Kristina Barlaan didn't start her martial arts journey until she was 20 years old. She grew up in a "girls don't do that stuff" family and her mother wouldn't allow Kristina to train. But after an altercation with some guys at a gas station, Kristina realized she needed to know how to defend herself. She used that altercation which really wasn't very serious to convince her mother to let her take Muay Thai classes. Those classes just happened to be in Cesar Gracie's Jiu Jitsu academy in California.
Kristina studied Muay Thai there for a year before stepping on the mats. She tried Nogi first which she said made no sense to her. But on a second occasion, she borrowed a gi top and put on a belt that was lying around the academy. Now experiencing Jiu Jitsu for the first time in a gi Jiu Jitsu started making sense to Kirstina and she left Thai boxing behind for a life on the mats.
Kristina began training with Caio Terra at Cesar's academy and received her Blue Belt from Caio. She then moved to Arizona and began training under The BJJ Mental Coach Gustavo Dantas. Gustavo was always trying to better himself both physically and mentally and was dedicating himself to improving his mental skills and becoming a certified life coach. He often asked Kristina to implement the skills he was learning and developing but she was often reluctant to do so. She was young and as she puts it a "knucklehead", not ready to be coached and feeling that if she admitted she needed help mentally she was weak. After suffering a panic attack and completely breaking down Kristina began working on her mindset with Gustavo and everything began to change. She was no longer afraid of failure, losing, disappointing others, or looking weak, and took her competition career to another level. She became an IBJJF Pan American Champion, IBJJF American National Champion, and IBJJ American National Nogi Champion, and stood on the podium t some of the biggest tournaments in the world. Kristina received both her Purple and Brown Belts from Gustavo before returning to California and receiving her Black Belt from Caio Terra.
Since receiving her Black Belt Kristina has continued her winning ways as an IBJJF European Champion, IBJJF Asian Open Champion, and IBJJF American National Nogi Champion. She is an advocate for women in Jiu Jitsu with her organization INSPIRE, she is an instructor at Pace Gracie Jiu Jitsu in Florida and travels the world hosting Jiu Jitsu seminars.