Griego preps for world competition


It’s something anyone can do. As you watch Tammy Griego on the mat, grappling with a man nearly twice her size and literally ending up on top, you think maybe she’s right.

After being involved in Brazilian jiu jitsu for seven years, and accomplishing more in that time than many even dream of, Griego is preparing to compete in the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championship this fall.

Julia M. Dendinger-News-Bulletin photo: BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU instructor Tammy Griego, bottom, spars with her student, Miles Tafoya, top, of Los Lunas. Griego is training for a worldwide martial arts tournament coming up in October.

The championship is a tournament that focuses on grappling style events, allowing athletes from all different disciplines of martial arts to compete against each other without taking physical strikes.

Jiu jitsu, a martial art that is predominantly grappling, is something that Griego has come to love, to need and crave in her life.

Explaining the fighting style, Griego says anyone familiar with the mixed martial arts fighting style has seen jiu jitsu to some extent.

“If you take out the punching and kicking, you have jiu jitsu to some form,” Griego said.

Griego said jiu jitsu upholds the premise that while most of the advantage of a larger, stronger opponent comes from superior reach and more powerful strikes, those advantages can be mitigated when grappling on the ground.

Brazilian jiu jitsu emphasizes getting an opponent to the ground to use ground-fighting techniques and submission holds involving joint-locks and chokeholds.

Brazilian jiu jitsu training can be used for sport grappling tournaments, either done wearing the traditional uniform called a gi or not wearing the uniform, a style called no-gi, and mixed martial arts competition or self-defense.

Sparring, commonly referred to as “rolling” and live drilling play a major role in training.

In 2006, Griego was looking for something more in her life. She had a good job, but knew there was something else out there for her. She found a jiu jitsu school in Albuquerque, and after working up the courage to walk in the door, began a sport that would transform her physically and spiritually.

“My first time on the mat, I was 285 pounds. And I could do the moves, so . . .” she said. Encouraged, Griego decided if she was going to pursue the sport she was going to commit. She paid for six months of classes up front, then decided she needed more and signed up for another six months.

Since she first hit the mats, Griego has won numerous regional tournaments around the country. She has competed in an average of 10 tournaments a year since 2006, ventured into the world of mixed martial arts, winning her first fight in Las Cruces against a tough fighter from Texas. Griego has also parlayed her love of jiu jitsu into working as a referee at the Southwest Grapplefest.

This fall, Oct. 19 and 20, she gets the chance to compete in the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championship, in Bejing, China, a competition involving professional athletes who have been successful at the highest levels of jiu jitsu, wrestling, judo, sambo, shooto and mixed-martial arts.

This will be Griego’s second time going to the Abu Dhabi world championships. In 2008, Griego placed first in the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation World tournament at the rank of blue belt. She also placed first in no-gi that same year in her weight class.

In 2009, she repeated at the world’s as a purple belt, winning her class and absolute in both gi and no-gi. That same year, she placed second in the qualifier, earning her first trip to Abu Dhabi.

The sport of jiu jitsu is huge in the United Arab Emerites, Griego said.

“Members of the royal family are big fans of the sport,” she said. “It’s gotten so big, they pay to bring in coaches to schools. Kids take jiu jitsu there like kids here take PE.”

The popularity of jiu jitsu inspired Griego to open her own training facility in the village of Bosque Farms earlier this year.

While she loves being able to give back to the community, it has put her at somewhat of a disadvantage. When she was living in Albuquerque, Griego could train five days a week.

“I know when I’m putting in enough work and right now, I’m not,” she said. “The guys in class are just now getting to the point where they can spar with me. They can go for 20 minutes but I need a lot more mat time to build up my endurance. At least a couple of hours.”

To remedy that, Griego is hoping athletes in the community will be willing to spar with her.

“I am blessed with enough students to pay the bills, but it’s hard to get in as much training as I need to be ready,” she said.

Griego said the students in her class give her a hard time about looking for sparring partners.

“They say I should say I can beat up anyone,” she says laughing. “It’s not about beating people up. That’s not what jiu jitsu is about. The idea behind jiu jitsu is to give someone smaller the same advantages as someone larger.”

To welcome sparring partners, her gym at 1080 Bosque Farms Blvd. will be open every Friday evening, with live rolls starting at 7 p.m.

“I’m hoping to find some wrestlers. I know this is a big wrestling community. Almost anyone with athletic ability will be great. I can teach them the moves,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was doing when I got on the mat at almost 300 pounds. Anyone can do this. It changed my life. I have found joy in my days and I get to be a positive resource to my community.”

To talk to Griego about sparring or taking classes, call 990-9396.

-- Email the author at