On Saturday, August 24, 2013, Heejin Lee 이희진 became Korea’s first female BJJ blackbelt. Fenom did a great interview with Heejin Lee and you should check it out!

Heejin Lee, Korea's first female BJJ black belt

Heejin Lee, Korea’s first female BJJ black belt

This Saturday was the first time I’d ever seen black belts get promoted. There were FOUR! It was quite exciting. It was nogi, so there were no belt whippings, but all the John Frankl black belts came and stood in a line, regardless of if they’d trained that day or not. They all shook hands with the new black belts, then afterward everyone went out to eat. This brings the number of John Frankl’s black belt students to twelve!

The video has John Frankl speaking both in Korean and in English. It’s him awarding Heejin her Jiu Jitsu black belt.

Heejin's black belt promotion

3rd degree black belt John Frankl with his first female black belt student, Heejin Lee

When I arrived in Korea, I’d heard rumors of a purple belt woman, but I swore it was a myth until I finally met her. It was exciting when she was promoted to brown belt, and now even more exciting that she’s a black belt! I’ve had the opportunity to train with her several times. Thankfully, John Frankl has teamwide trainings every Saturday, which is a great opportunity for our entire network to meet, roll with new people, and see friends. I’ve rolled with Heejin there a few times, and for a while she taught a women’s only class on the weekends. Unfortunately they petered out, and eventually stopped.


Heejin has since opened her own gym, which is for both men and women. It’s aptly named “Queen of Jiu Jitsu.” I had never been to the opening of a gym before, and it was so exciting to see a woman succeeding here.

It is hard NOT to see her passion. On her gym she has “Roll Eat Sleep Repeat” and that’s her life now. She is involved as a referee in many grappling tournaments here, and she is well respected in the Korean BJJ grappling community.


This video was one of Heejin’s last rolls as a brown belt. She’s rolling with John Frankl, a 3rd degree BJJ black belt. What I love about it – you can see that they both are enjoying themselves, they are having fun, they are interacting in a positive and wonderful way. It’s such a great example of keeping it playful. This team really likes each other, and it is what drew me to it so much. I can’t recommend John’s team enough.

The four newest John Frankl black belts!

The four newest John Frankl black belts!

I’m so excited to have been in Korea during this period of BJJ history. It’s strange to be one of the highest ranked women in Korea at only a 4 stripe blue. I can only imagine what it was like for Heejin over the last 10 years. She has paved the way for all other women training in Korea and sets a marvelous example.

Me and Heejin

Heejin Lee and Jiu Jiu

I don’t generally ask people to do this, but please spread this post around. This is awesome news and it should be shouted from the mountain tops! Korea has their first female jiu jitsu black belt! CONGRATULATIONS, HEEJIN!