The Healing Power of Jiu-Jitsu - Kelley PerottiJun 10, 2019 06:59PM ● By Kristy McLean
The Healing Power of Jiu-Jitsu
By Kristy McLean
When you meet Kelley Perotti, with her beaming smile and welcoming presence, you feel like you’ve known her forever. She has a way a hanging on your every word and making you feel like you’re the most important person in the room. But don’t let that fool you, this 5th degree black belt kicks some serious ass. In fact, she is a 2 time IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Masters Worlds Champion and intends to compete for her 3rd world title this August 2019. While many other athletic champions must focus solely on their own personal development to advance in their sport, Kelley directs all of her energy outward, sharing her passion, pouring her heart into empowering others through her Conviction Martial Arts & Fitness - Reno, NV studio in Reno, Nevada.
Kelley must be doing something right because she’s attracted the most qualified martial arts staff in the Reno-Tahoe area. With 6 black belt instructors on her team, and positive energy you can feel the second you walk in the door, it’s no wonder Conviction Martial Arts & Fitness has nothing but 5 star reviews online.
“Kelley Perotti is in a class all her own. She has a quality of teaching, passion, and authentic kindness that only a few people truly possess. Through CMA’s ever evolving programs including everything from fitness classes and kids camps to world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instruction, my entire family is becoming stronger and more confident.” – Garrett M.
Martial Arts studios can be overwhelming and intimidating. It seems that being female owned makes Conviction Martial Arts & Fitness more welcoming. One might think Kelley would attract more female clientele but quite the contrary. The fact that the Light Featherweight (141 lb) can hold her own sparring with a 200 pound man alleviates any potential gender issues. “There’s no room for ego at CMA,” Kelley says, “the men that are here really want to learn.”
Kelley first tried martial arts with a friend in 1996 and noticed an instant improvement in her fitness and body awareness. She went on to try Jiu-Jitsu which she hated for about 6 months but her competitive nature prevented her from giving up and before she knew it she had found a new passion. Martial Arts is a pretty intimate sport and it wasn’t long before Kelley and her instructor fell in love and got married. They began working together and with Kelley’s help, the gym grew from 147 members to over 700!
However, this isn’t the fairy tale love story you may be hoping for. Over time, Kelley found that she had less and less of a voice in the relationship. To make matters worse, she found that her husband was having an affair with a mutual friend. Kelley was devastated. She had been raised in a loving home and no one in her extended family had ever been divorced. She was emotionally unprepared for the betrayal and struggled to regain her self-confidence.
Kelley was having a hard time finding peace living in the same town as her ex-husband so when she was invited to train in Albuquerque with Greg Jackson on an elite Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) team, she jumped at the opportunity and moved to New Mexico. She was honored to train with the likes of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Holly Holm – the girl who knocked out Rhonda Rousy in a highly publicized fight. Kelley trained hard and her teammates became cherished lifelong friends. She fought two MMA fights – winning the first and losing the second. After 9 months, Kelley realized that her true passion was Jiu-Jitsu and she missed her life in Reno. Aside from her broken marriage, she had fond memories of managing the martial arts studio and sharing her love of the sport with others. She moved to California for a while to spend some time with family and in 2012 she put the past behind her and moved back to Reno. She got a job at Cami Craig Fitness and patiently began putting money away. Meanwhile, her dream of owning her own gym grew bigger. Thanks to the support of some dear friends, Kelley realized her dream and Conviction Martial Arts & Fitness (CMA) opened its doors in 2013. She has been changing lives ever since.
Kelley credits Jiu-Jitsu for helping her heal and saving her from slipping into the darkness of depression. “Jiu-Jitsu was the one thing I could do to escape the day and my heavy emotions. When you step on the mat, you have to be present and let everything else go.”
Kelley did find love again on the mat but this time it is with someone who lifts her up and makes her feel safe, secure, and loved. In 2017, Kelley and Kenny Perotti tied the knot and she now has two wonderful step daughters, Madison and Morgan. One of the things Kelley is most proud of is helping her step daughter, Madi, get her black belt. It was difficult to be both a stepmom and an instructor to a pre-teen but they never gave up, and to see Madi achieve something that she never thought she could do is so rewarding.
Kelley learned some valuable life lessons through these experiences:
· You can’t always be a “yes” girl. You have to say no, assert yourself, and stand up for what you believe is right.
· Forgiveness is the key to moving on when you’ve been hurt. Holding on to resentment and pain is like drinking poison and thinking the other person is going to die from it. Let it go and move on.
· Keep your faith and trust that God has a plan. “When I was in the middle of my struggle, I used to hate when people would say ‘everything happens for a reason.’ I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, I kept my faith and now that I’ve come full circle I can see that everything does, in fact, happen for a reason.”
· Reno is amazing and so supportive of local business.
In Kelley’s spare time, she volunteers with an organization called Think Kindness, led by Brian Williams. She goes to elementary schools and speaks to the kids about how kindness can change someone’s day, and the course of their lives. When asked what’s next on Kelley’s list of hopes and dreams, she responds:
“I wish every female would learn self-defense. The world can be very unsafe and attackers don’t discriminate. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it won’t happen to you and learn how to defend yourself.”
And, there you have it, in true Kelley Perotti form, her biggest wish is for the well-being of others. Thank you Kelley for your commitment to changing lives and for being living proof that kindness always wins.