“It’s now or never.”
She had a break from competing, but shocked the world with a jaw-dropping performance just over a year ago. Charlotte von Baumgarten became the lightweight brown belt European champion in 2017, and has been on an all-out gold-collecting rampage through Europe ever since. Meet Charlotte von Baumgarten!
Where did you start jiu jitsu?
Before training jiu jitsu I was training Thaiboxing. I dropped in the grappling class once in a while, because I was interested to fight MMA one day. But the real journey began when I moved to Berlin and started to train with my coach and idol Ulf Ehlert at Budokan Berlin.
You are a veterinarian from Berlin, but you decided to train jiu jitsu full-time in Spain. How did that happen?
When I finished my studies, I worked for about 1.5 years as a veterinarian. But teaching jiu jitsu, competing and working as a vet, all at the same time did not combine so well. I kept on training, but I did not compete for some time.
In this period of time a lot of things happened in my life. To set my thoughts straight, I walked the Camino de Santiago, a 900km walking track.
On my way back home, I made a stop in Madrid for 10 days and got to train at Mathias Ribeiro Academy. I didn’t know the academy before, but I immediately loved the good vibe on the mats, the amazing technical level and the tough sparring sessions.
I felt that this was the kind of training environment that would help to improve my jiu jitsu a lot. When I came back to Germany, I sorted out my situation there, quit my job and left my apartement and I came back to Spain 4 months later to go 100% for jiu jitsu.
“I just want to know how far I can get.”
I think to be able to compete at the highest level, you have to go 100% for it. So when I got my black belt from my coach Ulf Ehlert in March 2017 – the same year I turned 30 years old – it was time to make that decision and I thought: “Let’s do it now or never, let’s go 100% for jiu jitsu.”
Did you always want to become a professional athlete?
Yes, I always wanted to be one! Before jiu jitsu, in Thaiboxing it was the the same – I loved the idea of being a professional fighter. But I never pursued it because I always thought: “Think about the future, you need a job later” and so on. It took me a while to free myself from the expectations others had for my life, and realize what I truly wanted to do.
What do you do in everyday life now? What does your day look like?
Right now I’m training jiu jitsu, usually twice a day. Besides that, I teach adults and kids classes in different gyms. I teach the kids together with my teammate, Mani Tavanaei, who is also a black belt, and my favourite training partner by the way! I am also planning a women’s class soon.
Do you do any training besides jiu jitsu?
Yes, I do strength training. But only since recently. I never did it before – but I really enjoy it. Since I started, I felt a big difference. I feel stronger, and like I can put more pressure. I like feeling so strong, haha.
How do you like it so far in Madrid?
I like it a lot. To be honest, I still struggle with my Spanish, but it’s getting better, haha. And I love that our kids group is growing. I already taught kids classes in Berlin, and I enjoy it a lot. Teaching kids is an awesome and very rewarding job, that comes with a lot of responsibility. I enjoy every minute on the mats with the kids and I am amazed to see the positive impact jiu jitsu has on their lives.
Do you have a lot of girls to train with in Madrid?
Yes, there are a lot of good girls to train with! One of them is Fiorella Segnini, she is from Costa Rica but lives in Madrid now, too. We were opponents in the Europeans 2017, and now we are flatmates haha. Also, there is Carolin Prill, another tough competitor, who just moved from Ireland to Madrid and brought along her tricky spider guard.
And we are going to start with a women’s class in the Mathias Ribeiro Academy soon, through which I hope to unite more and more girls on the mats.
Do you miss Germany?
Yes, I miss it. Especially my friends and and training partners. Jiu jitsu gyms in Berlin have a very good atmosphere to train, because the different gyms are friends with each other and people don’t care too much about the “politics” between the teams.
That’s why we have great open mats. Everybody can go anywhere to train without worries and you will find a large and peaceful community of jiu jitsu lovers that care about fun on the mats and nothing else.
That sounds really good! Why is the atmosphere like that?
Maybe because back in the days of Budokan Berlin, a lot of people started with the same coach, Ulf Ehlert. At that time, he was coach or training partner to many people, until later different teams emerged. Ulf has always been very open minded and never cared about politics, only about jiu jitsu. I am not sure why things are like that in Berlin, but I like to believe it’s his spirit behind it.
Besides that, it was also really hard to give up my kids class. They were my first kids I taught, and they turned into little monsters now! They grew big and they grew good haha.
What is the next competition you will do?
I will probably do the London Grand Slam in March (UAEJJF), to get some ranking points for the Abu Dhabi World Pro. And I always like to compete in the Finnish Open. It’s a really good tournament because it is very well organised. And there are awesome prizes, that are equal for men and women by the way! So if I win there, my plan is to go to the IBJJF World Championship.
How do you see the future? Is working as a veterinarian something you want to do later?
It will always be an option. But for the moment I am working with jiu jitsu only. I thought: “If I don’t do it now, I will regret it for sure.” So I did it.
And until now I’m really happy with my decision. I just want to know how far I can get. For the moment I feel like I’m doing good and I am enjoying what I do. That’s the most important.
Awesome Charlotte, thank you for the interview! We look forward to seeing you fight again!