Masuda determined to regain world title
- Joaquin M. Henson () - October 24, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines –  Maybelline Masuda vowed yesterday to go all out to regain her lightfeatherweight title at the World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships at the California State University Pyramid in Long Beach in June next year.

“I’ll be back,” said the 21-year-old La Salle honors graduate in psychology. “I was the first Filipino to win a world title in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2009 but I lost in my second match last year. I’ve been working in a full-time job since the last World Championships but I continue to train. By January, I’ll start hard training for the next tournament. I want to regain my title.”

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, developed by the fabled Gracie family of Brazil, is gaining more and more adherents in the Philippines. It is the acclaimed discipline in mixed martial arts competitions such as the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) and the local Universal Reality Combat Championships (URCC).

Two years ago, Masuda joined three other Filipino practitioners – URCC founder Alvin Aguilar, Ralph Go and Carlo Peña – at the World Championships in Long Beach. The 5-2 fighter, whose father Douglas is an American of Japanese descent and mother Victoria Constantino is Filpina, swept her three matches to capture the world title in the 118-pound white belt adult female division.

Eleven entries were in Masuda’s weight category. She trounced Brazil’s Claudia Lima, 8-0, in her first match then downed Guam’s Aileen Wong, 14-0, to set up a finals showdown against USA’s Maricella Salinas. Nobody scored in the finals but Masuda clinched the gold medal with two advantage points compared to one by Salinas.

“It’s a prestigious event and the most attended International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation sanctioned tournament in the world,” said Masuda. “People from all over come to gather and compete for a place in the World Championships. Winning in the tournament is considered to be one of the greatest achievements ever by a Brazllian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.”

Last year, Masuda returned to Long Beach to defend her crown but after winning her first match via a submission with an arm bar, she lost to eventual champion Tammi Musumeci of the US in the blue belt category. Another Filipino, Eros Baluyot, won the world title in the white belt adult male 126-pound division. Other Filipinos who competed in the tournament were blackbelter Aguilar, brownbelter Go, purplebelter Peña, brownbelter Fritz Rodriguez, brownbelter Pichon Garcia and bluebelter Andrew Laxa.

Masuda said if there’s an Olympic sport for her to join, it would be wrestling. “I was invited to train with the national judo team but I really prefer Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu although I could try wrestling if I’m asked to choose an Olympic sport,” she said. “I realize Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu isn’t a sport in the Olympics or the Asian Games or the Southeast Asian Games. Maybe, someday, in the near future, Jiu-Jitsu will be recognized as an Olympic event.”

Masuda was introduced to ground fighting when she was 15 with Elijah Batulan teaching her the finer points of Yaw-Yan or “Sayaw Ng Kamatayan,” a Filipino martial art. She spent weekends learning the grappling moves for eight months then joined a Yaw-Yan Buhawi tournament and won the gold medal.

“When I was 18 in college, my friend Joshua Pacheco dragged me to a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class because he knew of my background in Yaw-Yan,” she said. “The class was headed by Pichon, Allan Co and Norman Go. They were members and instructors of team Detfac led by Alvin. Later, I trained every day for six months under Master Alvin whom I owe all my basic knowledge and fundamentals to. I went on to train with Leticia Ribeiro, a Brazilian third degree blackbelter and four-time world champion, in San Diego before competing in the World Championships last year.”

Masuda was born in Calamba but her mother’s home province is Quezon. Her father is a retired lawyer from California and is an Elvis Tribute Artist, known as the Elvis of Japan. She holds a Philippine passport. Her parents live in Makati while she stays in Alabang close to her workplace.

“I literally pour my heart out in everything I love to do,” said Masuda who received the prestigious La Sallian Achievement Award last year. “I love Jiu-Jitsu and my love for it has led me to endure the pains of training hard, losing and fighting to win. It takes lots of hard work and dedication. All of us have the potential to be great. It’s all a matter of knowing and accepting what we can be. I believe in my strengths. I believe in myself and know what I am capable of and this is what inspires me to keep on going. Regardless of what people think about what I do, as long as I’m happy, nothing can get in my way to becoming the best that I can be.”

Winning the world title has opened doors for Masuda and the one thing she cherished was the recognition from her school.

“The championship made so many of my dreams come true,” she said. “I always wanted to be featured in our school paper, the La Sallian, and it happened in an article on the top right corner of the sports section entitled ‘Maybelline Masuda.’ My achievement was also featured in the La Salle official magazine. Beyond all this, the moment I stepped into La Salle, I had always dreamed of attending and being part of the La Sallian Excellence Awards Night. So when I was sent a last minute invitation to receive a medal recognizing my world championship, it was a dream come true. It’s amazing what Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has done for me and I’m sure what it will do for me in the future.”

Another world title is what is in Masuda’s sights at the moment.

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