It was only six years ago that Eve Torres was wrestling women as a WWE diva while thousands of people watched.
Today, she’s helping to empower women by teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a form of mixed martial arts.
Her current role of a Jiu-Jitsu instructor for the Women Empowered program was a natural fit, she said, and allowed her to put into action a curriculum her platform of fans understood and supported. And fans she has: 100 thousand followers on twitter and her newly acquired husky pup has more followers on Instagram than many respected news organizations!
The program was developed in part by Rener Gracie, Torres’ soon-to-be husband, who pegged down self-defense techniques specifically for women if they ever found themselves having to fight a larger opponent. Torres solidified her desire to learn these techniques with the intention of teaching after a jarring experience.
While traveling alone, verbal harassment by a group of men at a gas station left Torres shaken. In Why Women Don’t Learn Self Defense she dispels myths she once believe that kept for from learning self defense.
“I didn’t think it would happen to me. I thought I was pretty vigilant and aware of my surroundings. Even if it did happen to me, I wouldn’t really be able to defend myself. All the kicking and striking in the world couldn’t incapacitate a larger attacker, especially since I couldn’t even hold my own against my younger brother at the time!”
Choke holds and arm bars aren’t all serious all the time. Torres is dedicated to making a skill set of physical defense techniques accessible and fun. Her approach to the world of martial arts embraces its effectiveness and playfulness.
“I came on board [with Women Empowered] because I thought women need to learn from other women. It’s an important aspect because the more women that are on board learning and also, instructing the better it will be received by women. You don’t need to train for 10 years to teach this information, you can train for maybe one year and feel comfortable enough to share this with others.”
An engineering degree from the University of Southern California, or what she calls a back up plan, gave Torres the personal permission to pursue work in the entertainment industry. A year after college, the model/dancer auditioned and won the spot for the World Wrestling Entertainment Diva, which meant she was now a top female performer for the WWE.
“Right around the time I came in to WWE after the diva search, I had a moment with myself where I had to have a talk,” says Torres. “I knew that the divas were capable of being strong and putting on great matches, but then I also saw the other side of that, a lot of raunchy stuff going on.”
“I had a talk with WWE and said I cannot move forward with this because there are certain things I’m not willing to do,” she said.
Things like accepting contracts to promote brands or companies she wasn’t in support of.
“I think my ability to say that at any point in my career gave me a lot of power and I gained respect in my company.”
Torres’ entry into WWE came at a time when the program was trying to change its image. The image of the diva historically is wrought with lots of sex, and well, more sex.
With a shift to PG programming, the network wanted for a different image for women: strong, sexy and relatable.
“I thought what a great opportunity to help build this brand and the image of the women in this company,” says Torres.
“At the end of the day it is entertainment and you can’t think of it as a direct reflection of you, but whatever you put out there, it never goes away.”
“I know what is entertainment and what is not and fans are savvy to that,” she said. “There were times though, I had to turn down a story or endorsements. It felt difficult at the time to make some decisions, but looking back I have stayed true to who I am and everything falls into place.”
Torres uses her worthily earned role model status today—especially when encouraging women while teaching self-defense at the Gracie Academy of Jiu-Jitsu in California.
The overarching goal of the program, also taught in the Air Force Academy, is to reduce sexual assault.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s of Crime Victimization Survey, one woman is raped every two minutes in the United States. An average of 237,868 women a year. There are 525,600 minutes in a non-leap year. That makes 31,536,000 seconds/year.
So, 31,536,000 divided by 237,868 comes out to one sexual assault every 133 seconds, or about one every two minutes.
“It wasn’t until I saw the benefits of my training and had incidents like the one I had on the road that I realized we needed to communicate how important this curriculum is.”
Torres currently teaches at the Gracie Academy, travels with Women Empowered teaching seminars and appears as a television personality discussing self defense.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman