Last December, we were among a plethora of websites posting a video of female grappler Courtnie Korpela choking out a male competitor in a tournament. The video has since gone viral, and both Korpela and her opponent, Brandon Han, will be appearing on Tosh.0’s Web Redemption this Tuesday night for what’s been billed as a long-awaited rematch.
Korpela, a school teacher, began her training with Henry Matamoros in 2004 when taking rec courses at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. She was taking a Tae Kwon Do class and wanted to try something different, so she signed up for jiu jitsu along with her roommate and little brother. “Within a week, they both quit and I was the only one that stuck with it,” she said. Korpela currently trains at Red Schafer MMA and 44 Fitness & Martial Arts.
She decided to compete in the tournament less than 24 hours before it took place. “Red (Schafer) told me that I should go to the tournament; he said, ‘go and make me proud,’ the night before. So I texted Bacon (Justin Hutter) and asked if I could compete and he said there probably won’t be girls, there may or may not be. And I said, “Can I play with the boys?’ and he said, ‘Well, you can come and we’ll ask them.’ So I did show up and Bacon went around and asked all the men in my…I’d say my division but it was the 140 lb division and I’m like 120, but he asked the guys if they would allow me to compete in their division, and they all had to agree and they did.”
Korpela had four matches that day and took 4th place out of 5 competitors. Two were current or former teammates. She lost one match by points and lost two by submission in addition to choking out Brandon Han. “I was actually the second person to choke him unconscious during that tournament, so it was not because I was a girl that he didn’t tap. It’s just that he doesn’t tap to chokes.”
“When I walked out of the cage,” she recalls, “the only thing I was thinking was, ‘Phew; I needed a win under my belt.’ It had been a long time since I had competed, just because every time I would go to a tournament there’s so few women that it’s hardly worth the money to compete, so I kind of gave up on competing for a while. Other than the one match I had in team versus team cage grappling, this was my first time in an individual tournament in years and I was just really glad to have a win under my belt.”
“Beating a boy wasn’t the highlight of my day. Winning a match in my tournament was. It has nothing to do with him being a guy,” she pointed out. In fact, Korpela prefers competing against men because that’s who she trains with, and because “girls can be more unpredictable.”
A running criticism of women competing against men in grappling tournaments is that it’s a no-win situation for the male competitors. If they win, they were supposed to anyway, and if they lose, either they feel bad for (potentially) “hurting a girl” or have to deal with the negative aftermath of videos such as the one we posted.
“I appreciate all of the gentlemen, male athletes and practitioners of jiu jitsu, who allow women to compete with them because it just helps the sport grow, and I appreciate their willingness to allow women to grow within the martial arts also.”
As for Brandon, she says, “Obviously, very mean and negative comments, derogatory, have been made about him losing to a girl, but he really has a fantastic attitude about the whole thing. He felt like he had an off day in general that day in his matches, and I believe him. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. We all have our off days. As far as him being negatively affected from all the attention, if it was going to happen to anyone, he was definitely the kid to let it happen to. He doesn’t seem to pay any attention to the negative comments. He has enjoyed his experience on Tosh.0 greatly, immensely enjoyed himself, so he has expressed to me that he’s forever grateful for the whole experience.”
Korpela was surprised by the attention the video got. “When I saw it online, I was like, ‘Wow, this is great that I’ll be able to show my family what I do. I didn’t expect many more people besides my family and teammates to watch the video.” 175,250+ views later, Korpela and Han will be featured on Tosh.0’s Web Redemption on Tuesday.
“I had a million hesitations about going on it,” Korpela admits. “Being a teacher and that being an adult show, I really had to be careful of what my students would be watching; I was very concerned about what kind of content was going to be addressed… From family and colleagues and myself, there was a lot of concern about me going on the show.” But she went with her own intuition that nothing negative was going to happen from it, and did her best to self-censor herself during the filming of the show. “I had to do my best to answer very inappropriate questions appropriately. It was very difficult to, be honest. It would’ve been much easier if I could have just been myself, my jiu jitsu self; I have quite a mouth on me and I love talking s!@# and all that kind of stuff, but just knowing that my students were going to be watching, I had to do my best to censor myself. Tosh made it very challenging to do so.”
Make sure to tune in to Comedy Central on Tuesday at 10/9c to see the action.