Ten-year-old martial artist Isla Diesmos’ Christmas wish | Inquirer

Ten-year-old martial artist Isla Diesmos’ Christmas wish

Isla Diesmos (right) fighting a larger male opponent during a competition. CONTRIBUTED

One day little Isla Diesmos came home very sad from school.

“Why Isla?” her mother asked.

“Someone pushed me. Then told me to shut up,” Isla said and cried.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Her mom and dad hugged her and promised that everything would be alright. But they were worried because it wasn’t the first time.

But that was a long time ago.

One day, Isla showed a video to her classmates – a jiu jitsu competition in which she was a contestant. Since then, no one has bullied her.


Turning to martial arts

 Born in the Philippines, Isla Sobejana Diesmos, 10, immigrated to Canada with her father, Jeff, a chef, when she was three. Her mother, Kristela, is a teacher in a Montessori school.

“I was an OFW. As dependents, Jeff and Isla could have come along but we decided for them to just stay in the Philippines until such time that we became permanent residents,” Kristela says.


Like any kid, Isla loves watching movies and reads pocket books like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series; she loves Barbies and dollhouses. In school she likes Social Studies, Science, Math, and excels in Arts, according to Kristela.

Isla Sobejana Diesmos. CONTRIBUTED

And like most kids, Isla was not spared from bullying because she looked frail, small and shy.

Kristela and Jeff reported the bullying to her school, but it did not end there.

“Self-defense class is what came in to our mind. After some searching, we stumbled upon Brazillian Jiu Jitsu Fight Club also offering karate, wrestling, jiu jitsu and muay thai,” Kristela relates.

Isla chose jiu jitsu because it is “gentle.” “Ju” is translated as “gentle” in Japanese.

She enrolled at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Fight Club Calgary in April 2015, attending two sessions a week. Today she trains four times a week.

Brazilian jiu jitsu

The principle of Brazilian jiu jitsu focuses on putting the bigger opponent on the ground and applying chokeholds and joint locks.

Jiu jitsu reached Brazil in 1900s when Esai Maeda, the chief of the Japanese Immigration Colony, taught the art to his Brazilian friend Gastao Gracie. Eventually, Helio, one of the Gracies, modified the techniques for his small frame; thus, the birth of Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Isla’s Sensei (Coach) Alex Roque said:  “Don’t let her dainty personality fool you, she’s a terror on the mats!”

The heart of a champion

Isla started competing in October of 2015. Since then until November 2017, Isla has won a total of 25 medals. Seventeen are Gold and the rest are Silver.

“We didn’t really think of her joining competitive sport, we just want our daughter to have an extra-curricular activity. We always ask her if she wants to join. She won Gold in her first competition!” Kristela beams.

Isla getting the Gold during a competition last November. CONTRIBUTED

Kristela and Jeff admit being nervous whenever there is a competition.

“We are proud of her, but I also feel sad for the other person. I think they cry not because they got hurt. They put so much hard work and dedication before and after competition,” Kristela says.

Isla has her way of being a champion not only in competitions, but also in her opponents’ hearts. After every fight, she always reaches out to her competitor and hugs him/her. She does not leave them until they have settled down.

“She also have the habit of inviting her opponents to share the #1 podium with her. She knows they deserve to be there too,” Kristela notes.

Isla has won several world championships, including Kids World International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Championship in 2016 and Sport Jiu-Jitsu World Championship in 2017. In November 2017, she won Gold for Jiu Jitsu World League Championship held in Las Vegas. She has also competed in Hawaii. These events were organized by World Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation, Hawaii Triple Crown of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and North American Grappling Association to name some.

Lack of support

Despite her success, Isla does not get any support from her school. Her family has shouldered all the expenses. Sometimes, Kristela and Jeff could not accompany her.

Kristela admits that their combined income is just enough for everyday expenses, and Isla understands it.

There is no cash prize for the winners. Only famous jiu jitsu athletes are sponsored by companies. But to become famous, an athlete must compete regularly for exposure and to gain attention.

Building confidence, discipline

Isla’s personality has changed not only in her martial arts class, but also at home and in her school.

“We don’t have to tell her to get herself ready before a class; she also prepares what she needs to bring in the gym. She does her homework on her own, reviews for exam and prepares her clothes for the next day,” Kristela shares.

Isla says that she enrolled in martial arts to protect herself when needed.

To avoid bullying, Kristela believes that equipping a child with skills that will make them feel strong to the point that the bully’s opinion does not matter anymore.

Dad Jeff, Isla, Mom Kristela and baby brother. CONTRIBUTED

Yet, Isla does not hold grudges against her bullies.

“I wish they will feel loved and important so they don’t have to bother other people just to get attention.”

Dreaming big

“I want to be an accountant. I will have a club so I can teach children how to defend themselves,” Isla says.

Isla sees herself joining the Sports Hall of Fame.

Jiu jitsu is not yet a part of Olympic sports, but judo is. Isla is also training for judo and will focus on this in high school to be able to qualify for university scholarships.

The Diesmos have no other relatives in Canada to help them realize Isla’s dream, which is to join  the Pan Kids IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu Championship, which is the most prestigious jiu jitsu competition on February 18, 2018 and the Philippine Brazilian Jiu Jitsu International Gi and No Gi, Kids and Masters 2018 Philippine Novice Championships at SM Mall of Asia on March 25.

Isla wishes that one day she could have her big family in the Philippines to cheer for her on the mat, just like what she sees from competitors.

As she looks up to the Christmas tree in their living room, Isla whispers a prayer, hoping that her wish will reach the people’s hearts.

As she goes on to her chosen path, she leaves us a message: “Never give up, no matter how hard it may be.”

Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
TAGS: Hawaii, mall, martial arts
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.