Burbank.–Jocelyn Santos Chang, one of the first women to receive a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, was recognized for her outstanding dedication to the martial arts at the Martial Arts History Museum Honor Awards on Sept. 6 in Burbank.
Chang, a Filipina American who has studied the South American martial art for nearly 20 years, was nominated by Sensei William Christopher Ford, chief instructor of the Kaizen Dojo in Torrance, and received her award from museum president Michael Matsuda and film director Art Camacho.
“Jocelyn Santos Chang is an amazing woman and a wonderful example of what dedication to the martial arts can bring to an individual,” said Ford.
Chang first became interested in the martial arts while she was a student at Cal Poly Pomona. Because she worked full-time during the day, she attended evening classes and was concerned about her safety on campus. She researched several styles of striking arts, including kickboxing, karate and tae kwon do, but felt that they would not be effective for her, because of her petite build and their reliance on strength behind strikes and kicks.
It was not until she was introduced to Braziilian jiu-jitsu that Chang found the art she was looking for.
It was a 1994 birthday gift of a Rape Safe class at Gracie Jiu-Jitsu from her then-fiance Glenn Chang that changed her life. She quickly discovered, after her initial hesitation, that the art’s emphasis on timing and leverage made it perfect for a smaller individual.
After the Rape Safe classes were over, she continued training seriously at the Machado Jiu-Jitsu Academy. Chang received her blue belt from Chris Haueter in 1996 and was then promoted to purple belt by Leka Vieira, the first female world champion, in 2003. When Vieira opened her own academy in Torrance in 2004, Chang followed to continue her training.
Continuing her hard work, Chang earned her brown belt that same year, and in 2005 she received her black belt from Vieira with the assistance of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. With this goal realized, she began to give back to the art, assisting Vieira in teaching children’s and women’s classes.
Chang also competed in a number of tournaments, including the U.S. Pan American Jiu-Jitsu Championships, winning silver and bronze medals in the sport.
In 2007, Chang and her husband took over the Vieira academy, renaming it Let’s Roll Jiu-Jitsu Academy. She continued teaching at the academy until July 2009, when she took a medical leave of absence from teaching to battle breast cancer. In September 2009 she underwent a bilateral mastectomy. Because of her high fitness level, she began to show strong signs of recovery the next day.
Chang credits her many years of training for helping her to develop the physical and mental strength needed to deal with the chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Today, Chang is a cancer survivor and supports events to help find a cure for cancer. She continues teaching and attributes her perseverance and tenacious spirit to healthy living, staying active and to the martial arts.
“I’m feeling blessed by being inducted in the Martial Arts History Museum,” said Chang at the awards ceremony. “Thank you, Michael Matsuda, for putting together an event for all martial artists to be recognized. It was so humbling being surrounded by the talented people you brought together to celebrate and honor.”
The Martial Arts History Museum opened in 1999 and is dedicated to providing an educational, cultural and artistic experience about the martial arts to visitors from around the world. The museum details how the Asian martial arts have become a part of American culture and history and the influence they have had on the media arts.
The museum presents the Honor Awards to “honor and pay tribute to those key individuals that have excelled above and beyond all expectations and have helped perpetuate the martial arts in a positive way.”
For more information about Let’s Roll Jiu-Jitsu, visit www.letsrolljiujitsu.com. To learn more about the Martial Arts History Museum, visit martialartsmuseum.com.