With this year’s IBJJF World Masters Championship having concluded, many athletes, coaches, and teams are now taking time to reflect on victories, defeats, and improvements from the year before. But regardless of the wins and losses that took place on the mats, one group is celebrating a different kind of victory.
T.A.P., or “Together All Powerful,” is a movement that was started by Karen Peters and her coach Carlos Melo earlier this year after realizing that older female jiu-jitsu athletes didn’t have the same competition opportunities as their male counterparts did, namely in the number of divisions for Master competitors. Ultimately, the IBJJF listened, and the movement grew to ensure that female Master athletes had opponents to compete against when they went to Pans this year.
The movement fired up again as World Masters approached this year, with female Master competitors being encouraged to go out to Las Vegas to compete. And now, we have the results by the numbers. According to a count by Peters, the total number of Master women who competed this year at Masters was 752 — nearly 200 more than the number that competed in 2017. Many of those competitors came from the Master 2-7 categories, which were the divisions added to other IBJJF competitions (such as Pans) following the petition; 456 M2-7 competitors took to the mats this year, which is 135 more than competed at last year’s World Masters.
The representation from the upper Master divisions was also particularly impressive. This photo of the purple belt Master 6 featherweight medalists marked the first time this division had been represented at World Masters.
Another photo shows Master 7 competitor Kathy Butler — a blue belt who had to drop down in age divisions in order to compete — being congratulated on her medal by elite jiu-jitsu athletes Hannette Staack, Bia Mesquita, and Leticia Ribeiro.
The experience was particularly emotional for Peters, who didn’t compete at this event due to injury, but was still busy working on other projects for the movement. She sent the following statement to the Jiu-Jitsu Times:
“At the end of January 2018, Carlos Melo and I wrote a petition for the IBJJF to add Master women’s divisions to the Pans. There was an overwhelming supportive response and the petition went viral over night. The IBJJF responded within 24 hrs by adding women’s Master 2-7 divisions to the Pans – with a registration deadline just 3 weeks from the opening of the Divisions. The master women came together in a FB group I formed. We essentially ‘weaponized’ FB, using it as a platform to quickly raise awareness, build cohesion, and raise funds/resources to get competitors to Pans in order to show the world we are here in numbers and to secure our place, and the future of the young women behind us, on the competition mats. Within 3 weeks we managed to get 160 women registered for the Pans.
Since then, the Master women and their supporters have continued to come together in the FB group (BJJ Master Women) to form a powerful community that is inherently positive – offering inspiration and hope that we, like our BJJ brothers, will have competition divisions commensurate with age offered to us at major tournaments – thus potentially having competition careers well into our old age, should we choose. In the FB group we’ve managed to build a strong competitor base by offering encouragement to one another and emphasizing that together we are a powerful community.
We competed as individuals yet stood together in moving Masters women forward in equality and fairness in competition. The tournament was nothing short of spectacular. The collective spirit of the Master women competitors was palpable. There is no doubt We are building momentum. To get a good feel all you have to do is look at the pictures and posts In the FB group.”
Congratulations to all of this year’s competitors and everyone who’s been working hard to grow the Master women’s movement!