Leah Letson

Pura Vida Instructor


When did you start training in martial arts, and can you tell me a little about your story?

I grew up in Janesville, WI and at just 5 years old, martial arts became a part of my life. I started with Karate; I earned my 2nd degree black belt at age 11. I then transitioned to Tae Kwon Do and earned my 3rd degree at age 14.

After graduating high school, I moved to Milwaukee to attend UWM and also enlisted in the Wisconsin Air National Guard. Prior to leaving for Air Force Basic Training, I decided to take a cardio kickboxing class through the university to get in shape. It was then that I met Jake and Zak. They invited me to come check out their gym and after a few months I finally went. I immediately fell in love with the puzzle that is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I started training 5 times a week for about 4 months before leaving for basic training. The very first night I got back to Wisconsin I was back in the gym again. After training 6 days a week for a month and a half, I got a call from Jake telling me to pack my bags because I was fighting in less than 24 hours. I ended up winning my very first MMA fight. Ever since then, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I went on to be undefeated in both kickboxing (3-0) and MMA (5-0) as an amateur. I am now a world ranked professional fighter working on getting into the UFC.

What do you teach at Pura Vida BJJ & MMA and tell us about your expertise in it:

I teach kickboxing, Jiu Jitsu, and kid’s Jiu Jitsu. With my karate, tae kwon do and kickboxing background striking has always come very naturally to me. Because of my diverse striking experience, I have a unique blend of styles that helps keep me unpredictable. I love being able to share my knowledge and help others develop their own striking styles.

I think teaching Jiu Jitsu is a great way to help others while also enhancing my own skills. I absolutely love teaching the children’s Jiu Jitsu classes. Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” I find this to be very true. Teaching children not only helps me better understand moves, but also helps me be able to better explain techniques to the adults I teach. It is also extremely rewarding to watch shy, bullied, and/or rebellious kids transform into well-behaved, confident and respectful children. Martial arts changes you for the better no matter what your age. I love that I can help make that positive impact on people’s lives.

Jake "Ender" KlippLeah Letson