This Saturday night marks the return of Fight 2 Win to San Jose, CA. The event features 30+ bouts set to take place at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds starting at 5pm.
In one of the most anticipated matchups of the evening, Kristina Barlaan of CTA makes her F2W return against Rita Bribben of Gracie Humaita in a 120 lbs. black belt gi match.
We recently caught up with Kristina to learn more about her training, interests, and her thoughts on this match.
Hi Kristina! Tell us a little about yourself and your training.
I’m the kind of person who will always try to make the best of what I have and what I am given and do it with a smile on my face. When I show up to competition training, I am typically the only female and the smallest on a mat full of beasts. I give as much as I can to my team mates as possible because I know that for as long as I fight, I can make opportunities happen. I feel like this has taught me to just be super grateful for everything, whether it being a day where nothing went right or a roll where I was able to execute something I’ve been working and drilling on. When you see how I approach training, I think you can see how and why I live my life the way I do when I’m not on the mat.
You do a lot when you’re not training. Can you tell us specifically about some of your passions? Mainly dancing and food.
I’m a passionate person in general and I tend to act upon how I feel about that which inspires my energy and creativity. Music, dance, visual and performing arts, and good food have been constants in my life and I will always find a way to include them in my day. When I feel the need to dance or move, I will. My heart demands that I do. I’m also passionate about spreading good, positive energy, so if I can use my gifts to make someone smile, brighten a person’s day, or just be a good person to be around, I almost feel obligated to do so. When you share the things that bring you joy and inspire passion, you pass that on. So if me singing and playing the ukulele will put a bounce in your step or watching me eat 2 pints of ice cream warms your heart, know that’s just me spreading the happiness and passion in hopes you’ll be inspired to do the same. You don’t need to eat 2 pints of ice cream though… unless you want to. Food is life, so if you’re eyeing that Ben and Jerry’s, get on with your bad self.
How has jiu jitsu impacted the rest of your life?
I know it may sound like a cliche, but Jiu-Jitsu has literally saved my life. Through Jiu-Jitsu, I have learned to better understand and accept myself and I have found a community I can continually contribute to and grow with. Jiu-Jitsu has given me the tools and platform to be the current best version of myself. All my life, I didn’t know where I belonged and then Jiu-Jitsu first empowered me and then it helped me discover purpose. I found a way to be outspoken about the things and experiences that have affected me the most in life. I am able to inspire change, hope, and community. I have a strong desire to be and do my best to bring out the best in the people around me and Jiu-Jitsu has made that possible for me to fulfill that desire. I honestly do not know where I would be in life if Jiu-Jitsu wasn’t a part of it. My closest friends and relationships, my deepest and most profound growth and development in my adulthood, and the amount of opportunities I have been able to take and follow are all because I chose to put on a gi and step on a mat.
Why do you like to compete? How does it feel coming back from injury?
I am competitive by nature and with my long background in performing arts, competing just feels like I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be: performing. Competing is a completely selfish thing. It isn’t for anyone else but me. The challenges are for me. The defeats are for me. The victories are for me. It sounds almost conceited, but it is one of the only times where I can unapologetically give to and focus on myself when I feel the constant and overwhelming need to take care of others. Being able to return back to competition after my knee surgery was like being released back out into the wild. It feels like freedom.
How would you describe your style of BJJ to a fan who wants to know what to expect?
I have a very flexible and attacking style of Jiu-Jitsu. I will get into positions that will look uncomfortable like “I don’t think the body is supposed to bend that way” but it’s just part of the way I move. I am an avid guard player, but I am always looking for opportunities to progress movement and position so I can submit.
How will you approach this differently vs. tourneys and other events?
Along with my aggressive guard style, I typically consider the strategy of using the rules in IBJJF formats. Since I don’t need to worry about points or advantages at F2W, I get to focus solely on attacking, which I feel is like tapping back into a younger Jiu-Jitsu version of myself, but with all the knowledge I have now.
How are you preparing for Rita? Anything specific?
Rita has a similar style and body type as me, so I am expecting a very back and forth match with her. We’re both very flexible, submission aggressive, and move through lots of positions, so I feel like the person who can impose their pace first
will have the upper hand. I’m prepared to face very active legs and hips and crazy flexibility.
Any prediction on how this match will go?
We’re gonna be attacking each other the whole time for sure, so I believe the match will either end with one of us being submitted. If it somehow goes to time, I think the referees will have a hard time deciding who attacked the most. No matter what, I’m expecting it to be an exciting match.
Do you have any message for your fans/coaches/sponsors/etc.?
Thank you to everyone for all the support and love. Competing and the need to compete may be a selfish thing, but we don’t get to those mats by ourselves. I am thankful to have a dedicated Professor in Caio Terra, a team that pushes me everyday, sponsors like CTRL Industries, Digitsu, How Healthy Wellness Center, Leão Optics, Virus, and Kekoa Collective that support me in my career as an athlete and role model, and friends and family that love me and help me grow. Huge thank you to Seth Daniels, as well, for creating an event that the whole Jiu-Jitsu community can come together and enjoy. I can’t imagine a better opportunity for athletes to not only display their skill and showmanship, but to be compensated for it and in a format that allows for the best part of Jiu-Jitsu to be seen.
KB, any last words before the match?
I’m ready to show my best on that stage! I live for these moments and I hope to give a fight that inspires others to want to be in that spotlight one day.