Meet the Texas Teen that Has Big Dreams of Becoming a World Champion
By Shama Ko, Contributing Writer
There is no doubt that Danielle Alvarez, 18, is on the fast track to success in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu scene. She attributes this success to hard work and the support of her family. Especially the support and help from her dad, Danny Alvarez, who also acts as her coach and instructor.
Earlier this month, Alvarez traveled to Abu Dhabi to represent the USA team at the Abu Dhabi World Pro tournament. After winning first place last year in San Diego and San Antonio, Alvarez earned an all-expense paid trip to the Abu Dhabi World Pro and spot on the USA Team. Alvarez said that the experience was a dream come true.
Although she says things didn’t go as planned in Abu Dhabi, Alvarez says she learned some very valuable lessons and is looking forward to the future.
Alvarez describes herself as your typical teenager that likes to be involved with school organizations like student council, planning senior prom, hanging out with friends, going to concerts and spending time with her family. Alvarez chatted with me about her adventures in Abu Dhabi, her other interests as a typical Texas teenager and her life as a rising jiu-jitsu star.
A few years ago you began training for defense purposes and later got in to competition because of your dad. What was it about BJJ that finally hooked you in your later teens? What motivates you to keep up with BJJ?
Once I began competing often and become successful in tournaments, I fell in love with jiu-jitsu. I have always been an athlete and a competitor, but nothing compares to the feeling of winning a jiu-jitsu tournament after you’ve worked so hard.
Not many other girls my age do jiu-jitsu or even know what it is. I love that I am doing something not many other people my age can say they have done.
My dad is definitely my biggest motivation. He is the one that keeps me mentally strong and pushes me to be the best. Seeing how passionate my dad is about the sport makes me love it even more.
I want to be one of the best female competitors and I work hard every day to achieve those goals.
Has BJJ changed your life and personal goals, social life or relationships with your family? If so, how?
I want to continue the jiu-jitsu lifestyle into my own family in the future and maybe someday have my own academy.
Trying to manage a social life while traveling and competing is very hard. Sometimes I have to choose between the two (friends and jiu-jitsu) and often I have to make necessary sacrifices. I still try to enjoy being a teenager and make plans with my friends when I get the chance.
BJJ has made my relationship with my family stronger than ever. My dad and I are so close and I am very blessed to have such a close bond with him. I think I spend more time with him than anybody else in my life. My mother supports everything we do and she loves traveling with us to watch us compete.
You’ve had much success in competing since you started in 2009. Last year you were voted 2011 female BJJ competitor of the year by TXMMA. What is the secret to your success and how has your family played a role in this success?
Hard work and dedication is the only way!
I train hard six days a week and study many videos of my favorite competitors. It’s definitely not easy having to make sacrifices and trying to manage everything, but worth it in the end.
I would be nowhere without my family. My dad teaches me everything I know and always goes out of his way to help me with whatever I need. Whether it’s tips with weight cutting or improvement on a technique. My dad the reason I get through many of the hardships that come with the sport.
Your father, who is also your instructor, says at first you ‘hated him for it’ and then you later fell in love with BJJ. What are the benefits and challenges of having your father as your instructor?
I am very blessed to be able to ask my dad anything and everything about jiu-jitsu, whenever I’d like. We train together every day and have practically the same game. We are always learning from each other. He knows exactly what I am going to do in tournaments so he can coach me through anything. Hearing his voice out there is always comforting, because I trust and listen to everything he says.
My dad also knows what it’s like to have to cut weight. I love that we can struggle together and push each other through it.
Some nights we stay up late watching videos and breaking down or analyzing a technique.
Since we spend so much time together we have our moments where we get annoyed with one another or have an argument, but it usually will never last long. Jiu-jitsu helps break the ice.
It has brought us closer because we are next to each other every step of the way, helping each other each our goals and experiencing things we never imagined.
We cherish the times we spend together.
You recently traveled to Abu Dhabi on an all-expense paid trip to represent team USA. What was it like representing the USA team in Abu Dhabi? What was your favorite part?
The experience was unbelievable. I feel very blessed and grateful for the opportunity.
It sort of felt like a jiu-jitsu camp, which was like a wish come true for me. I got the honor of rooming with some of the female competitors from Team Lloyd Irvin. I had an awesome time making new friends. I also got to miss an entire week of school to train with the best athletes in jiu-jitsu from around the world.
The best part was having the privilege of being on a mat in the training room at the same time with all of the other competitors and some of my jiu-jitsu idols like Mackenzie Dern, Beatriz Mesquita, Kyra Gracie, Rodolfo Vieira, Angelica Galvao, Roberto Satoshi, Nyjah Easton, Jt Torres and Michelle Nicolini.
The tournament was unlike any other that I’ve experience before. It is so awesome to see how much jiu-jitsu is growing.
As I looked around at the tournament, I noticed that I was one of the few competitors from the USA. I felt so grateful just to be there and be a part of the competition.
What lessons did you walk away with from this experience?
Well from the competition, I definitely recognized some mistakes in my game. After the tough loss I couldn’t wait to just get back home and fix my mistakes. This has made me a smarter and stronger competitor already.
I had the opportunity to do a private lesson with Mackenzie Dern while I was there and I learned so much from her, along with all the others I was able to train with.
You graduate from high school in a month. What are your plans after high school and what’s in store next for your BJJ career?
I have been struggling with trying to make a decision about my path after high school. I don’t want to miss out on training. However, I’ve decided to take up on the college experience and I plan to attend Texas State University in San Marcos in the fall. Some way or another I will make sure to keep training.
I’ll be competing at the Dallas Open in a few weeks and then the big show, the Worlds in June. This summer I plan to travel to Brazil again for the Rio Open. I am very excited!
For more information about Danielle Alvarez, visit www.alvarezbjj.com
About the Author
Shama Ko has actively been a part of and contributed to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community in Texas for close to a decade. She is a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu purple belt at Gracie Humaitá Austin, a champion competitor, a photographer/owner of Mean Streak Photography, a community/event organizer for Girls in Gis and Austin Women’s Open Mat, and most recently a contributing writer to TXMMA. Follow Shama’s endeavors online through any of the links above or through any of these sites: Twitter, Facebook, The Adventures of Shama Ko, ShamaKo.com, and SKOphoto.com.