After a 30-year layoff from martial arts compertition, Chimene Montivero-Cole took silver at the NAGA World Grappling Championships.
The last time Chimene Montivero-Cole wore a martial arts uniform as a competitor was 30 years ago when she was captain of the USA National Karate Team. Fast forward to 2022, at the seasoned age of 47, Montivero-Cole was back in uniform and on the tatami competing at the NAGA World Grappling Championships.
Montivero-Cole started her martial arts training around the age of 12. “I remember Chimene coming to the dojo, because we were training her younger sister Elodie at the time,” said Patricia Booth-O’Neill, who founded and was the chief instructor of the Atlantic Karate Academy in Long Branch. “She was a competitive gymnast who suffered a back injury and so took up karate. Both she and her sister were amazing athletes.”
In 2015, Montivero-Cole was inducted into the USA National Karate Hall of Fame for her outstanding competitive career on both the junior and adult national teams. “Chimene achieved the rank of third degree black belt in Shotokan karate, and competed in four categories. She did kumite (fighting), kata (forms), kobudo (weapons forms) and team kata,” said Walter O’Neill, Jr., one of her coaches on Team USA and instructors at the AKA. “In 1991, Chimene was captain of the USA National Junior Team competing at the Mikula’s Karate Cup in Hungry. She took three gold medals. In 1992, she was captain of the adult USA Team competing at the Fukuoka World Women’s Championships in Japan and lead Team USA to their highest finish of fifth place.” At the 2022 USA Karate Hall of Fame, Montivero-Cole was awarded the USA Olympic Karate Pioneer Award.
Montivero-Cole graduated from Long Branch High School in 1992 and attended Ithaca College where she received a Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy in 1999. She married, Jeff Cole, who was a SWAT officer for the City of Ithaca.
Four years ago, Montivero-Cole had the itch to get back into the martial arts. However, this time she chose jujitsu, which is a combat art involving holds, throws, where you attempt to subdue your opponent. This art form was designed and developed so a smaller, weaker person could defend themselves against a much larger and stronger opponent. Unlike karate where most of the action takes place with the competitors standing, jujitsu has strong emphasis on ground fighting.
Corazon Martial Arts is her new dojo where brothers Joshua and Zechariah Lange are the chief instructors. They specialize in Brazilian, which focuses on the skill of taking an opponent to the ground and gaining control with submissive holds. “I was attracted to BJJ because I felt like I had proficiency and experience in long range striking arts, but it has been really stimulating and natural to add grappling to the repertoire,” said Montivero-Cole. “With lots of hugging with submissions!”
April 23, the NAGA World Grappling Championships were held in Morristown, New Jersey. Montivero-Cole, her instructors and fellow dojo members traveled from Ithaca to compete. “I am really nervous, it has been 30 years since I competed in the martial arts,” Montivero-Cole said before the start of competition.
The tournament was broken down by age, weight and skill levels. There was no woman in the 30-40, or 40-50 division. Montivero-Cole had to compete with the 18-year old women and had to go up a weight class. “I love competition, so it does not matter to me who I go against. I train every day with Joshua and Zechariah, they are bigger and stronger than I am and so talented, so this will be fun.”
NAGA rules have five-minute running time and you either win by accumulating the most points or getting a submission hold. In the semifinals of the bantam weight (130-139.9 pounds, 10 pounds more than Montivero-Cole weighs) she beat Tiffany Dritschel 5-0 and advanced to the finals. “I can’t believe that girl was just 18 years old, she was tough,” said Montivero-Cole after the win.
In the finals, Montivero-Cole faced Brianna Holcomb of USA Team Llyod Irvin’s Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Maryland. It was an exciting match, with both woman taking control and losing control. However, Holcomb was able to get control of Montivero-Cole’s right arm getting a win by submission. “I didn’t want to try and power out of the hold and risk injuries. She had me,” said Montivero-Cole.
After a 30-year layoff, Montivero-Cole is back and has the itch to keep competing. She will be back in New Jersey in early August, when the next grappling tournament will be held in Wildwood.
“Chimene asked if I would go and watch her compete for the first time in 30 years. My wife and I were fortunate to coach her in Japan back in 1992, and now to see her go at it again was an honor,” said Walter O’Neill. “I was truly impressed with her instructors and fellow dojo (school) members. Chimene was an elite karate athlete and to see her now bringing that same focus and work ethic into jujitsu, she will be a force to deal with.”
Click on the photo for the caption.
Chimene Montivero-Cole with one of her first karate instructors, Walter J. O’Neill, Jr., who went to support her at the 2022 NAGA World Grappling Championships.
Chimene Montivero back in 1992 when she was captain of the USA National Karate Team heading to Japan for the womens world championships.
Joshua Lange, chief instructor at Corazon Martial Arts, gives Chimene Montivero-Cole (on top) directions during her semifinal match.
On top and attempting a choke hold is Chimene Montivero-Cole during the finals of the NAGA World Grappling Championships.
Gaining control in the top position during the fianls was Chimene Montivero-Cole of the womans bantam weight division.