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Leila Alakel: Jiu Jitzu Master


The understanding of principles and dedication

Two hands shake dramatically, and move like rattlesnakes. Sophomore Leila Alakel grabs the collar of her opponent’s gi, effortlessly slamming her onto the mat. She remembers her principle that she has already won if she makes her opponent more scared than herself. She faces her partner again. Her face fades to show no emotion.

She strikes immediately, rolling into a series of positions and acting on every mistake or weakness in her opponent, draining the strength out of her. She turns left, grabs the arm of her competition, and bends it into the armbar. The fighting sequence  leads to her victory. The ref stands emotionless and intimidating as he lifts her arm up high.  

Alakel’s  six years of the dedicated 10-12 hours of a week has taught her how to be more intimidating than the ref as she has the power to snap the arm of her opponent in a second.

She says the hardest thing she has learned is:


I have to be able to make myself uncomfortable if I want to win…I have to be able to deal with something even though it may seem impossible, and overcome roadblocks that limit me in my training.

Leila Alakel

What is
Jiu Jitzu

Jiu Jitzu is like a game of chess, if you make one mistake you could be checkmated 10, 12, or 15 moves away.

Rafael Lovato Jr.

Leila’s Definition:

Jiu Jitzu is a martial art that focuses on community. Especially at Gracie Barra, they promote a familial community where everyone who joins gets to be a part of something bigger.

The word means ‘gentle art,’ but is is a Japanese system of unarmed combat

the beast

In training, Alakel  leaves her ego at the door, learning and strengthening her character to help her in competition as well as life in general. At Gracie Barra, trained by Eric Franco, she says she is able to be herself and feel accepted, finding a place that strips her of the anger and stress outside the gym. With Franco and training partners pushing her to, and far beyond her limits,

Leila accredits her growth to the times she felt like she was going to break, saying that the hardest but most crucial part of Jiu Jitsu is the ability to push yourself to the breaking point, sometimes losing matches, yet keep going.

Along with building the strength and skill to take anyone out at any time, she believes that Jiu Jitsu would impact others lives for the better because of the community and the confidence it brings.

Jiu Jitsu has made Leila more confident in herself along with bringing the people to her that are always there to listen, never judge, and are constantly happy to see her. Once others commit themselves to training, she values knowing that it is never just a bunch of people in a gym, but more like a family. 

With no barriers on how much of her personality she is allowed to show her partners immediately recognize her as a “Beast” and someone to look up to. “Before I started, I was in gymnastics and I always knew that I was bigger than the rest of the girls, I was taller and didn’t quite fit in.


I didn’t know if it would be for me, but when I started Jits the second I stepped on the mats, I knew that I belonged and that I had a place where I could be myself.

Helping the community, harming the competition

Leila is a beast at most things, and just makes everything look easy when she does them.

I finished because Leila didn’t give up on me and she wasn’t going to let me give up on myself. I always looked up to Leila… I knew she was one who was going to stand by her teammates, push them, coach them, and not let them give up.

She puts in work and has become a champion because of it. She has the most metals, and works harder than anyone else.

When she sees someone is down she helps them up, mentally, emotionally, and physically. She is smart when she’s attacking, she uses such amazing techniques, and when training she makes sure to always look for what else could happen when in that position.

Leila shows up every day, with a smile, and ready to roll. inspires me and all of the women, and young girls at the school. Her dedication and grit make her an amazing competitor. – Evelyn Garcia

Three modes of competition

  1. The week before a competition is when she is nervous, but has much motivation from the female role models like Holly Holm and Mackenzie Dern, along with her training partner Melanie F. They spark admiration and inspiration that influence the continued hard work.
  2. The second she ties her Gi on competition day, she has a fight mode, lost in her mind she believes that “you get so focused you don’t even know whether you won or lost”. The wave of adrenaline subsides as her hand is raised. This part is where she has an  instant appreciation of the people that show their praise with no strings attached.
  3. The last thing she does leads to her infinite strength and improving skill as she says “Every time I fail I keep replaying the moment in my head until I think that I can get it right, then I try again.” 

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