The odds have not always been in Penny Thomas’ favor. At the start of a promising Gymnastics career, Thomas underwent an intense spinal fusion surgery that one doctor claimed would put an end to the then-12-year-old’s involvement in sports. Most people would accept this news with a grain of salt and move on. Thomas, however, had other plans.
After the surgery, she returned to a highly athletic lifestyle, finding success in other sports, including swimming. But it wasn’t until a few years later that Penny would be exposed to the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
In late 2001, Thomas discovered BJJ at her kickboxing gym, where several men had started their own grappling club and were sharing mat space during her class time. Her curiosity piqued, Thomas joined in and was immediately hooked. And over the next few years, she and her training partners made regular trips to train and compete in Brazil. However, Thomas recounts that the general lack of advanced Jiu Jitsu practitioners and instruction in her native South Africa led her to feel like her game was lacking, and that she was making little progress. So, once again, with the odds against her, she quit her successful 8-year career as a software developer, left her friends, family, and home, and made the jump overseas to America, where she found friends in the Jiu Jitsu community and began training full time in Hawaii and California.
It paid off. Because of her strong will and determination, Thomas has collected several impressive world titles, including 4 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Worlds Championships, one ADCC Championship, and currently holds the highly-coveted rank of Black Belt. Looking back on everything this athlete has been able to accomplish, one thing makes itself very clear:
Penny Thomas doesn’t care about the odds. She’d rather be choking them out.