5 Star Student Profile: How Joann Nguyen Balances Work, Family, & BJJ

Posted on November 14, 2018 in Academy News, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Joann Nguyen has been a mainstay in Coach Armand River’s 7 AM Brazilian Jiu Jitsu morning class at 5 Star Martial Arts / Renzo Gracie Los Angeles over the past two years. She has managed to maintain the structure and discipline to wake up early to train, work long hours as a tax manager at a global company, and then come home to parent two young daughters. While her life and work is very demanding and time consuming, Joann has also found the time to travel around the world for business and vacations and always packs her BJJ gi in her luggage. We had a chance to ask Joann about how she balances her training with career and family, her most rewarding parts of BJJ training, BJJ Globetrotting, and getting her young daughters involved in training Jiu Jitsu as well.

You lead a very busy life between working as a Tax Manager and being a parent to two kids. How do you fit training into your busy schedule?  

It is really important for me to be consistent to form habits. I make it a priority to train on Mondays and Wednesdays no matter where I am.  If I am lucky enough to find a morning class somewhere, that is the class I visit because my energy level is better at that time. When I was injured, I would come to class to watch to maintain my internal clock. It is really easy to fall out of habit and the effort to maintain habit is far less work than to overcome the inertia of not training for a long time.

When you have children, there are trade offs and you have to figure out what is important to you. For a long time, my life was dedicated to my children and I did not exercise or do any form of physical activity because I felt like I did not have time. When my eldest daughter was 5, I wanted to enroll her in Jiu Jitsu but she told me why should she do something that I was not doing. My daughters are very much, I will do as you do not I will do as you say. So I realized that it was important for my daughters to have a healthy momma as a role model and I enrolled in Jiu Jitsu.  About 7 months later, my daughters enrolled as well. I lose about an hour of time with them each morning but in exchange they get a happy healthy momma. I am lucky that I have a family support system that helps with my daughters in the morning so I can train.

What are the biggest benefits you have gained through training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at 5 Star Martial Arts?

The Jiu Jitsu community has been the biggest benefit.  I love my jiu jitsu brothers who train with me and push me to be better. When I travel, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community has always welcomed me to their academies and shared their knowledge with me.  I have made some great friends in my travels and I love catching up with them whenever they come to Los Angeles to visit or compete.

Stress management is the second biggest benefit that I have gained from training on a consistent basis.  The body to body contact that happens during grappling has helped me feel grounded and centered. I think being put in chokes has help put some perspective on life. For me, life is short, I do the best I can and focus on the important parts and the rest is just noise that I can let out of my body when I am grappling. Before BJJ, I saw my therapist one a week and now I go once a month because I have more tools to process stress.

5 Star Martial Arts Renzo Gracie Los Angeles BJJ Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Joann with her BJJ Brothers taking a seminar together at 5 Star Martial Arts / Renzo Gracie Los Angeles with John Danaher.


You also train when you travel for work and vacations. What are your best tips for other 5 Star Members when they visit other academies?

I started training at academies in other cities early in my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey.  The first thing I did was speak with my coach about it. I am a white belt, so I wanted to make sure that I was a safe partner and I was not doing anything to injure others or me while rolling.  

When I travel, I try to find a Renzo Gracie affiliate that is within 15 minutes from where I am staying.  If there are no Renzo Gracie affiliates, I ask our coaches, other classmates or travel Jiu Jitsu friends for recommendations. Once I choose an academy, I will google the academy to see class schedules and location.  About a week before I travel, I will call the academy to confirm class schedule, ask about academy rules such as gi color, mat fee and shower facilities. I like to travel light so I pack a superlite white gi and a hemp bath towel that dries fast.  I try to carry a small spray bottle containing tea tree oil and water to keep my gi fresh.

When I train at other academies, I try to get to class 20 minutes early, so I can sign waivers, pay mat fee and stretch with the other students. I try to observe the other student during warm up and drills. I am a very small person, so if I notice a student who is particularly spazzy or using all strength during drills, I try to avoid them during rolls because I want to be careful about getting injured while traveling.  During rolls, I generally let the students of the academy approach me, since I do not know the academy culture. I have always found a partner if I wanted one. Sometimes, the partner is much bigger and we spend the time drilling instead of rolling. I have had good experiences at all the academies I have visited.  

What has been your best, most memorable experience from  training BJJ?

My most memorable experience training BJJ was when I trained with Kurt Osiander for the first time. It was the first time I trained outside of our gym.  His 7am class huge and the warm ups are intense. While we were drilling, he kept saying… “F**kette, what are you doing?” and I would shrug and try again.  He would come over and help me drill. Eventually, a brown belt switched with my partner and drilled with me. Kurt made it a point to roll with me before I left.  His academy made me feel very welcome even with the language. LOL. I make it a point to visit his class every time I am in San Francisco.

Both of your daughters also train in our kids program. What has been the best part of training BJJ as a family?

The best part of training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a family is that they understand what I am doing when I leave them on Monday and Wednesday mornings before breakfast and they do not feel left out.  My daughters and I love our Jiu Jitsu family and are so lucky to have found a great community.

I am very proud of them for training.  They choose to train and get very excited when they execute a move.  Last week, I got to see them successfully complete sasaes and see their enthusiasm.  I look forward to their progression.

Kids Martial Arts 5 Star Martial Arts Renzo Gracie Los Angeles

Joann’s two daughters posing for a picture after 5 Star Martial Arts’ Kids BJJ Class.


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