Jessica Sunier is a purple belt out of Red Schafer MMA in Milwaukee, WI. She has been training for 4 ½ years, and regularly competes in local, national, and international tournaments. When Jess isn’t training she is leading her gym’s woman only jiu jitsu class, and is a regular coach for Red’s as well. During the day she is running her own gym, as well as instructing gym and health to young women in rehabilitation. In between training herself and others, Jess is an avid reader, terrible at yard work but working on it, writing short stories, baking tasty treats, and just living in the present moment.
Q&A Session Between Jessica Michelle and Elite Sports
Question: What inspires you about BJJ?
Answer: If you had asked me this when I first started I would have said the evolution of awareness of your body in space. I started out like most: clumsy. If you had asked me to roll a certain way 9 times out of 10 it looked like a face plant. While those moments still happen occasionally (berimbolo anyone), they are less frequent, and I’m now able to flow from one move to the next. Today I am most inspired by my students and teammates. All those “ah-ha” moments I observe on their faces when they effortlessly administer a move they’ve struggled with is why I want to be better. The “ah-ha” moments should never stop in your entire career.
Question: What are your goals for this year? Next 3 years? Next 5 years?
Answer: My number one goal this year is to develop the women’s program at my gym. The next three years is really fine tuning my game and developing my style. The next five years is to be the most sought after female jiu jitsu coach in the state of Wisconsin. I know what I need to do to get there. It’ll be hard work, but I don’t see failure as an option.
Question: Any major accomplishments you’ve been able to achieve in that time?
Answer: I had quite a run of tournament success for my two years at blue belt. I won Masters Worlds in my weight class, and swept every Chicago Open for my weight class. Took 2nd at a UAEJJF Canada National Pro tournament. I’ve medaled in nearly every absolute, winning a couple as well. But now it’s a different ball game with these purple belt ladies. They’re quicker. Smarter. A much better handle on their game. It’s time to raise the bar again. I’ve got work to do.
Question: Who inspires you, past or present? Why do they inspire you?
Answer: I’ve always admired the bigger women in jiu jitsu. Gabi Garcia when I first started, and now Tayane. Tayane is someone I especially admire because she proved that you can be big, strong, and technical. But those are people I admire. The people that inspire me are in my gym. I train under Professor Eric Schafer who still competes, and encourages his students to compete. I’m inspired by women like Alex Peterson of Fox Valley Grappling Club for starting Rebel Girls BJJ, a women only free open mat and mini seminar in Wisconsin. I’m inspired by the men and women I meet who compete at a high level as well as the local level. I’m inspired by a white belt going out and competing in their first tournament. I’m inspired by these people because there is no quit in them. They keep persisting. They continually remind me to raise my standards and improve every day.
Question: To whom you would like to compliment for your success?
Answer: My family who really supports me and in gym all my instructors and friends who push me so hard that i be able to achieve this position in Jiu Jitsu.
Question: How long have you been training?
Answer: Currently 4 years and 5 months.
Question: How often do you train?
Answer: I dedicate 10 deliberate hours to jiu jitsu per week. Since I operate my own small business time management is crucial to me. I make sure I have a goal every time I go in and it’s my job to execute it.
Question: What sort of gear do you usually keep in your gym bag before hitting the gym? Do you have different items for specific days
Answer: For jiu jitsu it’s basic. My gi, a few pairs of spats and a few rashguards. My belt. Apple cider vinegar for my skin after practice. Extra hair ties. Nail clippers. Electrolyte drink, extra water, and my protein mix. When I lift I have my lifting shoes, tape, a mini first aid kit, headphones, chalk, and belt. On long days like seminars or camps I have extra gi’s, sandwiches, and maybe a book.
Question: Do you have a go-to finishing move?
Answer: It’s a choke. That’s all I’m saying.
Question: What do you think it takes to be a champion in your sports?
Answer: The mindset.