BJJ blue belt and Master 7 division Pans champion Sandi Duquette has passed away at age 70 following a battle with liver cancer.
Sandi, who had been living and training in Michigan, returned to Hawaii to be with her family and was placed into hospice care earlier this week. Yesterday, her grandson Christian Kalani Lacanaria shared the sad news that she had passed away.
“Death is so morbid and it’s not talked about enough. It’s only until we lose someone that we really start thinking and talking about it. Today, in the comfort of her homeland, my gramma Sandi Duquette has passed. I find peace and comfort in knowing she was surrounded by loved ones as she passed. Knowing my gramma, she passed fearlessly but it’s difficult to accept this reality of her being gone. She has always been a warrior, in life, in work, in her dedication to anything. I’ve never seen her at a weak moment in her life. She’s just always been this tiny, ferocious, larger than life, loving, perfect grandmother. She was literally always smiling and laughing. She supported the hell out of me and all her grandkids. She touched everyone she’s ever crossed paths with in some type of way. My heart aches. We all love and miss you an unfathomable amount gramma. We’ll all stay strong for you. Until we see each other again … a mau loa, aloha wau iā ʻoe “
Sandi was a beloved and celebrated member of the jiu-jitsu community, having begun her journey on the mats at age 65 upon the encouragement of two of her sons who are BJJ black belts. After being promoted to blue belt, she began entering IBJJF competitions, where she was often the only competitor in her only division. However, she eventually earned gold and bronze in the female blue belt Master 7 open weight division in 2019 at Pans and Master Worlds, respectively.
Throughout her jiu-jitsu journey, Sandi was known as a fierce force and friendly face on the mats. She was well known in the master BJJ community and beyond, serving as an inspiration particularly for women who had long been denied the opportunity to compete in Master 2-7 divisions in IBJJF tournaments prior to the 2018 movement to effect change. Her presence in the community was a reminder that jiu-jitsu can truly be for everyone and that it’s never too late to begin your journey on the mats.
Though Sandi’s friends, family, and fans are mourning her loss, they can also take comfort in how one tiny woman impacted and inspired people around the world to find the courage to try something new no matter their age or size. There is absolutely no doubt that her influence will continue to live on for years to come.
Rest in peace, Sandi. We love you.