The last time Chimene Montivero-Cole wore a martial arts uniform as a competitor was 30 years ago when she was captain of the US National Karate Team. Fast forward to 2022, at the experienced age of 47, Montivero-Cole was back in uniform and on the tatami as he competed in the NAGA World Grappling Championships.
Montivero-Cole began her martial arts training around the age of 12. “I remember Chimene came into the dojo because we were training her younger sister, Elodie, at the time,” said Patricia Booth-O’Neill, founder and chief instructor at Atlantic Karate Academy in Long Branch. “She was a competitive gymnast who injured her back and took up karate as a result. Both she and her sister were great athletes.”
Montivero-Cole graduated from Long Branch High School in 1992 and attended Ithaca College, where she received a master’s degree in physical therapy in 1999. She married Jeff Cole, a SWAT officer from the city of Ithaca.
Four years ago, Montivero-Cole had the itch to get back into martial arts. This time, however, she chose Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art that involves holds and throws where you try to subdue your opponent. This art form was designed and developed to allow a smaller, weaker person to defend themselves against a much larger, stronger opponent. Unlike karate, where most of the action takes place while standing, jiu-jitsu places a strong emphasis on ground fighting.
Corazon Martial Arts is their new dojo where brothers Joshua and Zechariah Lange are the main teachers. They specialize in Brazilian, which focuses on the ability to ground an opponent and gain control with submissive holds. “I was drawn to BJJ because I felt like I had knowledge and experience in long range hitting arts, but it was really stimulating and natural to add grappling to the repertoire,” said Montivero-Cole. “With lots of hugs on submissions!”
On April 23rd, the NAGA World Grappling Championships took place in Morristown, New Jersey. Montivero-Cole, their instructors and other dojo members traveled from Ithaca to compete. “I’m really nervous, it’s been 30 years since I’ve competed in martial arts,” Montivero-Cole said before the start of the competition.
The tournament was broken down by age, weight and ability. There was no woman in the 30-40 or 40-50 division. Montivero-Cole had to compete with the 18-year-old women and move up a weight class. “I love competition so I don’t care who I’m up against. I train with Joshua and Zachariah every day, they’re bigger and stronger than me and so talented so it’s going to be fun.”
The NAGA rules run for five minutes and you win by either getting the most points or getting a submission hold. In the semifinals in bantam weight (130-139.9 pounds, 10 pounds heavier than Montivero-Cole), she beat Tiffany Dritschel 5-0 to reach the final. “I can’t believe this girl was only 18 years old, she was tough,” Montivero-Cole said after the win.
In the finals, Montivero-Cole faced Brianna Holcomb of the US team Llyod Irvin’s Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Maryland. It was an exciting match with both women taking control and losing control. However, Holcomb was able to gain control of Montivero-Cole’s right arm and won by submission. “I didn’t want to try to exit the hold and risk injury. She had me,” Montivero-Cole said.
After a 30-year hiatus, Montivero-Cole is back and has the itch to keep competing. She will be back in New Jersey in early August for the next grappling tournament in Wildwood.
“Chimene asked if I was watching her compete for the first time in 30 years. My wife and I were fortunate to coach her in Japan in 1992 and it was an honor to see her back,” said Walter O’Neill. “I was really impressed by their instructors and other dojo (school) members. Chimene was an elite karate athlete and to see her bring that same focus and work ethic to jiu-jitsu now will be a force to contend with.”
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