Women of Washington State Meet Cindy Hales, The Sleeper
In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu,the first 12 non-Brazilian black belts are known as the “Dirty Dozen”. In 2015, Kris Shaw, founder of BJJ Legends (www.bjjlegends.com) and herself one of the Dirty Dozen, compiled a list of the female Dirty Dozen (https://www.bjjheroes.com/bjj-culture/womens-bjj-dirty-dozen).
On this list can be found Cindy Hales, a Professor at Gracie Barra Kirkland (WA) Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Known as “The Sleeper” in competition – due to her ability to put people to sleep through chokeholds, as well as her unassuming demeanor – Cindy graciously took time out of her busy schedule to share a bit of her Jiu Jitsu journey with the readers of Elevate Magazine.
Cindy’s career started off unremarkably: college and then a stint at nursing school, ending up as a manager at Starbucks. Although Cindy hated this job, the commute took her every day past Marcelo Alonso’s gym in Tacoma.Prior to that, a friend had introduced Cindy to the early UFC, where she was impressed with Royce Gracie’s ability to beat bigger, stronger opponents. Finally in 2001, at the age of 26, Cindy began training Jiu Jitsu with Marcelo and joined the Carlson Gracie Team.
Since then, her successes have included wins at Grapplers Quest (Las Vegas) and the Pan-American BJJ Championships. She’s also enjoyed an MMA career, including a match against Megumi Fujii, now retired but at one time the world’s best female fighter. Despite these achievements, Cindy’s biggest interest in Jiu Jitsu is as a powerful tool for change and growth. Cindy has taught for more than 15 years, and loves seeing new students literally transform their lives through the increased self-confidence and physical abilities that the art can bring.
Advice she gives for other women – or really anyone – is to believe in themselves and to just ‘stay the course’ of training despite the struggles, hardships, new opportunities, and distractions which inevitably arise. Cindy has seen people feel that if they can’t train exactly as they had planned, that this becomes an excuse not to train at all. Her advice: Even if it is only once a week, make use of what you have. Be consistent and engaged, and you can achieve your goals.
Those wanting to know more about Cindy’s remarkable journey can read