Weighing less than 100-pounds and barely peaking over five-feet tall, Krista ‘Precious’ Anzelone, 45, is not your typical Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. While the sport she now loves may have garnered attention and fame after a smaller Royce Gracie proved that size does not matter in competition if you know how to manipulate your opponents joints and ligaments, Jiu-Jitsu was still mostly known as the art of the smaller man beating the larger man; there was no mention of petite women in the mix.
The O’Fallon, Mo., resident has lived all over the country and overseas as a military brat, spouse and as active duty Air Force Airman herself. Between her own three children, and her husband, Vince, the couple have five children ages 9, 11, 12, 15, and 20.
Krista is fairly new to the art of Jiu-Jitsu yet she is already making waves, even starting up her own webpage and blog followed by both men and women alike as well as launching a company that sells Gis and Kimons. Training is important but so is safety, take a look at US Combat Sports knee support info and guide.
“I started Jiu-Jitsu in late August of 2012. My husband has been training for over four years and started trying to get me to train in 2010. It started out with, ‘Hey, let me show you what I learned in class’ and me running away saying, ‘No, No, No!’ Eventually it became, ‘I wish you would train. I think it would be so good for you. We could spend even more time together, too.’ I said, ‘No, no, no’ every time,” Krista said.
She states that in June 2012, she started taking the kids to Jiu-Jitsu at J.W. Wright’s Gracie Humaita – St. Louis where her husband does his training. She would sit and watch the kids’ class and sometimes the women’s and men’s classes as well.
Life Altering Experience
“I was attacked fairly brutally when I was very young and have lived with the effects of that for a very long time. The effects increased in severity as I grew older and at certain points I was completely closed off,” Krista said.
When her husband first met her, Krista was struggling and weighed only 89 pounds. He has slowly nursed her back to health spiritually, emotionally and physically.
“He told me, when we met, that he was going to feed me and take care of me and he has,” she said.
“I couldn’t stand for people to touch me, hug me, pat me, get in my face,” she said. “When they tried, it was just blind panic. When we first started dating, my husband would try to brush the hair out of my face and I’d jerk away. He’d go to hug me and I’d pull away.”
“As I sat watching, I started getting a little inkling of interest. The people (instructors, students, parents, etc.) are just incredibly nice, warm, welcoming and friendly people. Even I couldn’t help but start to feel comfortable there,” Krista said.
Vince used that to his advantage and started asking her to train again.
Again, “no, no, no” was her response.
Then he started putting pictures of different kimonos on her Facebook page and JW started asking when she was going to start training. One day she finally said, “Maybe.”
And then maybe became “I’ll try it for a little bit but if I hate it, I’m quitting,” which really meant, “I’m going to try this and quit so it will shut you people up!”
“Vince bought me the Leticia Rebeiro Atama girly Gi. The first time I went to class, I was absolutely terrified. I couldn’t’ even put my Gi on. I sat and watched class and he eventually coaxed me onto the mats after class where I did absolutely nothing except sit there and try not to cry.”
The instructors posed them for a picture that night….with Krista choking Vince.
“Later I learned that I really DO like to choke Vince!!!” she said.
“My fears weren’t about Jiu-Jitsu. My fears were rooted in my past and they’d held me prisoner for a very long time. I guess I was ready to start fighting them instead of giving in. The environment J. W. has created at his school is what drew me in. And it’s what allowed me to stay. I felt safe there,” Krista said.
Krista recently received her first stripe on her white belt after about 10 months of training and some suffering from a dislocated elbow.
“I’d just gotten done expressing some fears to Jena Bishop, our female instructor who also happens to be the IBJJF women’s brown belt champion this year, about not advancing because I wasn’t really rolling,” Krista said.
“At that point, I’d just started rolling with my husband a couple of months prior, had rolled with Jena twice and one other girl once,” she said. “I told her, ‘If I have to roll with J.W. to advance, I don’t think I can. I know I can’t. I will never be able to roll with a man who isn’t my husband.’”
Jena said, “This is YOUR journey. You’re doing great. J.W. and I have discussed this. You keep doing what you’re doing.”
