Sweden’s Janni Larsson, World and European Gold Medalist: “BJJ is the love of my life”


1. Hi Janni, can you please introcuduce yourself to the Eastern European BJJ community? 

My name is Janni Larsson. I’m a 25-year-old Swedish girl that lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. I moved here 2,5 years ago to study medicine.

I’m a purple belt in BJJ and I train at Arte Suave, CheckMat, in Copenhagen.
My main achievements so far are that I’m the purple belt European champion in light and open weight, and purple belt World champion in middle and open weight. I also got a bronze medal in purple/brown/black at WPJJC in Abu Dhabi.

2. How did you start training bjj? 

I started training martial arts 8 years ago under Paul Persson at JJK Samurai in Jönköping, Sweden. For the first few years I only trained Japanese ju-jutsu, but then my gym gradually changed towards BJJ. Marcelo Yogui later on became the head instructor at JJK Samurai and he gave me my blue belt in 2008 and my purple belt at the end of 2009.
After I got into university in Denmark I started training under Shimon Mochizuki at Arte Suave, CheckMat.

Janni with her Team mates of Arte Suave

3. Please tell us about your gym Arte Suave (Check Mat) in Copenhagen, Denmark (Alexander Trans’s gym). Are there many other girls training too?

Arte Suave is the most successful BJJ-gym in Denmark. We have many fighters that have done well in international competitions. Our head trainer Shimon Mochizuki works more than full time at the gym and his efforts show in his students’ accomplishments.
When I started training at Arte Suave 2,5 years ago we were very few girls. Later on Shanti Abelha and Ida Hansson started holding BJJ classes for women and now we are around 15-20 girls training BJJ. It is amazing to have two black belt women teaching classes. We don’t have that many black belt women in Scandinavia, so it is a great privilege.

4. You had a great year winning double gold at the Europeans, bronze at World pro, and gold at World. How do you manage to train, compete, have a social life and study at Med school at the same time??

It all comes down to priorities. I study and I train BJJ. At training I get to hang out with my friends and when I go to competitions I always have people from my gym with me.
Sadly though, I don’t get to spend as much time with my friends from school, as I would like to. I do miss out on a lot of the after school activities.

5. What are your BJJ Goals? And where do you see yourself in 5 years time bjj wise and in your professional career?

I’m probably going to keep on training BJJ for the rest of my life. It’s the love of my life and don’t think that I’ll ever be able to give it up.
I’ll continue competing for as long as I enjoy it. My dream is to get a black belt in BJJ and compete in the black belt division against the best women in the world.

In five years time I will most likely be done with my education. I have no rush though. As long as I study I have the possibility of traveling and training a lot. When I start working I will have less freedom, and less time to train.

6. What female BJJ players do you admire?

I admire my trainers Ida Hansson and Shanti Abelha. They are amazing athletes and they have helped and supported me a lot during the last few years. I also admire Michelle Nicolini. She has beautiful jiu-jitsu and I really enjoy watching her fight. Every time she is in Scandinavia I try to attend her seminars.
There are so many female BJJ players that I admire though.

7. Who are the best female BJJ players that you’ve rolled or competed with? 

I have had the opportunity to role with the CheckMat girls Michelle Nicolini and Marina Ribeiro. At a girls only seminar this spring I trained with Leticia Ribeiro and Beatriz Mesquita. In Abu Dhabi I got to role with Luiza Monteiro.

8. How do you see female BJJ growing around the world? And what needs to change for the sport to grow among women.

In 2012 many changes have been made that shows that women BJJ is growing around the world. They split the female brown and black belt divisions at Europeans and Worlds and at WPJJC in Abu Dhabi they added more weight- categories for women. These changes will make the sport grow among women.
I also think that women classes in BJJ and women’s only seminars will have a positive effect.

9. Thanks Jani, all the best!

Thank you so much for taking interest in me and asking me to do this interview.