Queens of the Mat made its debut in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Aug. 5. Keri Wittekind, founder of Queens of the Mat, is an active Juijiteiro committed to building a large female presence in the bjj community. Brown belt, Courtnie Korpela lead the seminar with assistance from Keri as well as fellow purple belt, Jessica Sunier and Wisconsin’s first home grown black belt, Aoife Moloney. Keeping with the spirit of Queens of the Mat all the participants donated items for Milwaukee’s domestic abuse relief center, Sojourner Center. In addition to learning new moves there was a raffle made possible by generous donors.
How did you get into bjj?
It was kind of a fluke. I had been training at an MMA for fitness gym. I was joking with my coach at the time and told him I wanted to learn to grapple. There was such a large size difference that he wasn’t sure he could teach me but he finally agreed to try. I ended up loving it so he found me a coach closer to my size. That was in 2012 and I’m now currently a purple belt.
How did you start Queens of the Mat?
Jiu jitsu is often compared to chess. The queen is the most important piece on the chess board. I believe as women we are queens of our own domain. Also, Cincinnati is known as the Queen City so there’s that hometown pride too.
What charities do you partner with and what was the inspiration for doing so?
We have four charities. Spring open mat benefits the Women’s Crisis Center of Northern Kentucky. Summer is the St George’s Food pantry. Fall goes to The Fisher House at the Cincinnati VA, and in December we collect toys for patients at Cincinnati Shriner’s hospital. Bjj can be an expensive hobby to get into and most of us are lucky enough to be able to afford it. Martial arts is about instilling good values and part of that is giving back to the community.
How often and where do you host events?
This weekend was my first time on the road. My open mats have always been at Club MMA in Cincinnati where I train.
This was your first time in Milwaukee, what was your connection to here?
Jess Sunier. I met Jess in May at a women’s BJJ camp in Indianapolis.
What is your overall vision for Queens of the Mat?
That is still a work in progress. I never dreamed Queens of the Mat would be where it is today. Honestly when I first started it I thought my open mat would be one and done. I had no idea what to expect. I know I want to continue my quarterly open mats in Cincinnati. The biggest goal right now is to continue giving women a safe, fun, noncompetitive environment to train together and to continue growing, strengthening and empowering the women in jiu jitsu. I want to help this amazing community come together and continue growing together.
I want to thank Jessica Sunier, Red Schafer MMA, Coach Courtnie and Eva for having me in this weekend, for supporting me. I want to thank Grounders Soap, Just Roll with it BJJ, Moxy MMA and advocate for sponsoring our event. Last but not least I would like to thank all the fabulous women who came to the first Queens of the Mat in Milwaukee! I hope everyone enjoyed themselves and got some good rolls in. And I hope to come back next year!
Kelly Richards is passionate about combat sports. She has trained in Muay Thai kickboxing for over ten years. Recently she has added BJJ to round out her martial arts knowledge. She currently makes her martial arts home at Primal MKE in Milwaukee, WI.