Sofia Jokl has been competing in Japanese Ju-Jitsu, competing in the Duo-System at European and World level.
The Duo system involves pairs of competitors demonstrating self defence against attacks randomly called by a referee. Speed, realism, control and power are among the qualities judged, and it is known as a spectacular form of ju-Jitsu with technical preparation and athleticism key to success.
Ju-jitsu is a martial art distinct from the similar sounding Brazillian Jui-Jitsu, which is much more based on grappling, while Ju-Jitu uses much more striking with kicks and punches.
Fighting out of Switzerland, Sofia and her partner Tom won the European title in 2015. They went to the World Championships in 2016 and became World Champions, which they defended the following year. Sofia and Tom went on to the World Games, an event for non-Olympic sports, in 2017, where they did not make the podium as hoped.
“The most emotional one was probably our first ‘big title’ in 2015” Sofia explains “but also the two in 2016 and 2017.” These two world titles were all the more impressive given that Sofia was injured for both, with a broken finger in 2016 and a ruptured crucial ligament in 2017.
“Almost everyone thought I was completely out of my mind” she recalls. Perhaps she had a secret advantage in her diet.
Sofia has been vegetarian since age 10 and in 2015 aged 32,
“I am a big animal lover, that was my main motivation to go vegetarian when I was a kid, after watching a documentary about animal transportation and slaughter” she tells Great Vegan Athletes. “For many years I didn’t know about milk and egg production, only a few years ago I became aware of that (and I am very ashamed that it took me so much time!). My transition was slow, over months I just started replacing and trying out. “
Sofia eats a lot of nuts and seeds. “I am nuts for them” she says. “I buy them separately but in huge quantities and mix them for my own personal munch.”
“And apart from that – I’d say lots of veggies, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, quinoa/couscous but I try to eat more local stuff like oats, potatoes, chestnuts, mushrooms, beetroots, flaxseeds.”
Fuel for the fighter
Training 2-3 times per week with her partner is just part of Sofia’s programme, and she is well supported by her diet.
“With my team partner we work on the presentation of our techniques. Apart from that we also teach three trainings a week for teens and adults. We also have a training plan that changes over the season, according to how close we are to a big competition (European or World Championship). We have to train endurance, strength, speed and coordination/balance.
“I like to run and go to yoga/pilates classes, crossfit classes, BJJ classes and off-season I also do outdoor climbing and mountaineering. In general, when the weather is fine, I do all kind of outdoor sports. But the ‘love of my life’ sportswise has always been Ju-Jitsu. I started at the age of 10 with Judo and changed to Ju-Jitsu at the age of about 14 thanks to my best friend at the time – and she is still my best friend! “
With two world titles and one European title it is not surprising that few people question Sofia’s food choices, and it has encouraged curiosity.
“It has never really been an issue. They sometimes ask general questions but leave it to me to decide. They see how well I perform! Some of them are trying out a bit to eat vegan but as far as I know, no one has become vegan.”
After turning 36 in November 2019, Sofia qualifies for the Masters (over 35) category, but plans to continue competing in the Open age group
“Of course I hope I’ll stay fit and healthy for a long time and continue to practise Ju-Jitsu in general. We are not sure yet for how much longer we’ll do competitions we are really oldies in our sport!”
“I also hope to help proving people wrong who think you can’t perform sports on a high level being vegan!!! It’s all about wanting to do it, even when you travel a lot and are away from home. Takes maybe a bit more planning ahead, but hey – it’s for a better world and your health!”