Meggie Ochoa is an International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athlete and World champion who represents the Philippines and competes in between the Women’s – 45kg and – 49kg divisions. She became a World champion for the first time after winning the Gold medal at the World Championships held in the USA in 2014. Meggie has since won three more gold medals in World tournaments in, 2015, 2016 and the latest in 2018 and has also won various medals in International competitions including many across Asia. She is also the founder of “Fight to Protect” a movement that fights to protect vulnerable children from violence and exploitation around the world and as part of that, she teaches children how to physically protect themselves through learning her sport, with many of the children now going on to compete at National level.
Meggie grew up in the Philippines in South East Asia and recalled she was fortunate to grow up as part of a loving family, although like any other child she still faced challenges in her life. She told us “As the 3rd of 5 children, I always looked to my eldest sister as the standard. I tried to imitate her but I never measured up. I constantly failed, and was very insecure as a child. My insecurities caused me to be selfish and materialistic (only caring about things not people). I constantly wanted to be more because I constantly thought of myself as not enough. I craved for attention and recognition in everything I did. Despite those issues Meggie does recall there were many good memories playing with her siblings and cousins. She recalled “We had a game called “Army Ochoa” where my older cousins would dare us younger ones to do crazy things like touch hot wax, spend 5 minutes by a tree we believed was haunted, or pretend like we’re rescuing a baby from a burning house by catching a ball from the roof. Meggie said she loved climbing trees and spending time up on the roof of her house and it was no doubt that gift of agility that would stand her in good stead, when she became a Jiu Jitsu athlete later on.
We asked Meggie how she actually got started in sport and she told us that in fact she’d started out as a dancer as a little girl and then moved onto playing football in high school before going onto run track in college. She admits she wasn’t very good at either but what she did have going for her was passion and a determination to succeed. Eventually Meggie decided she wanted to try a sport that involved a little more contact and so switched her attention to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Meggie started with MMA as just a hobby but when it came to being competitive there was no one small enough to compete against in her class. She was persuaded to try Jiu Jitsu where she would have some opportunities to compete but even then, she was forced to take on opponents who were much heavier than her, despite this, Meggie found that she was able to win a number of her matches in what proved to be a very successful start to her career.
Unfortunately, because at the time, there wasn’t a national federation in the Philippines, she was limited to club tournaments, this meant that despite being good enough, the only way to compete for the Philippines at the World Championships, was to compete independently and raise her own funds to do so. Although it seemed impossible that Meggie could do that, through crowdfunding, she managed to raise the money to compete. Understandably she could have been a little disappointed having had to have made it without official support but instead she was totally inspired by the fact that so many people including strangers had contributed and chosen to become a part of her dream. With it feeling as if the whole of the Philippines were now behind her, she was unstoppable and as a result, went on to win her first World title in 2014.
In 2016, the Jiu-Jitsu Federation of the Philippines was founded. Meggie could now officially represent her country and with continued successes it might have been normal for her to become totally focused on her own personal achievements and goals but Meggie couldn’t get a certain thought out of her mind. She told us “I had a question of purpose in my head, I was like, why am I winning and why had so many people been compelled to help me”. Meggie somehow knew there was a bigger purpose behind her success but just didn’t know what it was. Around that time, she came across an article about a girl from Mexico, who had been badly exploited from around the age of 12 till she was 16. Meggie remarked “When I found out I couldn’t sleep for several nights and started researching more about this issue, I found out how bad this issue was in the Philippines, especially online.”
Suddenly Meggie had found her purpose. She would fight for vulnerable children and importantly she would also represent God in doing that. Having grown up in Catholic family her faith had been more about what she had been brought up with rather than what she truly believed for herself but around this time, her mentor shared about Jesus and about how God loved us all so much that he sent him as his Son to die on a cross for us. That truth would quickly become what her life was all about, as she would fight to show that same, overflowing love and sacrifice for others too. She connected with Philippines Without Orphans (PWO), and later began the movement “Fight to Protect”. While some may have thought that this would become a distraction from her sport, instead, loving others would prove to be even more of a motivation as Meggie went on to even greater successes winning further World and International titles with the hope of much more to come in the future.
When we asked Meggie what she felt was the most important lesson you guys could learn from her story she said “I was always one of the smallest girls in class as a child. I was and still am physically small. Not only was I physically small, my view of myself was also small. The way God works, is he uses our weakness so we can do his work not with our strength but with his. Meggie said for her this meant being small became an advantage. She had skills such as speed and technique and the ability to fight in little spaces that many bigger athletes just didn’t have. Not only that, it allowed her to reach out to others who too were small who perhaps as a result may have had that same negative view of themselves that she grew up with. She was also quick to share her belief that no matter how successful you become without God it won’t have any real purpose saying “Everyone has a God-shaped hole in their hearts. No matter how rich or poor, no matter what accomplishments or failures you have, nothing and no one but the love of God through Jesus can ever fill that hole.”
In closing her story, we asked Meggie what her final message to you all would be and this is what she said “Sometimes this world will make you think that you are not enough because of experiences, problems, what you don’t have or failing to meet a standard. No matter what people say or what people make you think, nothing can ever change the fact that Jesus loves you and that God is a heavenly Father whose love for you is far greater than what our hearts can ever contain. because of that in anything I do or achieve, I’ll honor him because I know that without him, I am nothing.”
Meggie is now training hard for the South East Asian Games which will take place in Meggie’s home country of the Philippines later this year and so there will be extra incentive to do well there. We’ll certainly be praying for and wishing her well as a part of our family now and hoping to hear much more from her between now and the games.