least my gi sponsor Gear4Fighters (with the fastest drying gi’s!)