Fair IBJJF competition divisions for female competitors

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Hello, social media friends and fellow Jiu Jitsu people. For those of you who don’t know me I am Carlos Melo, a second degree black belt under Claudio Franca. I co-own a small successful Jiu Jitsu school in Northern California called Gilroy Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. 

If you are a BJJ practitioner or a supporter of our great art, please take the time to read, sign, and post to your social media groups the petition below to the IBJJF. 


I am writing this lengthy post to bring your attention to an important issue concerning our women competitors. It's an issue you may not be aware of, as I wasn't until recently. 

In raising this issue, I want to clearly say the purpose of this post is NOT to bash the IBJJF - so please refrain from doing so in your responses. I am a supporter of the IBJJF and am very grateful for all they do and stand for. Because of the IBJJF our great art is growing worldwide, reaching people in immeasurable ways. Their efforts to improve their organization in order to bring us high quality venues and good competition experiences, ranging from registration to referee training is evident to everyone who is familiar with their growth and development over the years. They work hard to provide a fair platform for Jiu Jitsu athletes to compete and improve their Jiu Jitsu. I also understand that they ultimately have a business to run and need to remain profitable. 

Given the above, please understand the intent of this post is to help the IBJJF improve in their offering of fair tournament divisions for women while keeping in mind their business concerns. 


A brown belt female student of mine, who is in her fifties, won a Master 5 IBJFF world title as a blue belt. Because she competed in a Master 5 division at that tournament I just assumed that women, like men, are offered divisions consummate with their age and belt at all IBJJF tournaments. I was not aware that the only opportunity for a woman to compete in upper Master divisions is at the Master Worlds. When I recently asked her if she was going to compete at the upcoming IBJJF Pan Championship she explained that in order to compete she would have to compete in a Master 1 division against women 20 to 25 years younger than her, as no other Master division is offered to women. 

As a result of our discussions she organized a group of women (a total of 5) from across the United States of the same age group, weight, and belt who all agreed to register and compete in a brown belt Master 5 light weight division at this year’s Pan Championship - should a Master 5 division be made available to them. 
I sent the IBJJF an email (attached is the email and the response from the IBJJF) asking if it would be possible for their division to be added. I was hopeful that the IBJJF might include their division, especially since many of the male upper masters divisions, especially below black belt, many times only have 1 or 2 competitors. We were all very disappointed when the IBJJF would not add their division.

Rationale for Next Action: 

I could understand the business fear that there are not enough older women competing to fill those divisions, (hence not profitable) but the older age divisions for men below black belt sometimes do not fill either. And yet the opportunity and possibility to compete in an age appropriate division exists for men. 

I feel that women should be offered an opportunity to compete in an appropriate age
division. As a teacher, competitor, and student of Jiu Jitsu, I have personally seen, as I know many of you have, the difficulties women, (not to mention older women) face
while training Jiu Jitsu. They not only have to deal with being the minority gender with training partners who are usually bigger, stronger, and younger than they are, they also have to deal with the social pressures that society puts on them because of their training.

I understand that by now it is probably too late for these divisions to be added
for the upcoming Pan Championship. I also understand that maybe it
is impractical for the IBJJF to add the same age divisions for all the belts for women all at once. But maybe the time has come to at least add these age divisions for black and brown belts, in order to continue the spread of Jiu Jitsu as the IBJJF does such a good job already. 

These ladies train hard and have to endure more than the average
male Jiu Jitsu competitor. Give them a chance to compete fairly in our great sport. 

Next Action: 

Please sign the below petition to the IBJJF, urging them to add older women Master divisions to at least the brown and black belts. 

Email sent to IBJJF:

To the IBJJF,

Hello, my name is Carlos Melo, I am a second degree black belt under Claudio França and under the IBJJF.  I have been a black belt since 2009.  I have been competing and coaching frequently at IBJJF events for approximately 16 years.  I co-own and I’m the head instructor at Gilroy Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  

Over the years , I have won several national and international IBJJF events.  Most notably, I was a Pan champion and world champion in the adult division as a brown belt in 2009.  I have also won two black belt  world championships in the masters 2 division (2013, 2017).  

As a competitor and coach I am grateful to have an avenue to compete in the sport and art that I love.  The Masters divisions give me an opportunity to compete at tournaments with similar aged males, if I chose to. 

A female student of mine recently brought to my awareness that there is no division for her age group at the upcoming Pan Championship.  

As such she and four other women in their 50s have organized themselves into a brown belt masters 5, light weight division, creating a division for a total of five competitors.  They respectfully ask that their division be included in the upcoming Pan Championship.  Some of the women can actually qualify for Masters 6 but are committed in competing in masters 5.  

These five women represent a growing older demographic of women training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that lead by example, demonstrating that the upper ranks can be achieved with commitment and perseverance regardless of age or gender.  We all know the sacrifices it takes to train and advance through the ranks of our great art.  These ladies have faced greater challenges being older women in a sport dominated by younger, stronger males, yet they still manage to make the sacrifices needed to progress in the art.  

They are deserving of an opportunity to be seen and to compete in a division appropriate to their age and rank.  To my knowledge, the only IBJJF tournament in the US that offers a  chance for them to compete is the Masters worlds.  Please consider adding their division to the Pan competition, thereby recognizing them, their generation of BJJ practitioners and the growing popularity of BJJ across the world.  

The IBJJF has always been the premier Brazilian Jiu Jitsu organization world wide.  In my opinion they have always tried to provide fair and organized tournaments to all people and to promote the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world wide.  Please continue to be a trailblazer in the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu by allowing these dedicated athletes to compete in their division and therefore continue to promote our sport to everyone.  

I understand that ultimately the IBJJF needs to make money on their tournaments.  If their division is added, these women are committed to register for the competition immediately as a group, even though they come from all over the US.  

It should also be noted that from my experience going to IBJJF events, I know that there are usually some divisions with less than 5 people.  

The list of female master 5 lightweight:
Aristea Kinney.     DCBJJ
Cynthia Fink.        Alliance
Lucretia Bolin.      Ralph Gracie
Joan DeAgro.       Renzo Gracie
Karen Peters.       Coalition 95

Thank you in advance for considering our request.  

                                       Professor, Carlos Melo 2nd degree Black Belt.  


Response From IBJJF:

Dear Professor,

Thank you for contacting IBJJF.

Unfortunately, at this time we are not able to offer Master 5 divisions for Female athletes at Pan Ams. Each year that we have more athletes registering in the Masters divisions, we try to offer the next division up the next year, but for Pan Ams 2018 we are only able to offer divisions for females up to Master 2.

Please let us know if you have any further questions.

Best Regards,



International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation


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