Jen Flannery, the founder of Grappling Girls Guild, was born on July 24, 1982 in Rockville, MD. She was introduced to the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu during college while training in Tae Kwon Do. Upon graduation from the University of Maryland, she was hired by a defense contractor and moved to the Northern Virginia area to be closer to work.
Pointed there (believe it or not) by her TKD instructor, Jen began training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at a Royce Gracie affiliate in August 2005, and received her blue belt from Royce Gracie in January 2006. In July 2009, she was promoted to purple belt by 2x World Champion, Felipe Costa. On May 3, 2012, she received her brown belt from Ryan Hall.
Jen has trained extensively at a number of academies, but when Ryan Hall started Fifty/50 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Arlington, Virginia in December 2008, she immediately moved over to train under him. With Ryan’s blessing and guidance, Jen started the first women’s BJJ program in the state of Virginia. Today they are proud to be one of the largest such programs in the entire United States.
(You can follow Jen live on her blog at BJJ Cailin)
Birth of the Grappling Girls Guild
At 110lbs, Jen had a hard time finding good training partners and was constantly in a search for more ways to connect with grappling women. She wanted to make sure her students had better opportunities than she did to train with and compete against women their size and level. In an effort to see this through, she started an email distribution list for BJJ women. As they came up, she sent out details regarding events, seminars, and tournaments for women. With every email sent, more and more women all across the country would find their way back and ask to be added to the list. BJJ women everywhere were scavenging for training partners, information on events and competitions, and female role models in this man’s world.
Finally in a position to quit her (now government) job in September 2010, Jen began working at Fifty/50 in a larger capacity as she trained hard for her next competitions. Unfortunately, she was soon told she would be taking a long break from Jiu-Jitsu for two corrective joint surgeries. With all the extra time on her hands, she finally had a chance to make her dream of turning the women’s distribution list into a website a reality. And so the Grappling Girls Guild was born!