Sports | Features

For Obelenyte, self-defense turns into Pro World Championship invite

  • Youjin Jenny Jang / Senior Staff Photographer
    Anti-Bullying Response | First-year Dominyka Obelenyte began learning jiu jitsu to combat her elementary school tormentors.
  • Youjin Jenny Jang / Senior Staff Photographer
    Abu Dhabi-Bound | Obelenyte will be in the United Arab Emirates competing in the Pro World Championship this week.

When Dominyka Obelenyte, CC ’17, started elementary school, she was bullied. In response, her father thought she should learn how to defend herself and introduced her to jiu jitsu.

At this point, it’s safe to say she can defend herself—and much more.

In February, Obelenyte won gold in the Abu Dhabi Pro Trials in Montreal, and this week, she’s headed to the Abu Dhabi Pro World Championships in the United Arab Emirates.

Originally from Lithuania, Obelenyte started Japanese-style jiu jitsu when she moved to Queens as a young child. She discovered the Brazilian style after moving to New Jersey, and has stuck with it ever since.

“When I first started Brazilian jiu jitsu, it was completely different from Japanese-style jiu jitsu, which is like kicking and punching, and I lost interest in that,” Obelenyte said. “Brazilian jiu jitsu was very interesting—the moves were very cool to do because I was a girl, and I was one of the only girls there, and I could beat up boys. I didn’t have to use much strength, I wasn’t the biggest person here, but I could still beat people up.”

As she got better and better, her family, she said, supported her athletic aspirations.  

“My mom actually really liked that I was doing the sport because she really liked the idea of me protecting myself, and my dad’s been traveling with me to every tournament ever since,” Obelenyte said. “He really wanted me to continue with this because, honestly, the sport gave me so much—it gave me so much confidence, so much belief in myself, and it’s really made me the person that I am today.”

At the age of nine, Obelenyte started competing in national tournaments. By the time she was 12, she had placed second in the Juvenile World Jiu Jitsu Championships in California, defeating 16-year-old competitors. 

Obelenyte, now a three-time world champion, has attended the Marcelo Garcia Jiu Jitsu Academy in Chelsea for the past four years. In addition, she travels to New Jersey every Sunday to attend strength and conditioning sessions and train with a close friend who is a jiu jitsu black belt.

Her training schedule hasn’t stopped for college, either. She trains at the academy six days a week.

“I was like, ‘I’ll do it—I’ll find a way to do it’ and it honestly hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would initially be,” Obelenyte said.

In February at the Abu Dhabi Pro Trials, Obelenyte, a brown belt, won gold both in her female heavyweight brown/black belt division and in the absolute division, which encompassed all weight categories, winning her a cash reward and an all-expenses-paid trip to the Pro Cup in Abu Dhabi.

“The sheikh is a big fan of Brazilian jiu jitsu and he organized this televised event in Abu Dhabi—and all the athletes were paid for their hotels, food, transportation, plane tickets,” Obelenyte said. “The travelers are all brought into this one big tournament. It’s basically all the greatest fighters around the world coming together.”

Obelenyte said she is looking forward to seeing old friends and spending the time in the presence of some of the best in the sport.

“Sometimes one of your friends lives in Europe or in Brazil and you really want to see them, and then you finally get together,” Obelenyte said. “Everyone’s there, and everyone’s training together, and it’s just a really fun atmosphere.”

The Pro Cup tournaments are set to take place through this week at the FGB Arena at Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi.

mollie.galchus@columbiaspectator.com | @molliegalchus

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