Bjj Women: Hannette Staack
“I think what got me addicted to the sport is that it is always evolving. It never stops.
I felt so empowered, so confident… It gives you this power, this energy. It gives you a new family and friends for life!”
Hannette Staack is one of the most successful Bjj competitors of all time a having won 8 Mundials Championships and 3 ADCC gold medals.
Hannette runs the Brazil 021 Bjj Academy based in Chicago, USA.
Today, Jiu-jitsu Times talks with Hannette about her competitive career, training wisdom, advice for women in bjj and philosophy of jiu-jitsu and life.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Hannette, Can you tell us how and why you got started in Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Who were your main professors and how did each of them influence your jiu-jitsu? What got you addicted to Bjj? What got you addicted to Bjj?
Hannette Staack: I got introduced to BJJ by a friend. He saw me rock climbing and told me about the sport.
He told me: “ … You have a good grip, you would be good in BJJ…” And here I am.
I started late 1997. It was almost the end of the year when I tried the class for the first time.
My first Professor was Fernando Cruz until my purple belt in 2001. Prof. Fernando opened the door for me to BJJ, he gave a 50% discount on the first month to train at his school.
I remember, it was a really hard time for our family, so I couldn’t afford to pay full tuition.
My way of “paying” him back for what he did for me was coming as much and I could.
I was the only woman at the school and he saw that I was a dedicated one.
I rarely missed class and was always there to help during the sessions, whenever he needed me.
After a month, paying only half of the tuition he gave a full membership.
I always think of my first Professor Fernando as my father in BJJ, because he was the one who introduced me to this great art and I am very thankful for that.
Then he stopped teaching and I had to find a new home.
With his blessing and with the help of my great friend who was also a black belt in BJJ (7th Degree at the time) Master Flavio Figueiredo, I found Andre Terencio, who is now my Professor in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and my husband 🙂
Master Flavio Figueiredo, was the one who introduced me to Andre and he was also my biggest encourager.
He used to say: “…One day I would be the best in the world…”
I think what got me addicted to the sport is that it is always evolving. It never stops.
I felt so empowered, so confident… It gives you this power, this energy. It gives you a new family and friends for life!
Jiu-jitsu Times: You have a long list of competitive championship victories.
What do you remember as high / low points of your competitive career?
What drove you to compete at that high level?
Who was your greatest opponent / competitive rival and how did they test your abilities?
Hannette Staack: I think my low point came before my high point. In 2005 I tore my ACL completely and damaged my meniscus.
With a lot of Physical Therapy, I was able to compete again 3 months after the injury, although, still had limited range of motion.
It was a very rough year competing, dealing with the injury and finally quitting my job to work exclusively with BJJ.
A lot of people told me I was crazy, for quitting my job. It was hard to make a living from BJJ, specially for a woman.
After competing at the ADCC (1st time they open for women competitors) and losing on my first match I decided to dedicate myself only to BJJ.
I asked the promoter of the event if I could compete in the open class and he said no. I was very frustrated, just because I knew I could do better.
So I quit my job, continued with the PT and a lot of strength training, started changing my Jiu-Jitsu game a little because of the knee.
The good side is, because of the injury, I had to modify almost completely my game.
That was the time I learned the most. Different positions, starting exploring new techniques. It was the beginning of a new chapter.
In 2007 I was in a much better state of mind. It was the year of the ADCC again and I wanted to make sure this time, everything would be different than last time.
I competed at the trials and won, qualifying to participate in the main event. I think this was one of the most important chapters in my BJJ journey.
I won the final match at the open class with a flying arm bar and this move became my “trademark”.
Brazil-021 : Hannette Staack Flying Armbar Technique
2007 was also the year I moved to the United States and decided to live here. My life completely changed after that (for good).
I was always a very competitive person. Competing even with myself…Lol! But I mean, always trying to do better, trying to improve myself.
This pushed me to the competitions in Jiu-Jitsu. Even though you have the whole team to train with you and to cheer on you, when you enter the mats it is only you against someone else.
I love the feeling, the adrenaline. It is awesome!
My biggest opponent was myself. If my mind wasn’t ready, even with the body 100% and great conditioning, I would lose the match.
By I have people who every time we fought was a tough one like Kyra Gracie, Gabi Garcia, Ana Laura, and Luana Alzuguir.
Each one of them taught me something and I am grateful to have them as my friends and somehow teachers.
Jiu-jitsu Times: As jiu-jitsu grows all over the world, more women are becoming involved in a sport that has been mostly made up of men.
What advice do you have for an academy wants to grow their women’s jiu-jitsu program?
