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22-year-old Utah woman who is deaf wins gold at martial arts championship

(Courtesy of Safarri Jessop)

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SPRINGVILLE — After watching “Karate Kid” when she was little, Safarri Jessop dreamed of becoming a master of martial arts.

Now, the 22-year-old is the newest world champion in Hosinsul Weapon, which involves self-defense with swords, winning a gold medal at the 2016 PanAm Mulimpia Championships in Las Vegas over the weekend of July 22-24. She won multiple medals at the event and was the first deaf competitor the championship has seen.

“I went to the USA Haidong Gumdo (Korean sword fighting) championship in 2011 and I never met anyone who is deaf and is completing in it,” Jessop wrote in an email. “And after the world's championship just a few weeks ago, after they called out my name, everyone now knew I am deaf and they would grab me whenever my name was called for the championship events. There was no one else who was deaf. People from nine countries flew in to be in the championship.”

The events Jessop participated in involved dueling with someone in self-defense using a wooden sword and cutting bamboo with a sharp sword, in addition to activities with her team. She said the championship was “amazing and awful at the same time” due to the fact that she had to test for her second-degree black belt and a certificate in Korean sword fighting before waking up early for the start of the competition.

“It was a lot of work with big deal of physical activity,” the martial artist wrote. “I was exhausted and a few times I nearly threw up or passed out. But at the end of the evening, I was finished. I won first place with a gold medal, second place with a silver medal, and third place with a bronze medal, and a few medals for participating in the championship.”

Overall, Jessop took eighth place in the paper-cutting black belts event, sixth place in individual Gumbub form, second place in group Gumbub and third place in group paper cutting. The PanAm Mulimpia Championships was the second time Jessop has earned first place in Hosinsul Weapon. She won her gold medal in the event at the USA championship in 2011.

Jessop started taking martial arts classes in December 2007, when she was 13, to learn self-defense.

“I fell in love in with it and I couldn't quit,” she wrote.

Following the competition, the martial artist is back in training and taking some time to relax while she decides which event she wants to tackle next. On Aug. 20, Jessop will travel back to Nevada to be a special guest instructor for Under the Mtn. Martial Arts, teaching self-defense in addition to an intro to sword fighting.

Jessop started an online campaign* to raise funds so she can rent a studio to teach more martial arts students.

“I want it to be a home for everyone who wishes to spend time away from civilization and to meditate and work on their skills,” she wrote.

Jessop said she’s currently the happy owner of a small business that allows her to rent out ball gowns, design jewelry and travel to teach self-defense. She also works at a secondhand clothing store.

* does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

Contact the author at or find her on Twitter.


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Natalie Crofts


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