Written By: Natalie Whitson
Kim has trained in martial arts more than 26 years, including more than 16 years in Jiu Jitsu. She started through her son needing self-defense skills in a non-team format. Kim liked the instructor at her son’s club so started Karate (Tenshin-kai style) there. The UFC was just beginning in those days, and those matches introduced Kim to Jiu Jitsu.
Kim and her Sensei, Shibucho Sam Flores, attended a “Legends” seminar at the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts, where one of the instructors was Jean Jacques Machado. Kim loved it. She decided she wanted to study Jiu Jitsu with Jean Jacques after she earned her black belt in Karate, and began calling to see where she could train. Sadly, no Machado and Gracie academies at the time accepted women as regular students (only in self defense and rape prevention classes). Fortunately, the Rigan Machado Academy was starting a women-only class, and Kim took a one-on-one class with Cindy Omatsu, one of the star pupils in the club. (Cindy is best known for being the first Asian-American and first woman outside of Brazil to be promoted to black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, in October 2002.)
Cindy told Kim that she should check out a new all-women’s school run by Leka Vieira, a five-time world champion. Although the school was a long drive away, in Torrance, Kim wanted to train with the best so for years she made the commute, and earned her blue belt under Leka. After Leka’s retirement, Kim was again on the search for a new place to study. The best in the No-gi world was Eddie Bravo, founder of 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu and Eddie became Kim’s new teacher.
Since her beginning in the sport, Kim has seen many changes. Women are now “allowed” in most if not all schools, and they actually have some weight classes in most competitions (there used to be just two). For years, Kim’s biggest achievement was to beat Debi Purcell, a mixed martial artist, in competition. However, since June 2018, Kim’s biggest achievement has been to earn her black belt as the first female in the 10th Planet system, under Eddie. Kim appreciates that No-gi and 10th Planet as a whole are much more accepted; that Eddie is recognized as a pioneer in the sport; that there are Jiu Jitsu schools all over, and that the sport keeps evolving through new moves, games, and quality of competition.
Kim recommends Jiu Jitsu for many reasons, including community, personal growth, and the opportunity to work mentally and physically to accomplish a long-term goal. Benefits that Kim has seen for herself include becoming more fit, strong, and confident. She believes in it so strongly that she ended up switching her career. She is now owner-operator at 10th Planet Burbank and owner at Blue Dragon Martial Arts LLC, which she started in 2008, and where she teaches and brings up the next generation of youth.
Kim’s advice to others includes finding a good place with a great instructor and an environment that you like. A good group will help you, not hinder you. Also, don’t be afraid to set boundaries for your own safety and enjoyment. Kim welcomes the reader to find out more about her at
Natalie Whitson bio
Natalie is a purple belt out of Northwest Martial Arts (NWMA), in Eugene, Oregon, where she trains under Professor Ryan Kelly and Professor Harold Utterback, and represents Gracie Humaita Phoenix under Professor Wellington “Megaton” Dias.