Gracie Barra Ambassador Mina Burnside

By Danny O’Donnell

“After my very first class I knew Jiu Jitsu was what I was put on this earth to do. I had no idea how to do it, but I was so excited to learn and soak up every possible detail I could. I had found my passion.” Gracie Barra Ambassador Mina Burnside’s first class was at Gracie Barra in Franklin, Tennessee. The academy offered a free class for teens on Friday that Mina decided to try after seeing the sign for the gym. “I started BJJ when I was 17 years old. At the time, I was very much into biking and I was biking around my hometown, Franklin TN, when I kept seeing the Gracie Barra Franklin gym on my way home from my outings. Ever since I saw The Matrix and James Bond as a kid, I had always wanted to get into a martial art. I had no idea that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu would be the one for me. I didn’t even know what it was until I went on YouTube that night.”

The Gracie Barra association has over 300 schools worldwide, one of which was only two and a half miles from Mina’s house. “They were the only school that offered classes on Fridays for free. Once I walked in and met the coaches, though, I knew that would be the place for me to train. I’ve loved Gracie Barra from day one. What I love most is the brotherhood and the philosophy of “Jiu Jitsu for Everyone.” Jiu Jitsu can often appear intimidating to the untrained eye. The “Jiu Jitsu for Everyone” philosophy embodies the belief that you can better your life through Jiu Jitsu, whether your goal is to be a world champion or to gain confidence through the acquisition of self defense skills. This philosophy was appealing to Mina who was fighting her own demons prior to walking through the doors of GB. “At the time I was battling depression and an eating disorder. Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu helped me by showing me that you can have family that you may not be related to by blood and it made me feel like I had a place I could go to when times got tough. I loved Jiu Jitsu so much and I realized that I wasn’t able to train if I didn’t fuel my body properly. Slowly, I started to get stronger physically and, more importantly, mentally. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Gracie Barra!”

As time went on and Mina gained more and more confidence, she wanted to take her Jiu Jitsu to another level. The Gracie Barra Ambassadors program provided the tools to train and compete at a higher level. “I am one of the first generation of the Gracie Barra Arizona Ambassadors team and also the only adult female. It is my job, along with the other ambassadors, to represent Gracie Barra on and off the mats. To me, that means more than just competing under the Red Shield. To me, it means trying every day to be a better athlete, a better person, and a harder worker than the day before. I love the ambassadors’ program because it motivates me to train harder than I ever imagined I could! It helps athletes, some as young as 12 or 13, get ready for big tournaments and gives them the resources they need to be successful. For the adults, there are 5-6 competition-training sessions per week they can attend along with any other classes at their home school. Those are just some of the perks offered for the ambassadors, but the biggest benefit I have seen with the ambassadors’ program is how it has helped unite everyone in Gracie Barra Arizona and show that Jiu Jitsu really is for everyone.”

While the Ambassador’s program is well established here in Arizona and across the globe, it is set to expand each year to include more athletes and more benefits for the Gracie Barra organization as a whole. “In five years, I see the ambassadors’ program being the biggest sponsorship any team will ever have to offer. I hope to see upwards of 20-30 athletes be chosen to represent Gracie Barra Arizona alone, and many more throughout the country and world.” For more information on the Gracie Barra Ambassadors program please visit