That night, Jena and J.W. called students up to get their stripes.
Krista recalls the night she got her stripe. “And suddenly, I hear Jena say, ‘And this last one is really special to me and very exciting.’ And she called me up and J.W. put my stripe on and said, ‘Okay. I’m going to hug you now!’ One of the reasons I dreaded Jiu-Jitsu and why I needed Jiu-Jitsu was my fear of being touched, of having anyone in my personal space. The fact that I let him hug me was HUGE. Maybe more than getting the stripe,” she said.
“Our school isn’t just a school. We’re family. I wouldn’t have started training Jiu-Jitsu or kept with Jiu-Jitsu without the support of my husband, children, and my extended family at the school. They’ve been there every step of the way,” Krista said.
From Scared Student to Jiu-Jitsu Entrepreneur
“Once I started training, we started buying more Gi’s. We owned quite a few Shoyorolls, Atama, Fuji, Subculture, and others. Once you have that many, you start comparing them to each other. We realized that’s actually quite a topic of conversation at the school – what Gi’s people like and why and what they don’t like and why,” Krista said.
“One night were talking at home and jokingly said, ‘Hey we should make our own Gi!’ Then we looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, we should make our own gi.’ That was early November of 2012,” she said.
“We knew NOTHING about it so we started from the ground up and have come a long way since then,” Krista said.
“We took no business loans and basically sunk any money we had that we were using to ‘play’ and started getting samples from different manufacturers and it all went from there. We are now in business with J.W. Wright and Jena and Tyler Bishop, who are the founders/owners of BishopBJJ.com. We’ve rebranded both KOZEN Fight Gear and Midwest Grappler Tournaments into one – KOZEN Fighter (both the product side and the tournaments side). Both remain separate legal entities, but we’re working under one name,” she said.
Krista on Competition
Her stock response to entering a Jiu-Jitsu competition was “NEVER.” Then J.W. and Brian Imholz, owner of Cape BJJ and Fitness in Cape Girardau, Mo., put on the Southeast Missouri (SEMO) tournament.
“My husband I were going there anyway because we our company, Kozen Fighter, and were going to run our booth. Brian and Vince started saying, ‘You should compete.’ Guess what I said? Yeah..NO! They kept at me. Brian has a girl who has done some judo but just started Jiu-Jitsu. She was my size. I thought, ‘Maybe.’ Then I said, ‘Ok, I’ll do it’ about three days before the tournament. Then he said, ‘Well, she’s going to be out of town that weekend.’ Oh well.
Krista brought her Gi anyway, just in case. She really had no intention of competing. To this day she doesn’t know why she brought her Gi. She arrived at Cape and that morning Brian said, ‘I have another girl. She’s bigger than you but she hasn’t been training very long.’
“45 minutes before the competition began I told Brian I’d do it. No one else knew a thing other than me, Brian and my husband. I was going to just not say anything to anyone else, but ended up telling Jena, Tyler and J.W.
The ‘girl who doesn’t roll’ got out and competed against a girl 22 pounds heavier, several inches taller, and 20 years younger.
“She got me in an arm bar. Tyler was refereeing. He was right down in our faces and told me later that he was ready to stop the match and snatch her off of me at the first sign that I was about to panic,” Krista said.
“I was able to compete because I was surrounded by my family. And I felt safe. And I might have been submitted, but I had a far greater personal victory that day. I almost felt bad for the girl who beat me because I got a lot of attention that day, gold medal or not,” Krista said.
Girl Jitsu Blog
“Jiu-Jitsu quickly became a big deal to me. It started changing me from the very beginning. I wanted to encourage people to train, especially women, despite any hurdles that might stand in their way. Because I truly believe Jiu-Jitsu is more than a sport. It has been very surprising to me the amount of people who come up to me and say, “I started reading your blog. I love it. You describe so much of what I feel and struggle with. Please keep writing.” What’s *really surprising is that many, many of them aren’t women. And a lot of them are younger men who still somehow relate to a 45 year old woman struggling with it all.