Jessa Khan: Jiu-Jitsu Legacy
Jessa Khan is a 19-year-old black belt taking the jiu-jitsu world by storm. With several medals at the purple and brown belt level, Khan made her black belt debut in 2021. Khan is one of the top-ranked competitors at the strawweight division (115 lbs) currently training under Gui Mendes at Art of Jiu-Jitsu in Costa Mesa, California
Virus recently caught up with Khan to discuss her love of BJJ, her training routine, and the legacy she wants to leave behind in the sport.
At just 19-years-old, Jessa Khan is focused on making history on the mats.
“I want to be remembered as a legend in the sport,” said Khan, who is the first black belt produced from Art of Jiu Jitsu’s kid’s program.
Khan remembers how she immediately fell in love with BJJ. After participating as a child in ballet, tee-ball, and soccer, she began training on the mats in January of 2010 while still living in Hawaii.
Khan says she was engaged not only by the physical challenges of BJJ, but the social aspects as well, with her teammates encouraging her to compete in tournaments.
“I wouldn’t be the same person I am today without jiu-jitsu”
Khan recalls being unsuccessful at tournaments when she first began competing, losing her earliest competitions. It was after those setbacks when she realized the commitment and dedication required to succeed on the mats and decided to make training a priority.
From there, her improvement skyrocketed. Her success at tournaments snowballed into more motivation to work harder and pursue her passion on the mats.
Today, Khan divides her time between everyday training and ramping up the intensity when preparing for competitions. When she’s not in tourney-mode, she focuses on perfecting new techniques and sets mental challenges like trying to get as many submissions in a three-minute round.
“Most people crack under pressure, but I love it”
Upcoming competitions add extra motivation in her training as she focuses on winning every round. She finds purpose and calm in visualizing her future goals.
“If you want to be the best, you need to be pushing yourself everyday in training and winning these competitions,” says Khan.
As for nutrition, she prepares with a steady diet of chicken, rice, and salad.
Khan cites Gui and Rafa Mendes as her mentors. She finds inspiration in not only what the brothers have accomplished, but at the young age of their achievements (Rafa became a world champion at 20-years-old; Gui was 21-years-old when he won a world championship).
“I want to be remembered as a legend in the sport”
Khan fully embraces the pressure that comes with her accomplishments at such a young age, welcoming the pressure of expectations.
“Most people crack under pressure, but I love it. It makes me even more motivated to perform better and become even more successful,” adds Khan.
Her success has drawn extra attention towards her social media platforms, with Khan especially active on Instagram. Her large following has added a business component to her career. In looking for partners to support her BJJ journey, Khan focuses on how she and a brand can help each other grow their online presence.
“The thing I like most about Virus is how comfortable the gear is”
Khan also adds that she keeps her public profiles focused on positivity and inspiring future athletes.
“I try to use my social media as a positive platform, so people feel inspired to chase after their dreams and become the best version of themselves,” she says.
Khan herself is an example of the positive benefit that training BJJ can have in a person’s life. She cites confidence and self-independence as the two biggest benefits she’s developed through her years on the mats. Her self-belief and confidence are two important attributes when it comes to her performing at her best during competitions.
That confidence has also translated in her knowing her value and never settling for anything less.
“If you want to be the best, you need to be pushing yourself everyday in training and winning these competitions”
Even at a young age, Khan thinks about the legacy that she wants to leave behind. If she could give her younger self any advice, it would be to always keep pushing forward no matter the circumstance.
“Don’t think that because you won against a certain person or a competition, that it’s time to take a break or rest. No! You need to keep doing whatever it was that got you to that victory,” says Khan.
And as much as jiu-jitsu is an individual competition, Khan still wants to make an impact on the larger community. Her goals are to leave behind a legacy of equality in the sport, as well as inspiring more females to train jiu-jitsu.
Having already accomplished so much, Khan still has an entire career ahead to leave her impact.