Hannette Staack: I think the biggest challenge is getting in a school where there is no other women training.
It is very hard for a woman with no Jiu-Jitsu experience to get on the mats and start training.
I think the main door is the self defense. Once they try a class, they will fall in love with the sport.
Give the roll to a female student, someone who you think is the face of the school to start a women’s program or introduce your program to the other female potential students.
In my school for example, having me teaching and sharing experiences with the students gives them a different perspective in BJJ.
I am a woman training, representing the art and leading by example.
They need an inspiration and they will find in a strong female leader.
How do instructors adapt the jiu-jitsu class to make it more fun and friendly for new female students?
What are the unique challenges that a female Bjj practitioner faces?
Example. More self defense and less sport jiu-jitsu?
Hannette Staack: I think we can learn the same way as the male practitioners.
As long as we have a respectful environment, the class doesn’t have to be modified.
In my school normally the professors / instructors will pair the students up.
They always pay attention during sparring to if there is any bullies or any inappropriate behaviour.
It is definitely much better now, than when I started, there is a lot more female practitioners, dedicated and hard workers.
In the past one of my struggles with the female practitioner was retention. A lot of the girls who came to try jiu-jitsu were looking for a date and not really to participate in the sport. It was frustrating.
Today I see women working with BJJ all over the world. Still hard to conquer your space in the sport because a lot of people still don’t know much about jiu-jitsu.
But definitely there are more opportunities now for female “fighters” than before, not only for Bjj practitioners, but also for the MMA female fighters.
For the female Bjj practitioners or prospect students the “entry door” for Bjj is the self-defense. They come to do a martial art to learn to how to defend themselves.
Once they try jiu-jitsu and see it effectiveness, it is almost likely they will stick to it.
Of course, if they have a welcoming and female friendly environment. (Lol)
Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you give some advice for young women who are starting to train Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Can you share a principle or training practice, (or training advice or philosophy, tips on nutrition, attitude etc.) that worked for you in your training?
Ex. Drills, attitude to rolling, conditioning etc.
Hannette Staack: My advice is: It is never too late to start or to return to the classes.
I started BJJ when I was 18 years old, older than a lot of the young talents we have these days.
I also had to stop training for a almost 2 years because of some personal problems. Jiu-Jitsu helped me to get back on my feet, it brought light back into my life and with my dedication and persistence I was able to succeed in the sport.
Jiu-Jitsu is the type of sport that the only way to get better is training, practicing many times the techniques, until it becomes part of you.
You will be able to use it when necessary without even thinking. This was a big a big part of why I succeeded in the competitions for many years.
As a jiu-jitsu practitioner you have to at least live a healthy lifestyle.
It is important to have a balance in everything you do, training, eating, competing, etc.
If you are training for a competition, it is important to intensify the drills and conditioning for jiu-jitsu.
Training right versus training until exhaustion . Your rest is a very important part of your training process.
A lot of people want to be on the top… You have to be as prepared as you can.
To want something and to do something, to take action, are different things.
The dedication, persistence, sacrifices you make… All will make the difference towards your goal, THE GOLD.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you talk about your philosophy of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, martial arts training and life?
How do the lessons in the gym carry over into the rest of your life?
Hannette Staack: BJJ gave me everything I have today. I am so glad I never gave up!
It gave me great lessons of humility, persistence and resilience. I had rough times in life in general and jiu-jitsu always helped me to get back up.
I live the Jiu-Jitsu Lifestyle. To make a living doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a dream that became true.
That is why we chose for our school affiliation the motto: “Brazil-021, beyond martial arts it is a lifestyle…”
We really try to lead by example in everything we do. We are 100% dedicated to our students and team.
We follow the principles and the tradition of the art and the way we keep our school updated with the “modern” jiu-jitsu is having students competing at the international level.
It is important to keep you legacy alive and knowing your identity in BJJ, knowing your lineage.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Are there any exciting projects that you are currently working on / competitions or events that you are preparing for / programs in your gym?
Hannette Staack: I am working on so many projects right now…lol but I think the most exciting ones are that we are getting ready to open our new location in Chicago.
It is our own space, only for jiu-jitsu, a new chapter in our lives, so, very exciting times.
Also, getting some of students ready for the world championships in June and they are highly qualified to be on the podium.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Can you tell us something interesting about yourself that most Jiu-jitsu Times readers would not know?
Hannette Staack: I love to sing Metallica on karaoke… LOL
Brazil-021 School of Jiu-Jitsu.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt 3rd degree.
Faixa Preta 3° Grau de Jiu-Jitsu.
read also: Bjj Women: May “Mighty May” Ooi