In 2008, Monique Ricardo was invited to a Jiu Jitsu class. She was never athletic in high school and the thought of being so physically close to another person made her laugh. Literally.
“I was just like, ‘What is this?’ and laughed the whole time,” she said during an interview with Hayabusa.
That class initially was a chance for her to spend time with the man, Eddie Ricardo, who would eventually become her husband. At that point, Monique Ricardo, a former runway model, was in the bodybuilding world and practicing Jiu Jitsu was not on her radar. She wasn’t interested in mounts and submissions. It was more muscle gains and tone for her.
Flash forward just over a decade later, Ricardo is now a Jiu Jitsu black belt, instructor, competitor and more importantly, a mother. To say her time is constrained is truly an understatement. She must carve up portions of her day that allows for getting the kids to school, training, teaching at Cobra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Plano, Texas, family time, and coaching competition level athletes.
I prioritize throughout the day and do a checklist in my head.
How does she do it?
“Now that’s a trick,” the Lakeland, Florida native said laughing. “The No. 1 question that everybody asks me and I don’t know. I don't think about it I just do it. I have a lot on my plate. I play the role of mom, the role of coach, I play the role of student, I play the role of wife. I play the role of all of these other things that I also do. I also coach competitors, I started doing (eye) brows, like microshaving. And I’m always cooking a home-cooked meal for dinner Monday through Friday. Getting the kids ready and that kind of stuff. I’m literally doing something at every minute.”
Excuses would be extremely easy to come by in her situation, but Ricardo admits so much of what she does is part of her routine. She creates mental checklists and one by one tasks are completed.
“I don’t think about it, I just prioritize my day, like what's the most important thing,” she said. “I prioritize throughout the day and do a checklist in my head. I’m very routine-ish, so a lot of things I don’t have to think about because it’s routine-ish.”
Her love for Jiu Jitsu blossomed and as most people have discovered, the martial art has a way of seeping into everyday life. The ‘Gentle Art’ as it is known, allows a person to find several ways to take on challenges and tasks that arise throughout the course of any day or lifetime for that matter.
Jiu Jitsu teaches us that we can go further than we think. That we can be strong. We can overcome, we can be patient.
It’s a sport that humbles its participants and fosters a much needed sense of patience required to master it.
“Jiu Jitsu changes lives because Jiu Jitsu makes you want to be better,” said Ricardo, who counts her husband as well as Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, Marcelo Garcia, Ronnie Coleman, Arnold Schwartzenegger, and Jenny Lynn as some of her heroes. “And because it makes you want to be better, you end up being a better friend, wife, husband, sister, brother, mother, father.
“We want to win. Be a champion, so because of that thought, we want to win on and off the mat. Be a champion in Jiu Jitsu and in Life. Jiu Jitsu teaches us that we can go further than we think. That we can be strong. We can overcome, we can be patient. We learn so much about ourselves and we end up, through obstacles and through persistence and dedication, becoming black belts in life.”
Those qualities are being passed along to the couple’s two children, Maxwell, 7, and Michael, 5, who are each involved in Cobra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes. It’s during those down times at the academy Ricardo embraces those moments when her sons seek her out to gain more knowledge about the art.
It makes the family’s immersion in Jiu Jitsu worth it.
The advice she gives to parents who introduce their children to Jiu Jitsu, especially parents who have never practiced the martial art, is to join them.
“I think it brings such a special bond because it's something that takes out the age barrier between adult and kid,” Ricardo said. “I always recommend, especially in our kids class, for the parents to try out the class because if they can do it together, it’s a really cool bonding experience. Because (parents) won’t be yelling at their kids to do something that obviously they have no idea how hard it is to do. From the outside, sometimes it looks really, really easy and it’s not when you do it yourself.
“I think it really does bond the parent and child, mainly because it takes out the age barrier.”
Just three weeks into her Jiu Jitsu journey, Ricardo was entered, to her surprise, into a NAGA competition. She made her way to the finals in the gi portion and lost. She fought her nerves that day and made back to the finals, this time in that tournament’s No Gi portion. She faced a rematch with the woman who beat her earlier that day. Ricardo submitted her with a guillotine.
From that moment on, there was no turning back.