Nancie has the heart of a warrior, and she is the heart of the gym.

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Recently we sat down for an interview with Nancie Longacre. Not only is she Thomas’ Mom, she is one of the core people at the gym. Her example and success is an inspiration to many. Her laugh is infectious and fills the gym. She makes everyone feel like family. And she is a prayer warrior!

Q: A few months ago, you competed at an AGF tournament at Union Highschool. 

Nancie: Yes, it was on a Sunday.

Q: What weight class did you compete at?

Nancie: 125 - 135, masters featherweight division. Usually I’m going up against women half my age though. And sometimes I’m half their weight! They bump me up to a younger division or a heavier division if they don’t have enough women in my weight class. But this time I didn’t have to go up in weight.

Q: How many women were in your bracket?

Nancie: There was one this time. There’s usually two in my weight division, but there’s not very many in my age bracket because I’m 63. So they bump me down age brackets so that I can have somebody to go against. They’re usually in their 20s or so.

Q: How old was the girl you competed against?

Nancie: I think she was probably in her early 20s. She gave me a good match. She was really tough, I knew she would be. The younger ones usually are. So I have to triple my workouts just so I can compete and try to stay as active as my opponent all the time. I have to kind of keep my workouts loaded and heavy every day. I train maybe three times a day, with my weights, cardio, and jiu-jitsu.

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Q: So when you’re getting ready for a competition do you increase the weights or the cardio?

Nancie: I increase the cardio. I’m rolling every day. And my weights, I do a lot of reps, not so heavy. The weights help keep me strong so I can keep up with the younger ones.

Q: What kind of cardio do you do?

Nancie: I do mostly kickboxing classes, three days a week. And I do the rolling probably an hour or so every night. Heavy rolling twice a week. And then the weights every day, five days a week.

Q: Talk to me about the mental toughness it takes to get into the competition. If there are only two women competing, that means there’s a lot of women probably psyched themselves out.

Nancie: Yes, it’s kind of a mental game. But if you know you’ve done the hard training, the hard work, focus on the techniques we try to learn to get you ready for the tournament… Brandon Quick is the one that hosts the AGF tournaments, and he has his weekly technique that Thomas coaches to us. (Thunderkick Tulsa is a BQuick BJJ gym)

I try to take that technique and use it in the competition. Thomas teaches us to try to use our jiu-jitsu instead of strength. Technique over strength.

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Q: So you’re not just looking at winning, but winning the right way.

Nancie: Yes I took a lot of the mentality I had doing karate tournaments, and switched it to jiu-jitsu. The mental game for me. If you just put in your hard work to get confidence, then you can go out there knowing you can do the job. And do it right.

Q: Tell us about your karate background.

Nancie: I started when I was 16 years old. I’ve been in goju ryu for 46, 47 years. I achieved my 9th degree black belt in that style. I wanted to try something different, even starting as a white belt in jiu-jitsu. It was kind of hard starting all over again. But then I thought I’ll just go in and try it, see how I do. And now I’ve been in it 3 years now. I love it! And I want to train even harder than the last week, the last month. I just want to keep pursuing reaching for the goals that are set before me.

Nancie as a 7th Dan/degree black belt in karate. She’s currently a 9th degree black belt.

Nancie as a 7th Dan/degree black belt in karate. She’s currently a 9th degree black belt.

Q: What are some of the goals you’re aiming for?

Nancie: One, I’d like to go to Vegas sometime and compete in one of the world competitions there. In my weight class they go up to Master 7, and I would probably fit in the Master 7 division, 50 and 60 year olds. I would really love to be able to travel and do that competition.

Q: I think you can do that! Yeah!

Nancie: I think I can too. Grr. But traveling, I haven’t done that before. But it would be something I would like to do before I ... I don’t ever want to retire, but I have more injuries doing jiu-jitsu than karate fighting. I’m always on a ticking clock. You never know when you’ll get an injury where you have to start repairing. I try to roll where I don’t get injured as much as I can. But that can always happen, an elbow, a knee, or a hurt rib. I fought Sunday with a rib injury that I had for 3 weeks. I just went ahead and got in it. I didn’t want to drop out, I’ve trained too hard for too long to miss that opportunity and see how I do. Last year I had an injury, and I had to drop out of that competition 3 days before the tournament. This time I just wrapped it up and went on out there. Yeah, it was painful. Woo!

Q: Tell us about your match.

Nancie: My lady friend was really tough, she was good and strong. She got me down, but I was able to get on top of her first. I got points for being on top of her. I tried to go for the armbar as soon as I got on top of her, but then she flipped me over. Then she almost got me in a bow and arrow choke, but I rolled out of it. And then I got her back and got points for it. And then I rolled her over and stayed on top of her until the end of the match. I won 7 - 3, something like that. I won that way instead of submitting her - I’m trying to get used to the point system. But I did have 2 or 3 submission attempts on her, but she wound up getting out of them. So I know what I’m doing better now. I’m not being so jittery and real nervous when I’m out there. I’m calmer. Thomas keeps telling me to know and depend on my jiu-jitsu, and not get so nervous. You know what you’ve been taught. You can do this! So that gave me more confidence to get out there and do it. Plus it was Father’s Day so I wanted to go out there and win a medal for my husband Leon. He’s my main supporter, so it was nice to win a gold medal for him Sunday on Father’s Day.

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Q: How did you celebrate that gold medal?

Nancie: We went and ate at Zios (giggling) He got me all kinds of stuff. And that was a good Father’s Day for him. But he always has confidence in me, in everything I do. He always supports me... This weekend I have a karate tournament on Saturday in Joplin, MO. So I’m trying to get ready for that one too. It’s just hit after another hit. I have to physically and mentally get ready for that one.

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Q: What kind of karate tournament is it?

Nancie: It’s a kata competition where people do a pantomime against multiple opponents. There will be 3, 4, or 5 judges who will judge your technique, your punches, your kicks, how strong you are. So I’m kind of excited, I haven’t been in a karate tournament for a few years.

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Q: You’re competing in jiu-jitsu. You’re competing in karate. Are you doing any weight competitions as well?

Nancie: (laughing) I would like to, but that takes a little bit more out of my schedule for rolling. It takes a little more time to do the weight lifting. It would be fun to do that again. I did my first weight competition a few years ago, and I felt like I did pretty good at that.

Q: So it could be a triple crown month for you!

Nancie: (laughing) Yeah that would be nice.

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Q: And it’s realistic you really could do that.

Nancie: Yeah I think so. I had a lady friend, a doctor, who told me she thought I could be really good at bodybuilding if I started sculpting my body… I might start, I might do that. I’m not going to limit myself from doing things. It’s just fun training all the time. I love it!

Q: So when did you start training? Was your first sport karate?

Nancie: I started karate in 1973.

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 Q: And then you met Leon in karate?

Nancie: I met Leon at karate, and then we got married in 1975. He was one of the instructors there. He was a brown belt when I met him and I was a white belt. I just stayed training, year after year, 3, 4 hours per day. It’s kind of different now, most people don’t train hard like now like they did then. I’m one of the more traditional types of trainers. I know what it takes to get to each belt, each rank. And it was a little bit harder then than it is now.

Thomas and Nancie

Thomas and Nancie

Q: Why do you think that is?

Nancie: I would like to earn my belt ranks instead of someone maybe just handing me a stripe. Because of money. Because my husband is a black belt, I see that sometimes. Or my Daddy is a black belt. I know someone who started a few years ago, and now she’s a black belt. That wasn’t really earned, that was given. I’m not sure of that type of training. I want to be able to back up what I do here, and perform in a tournament. That’s how I judge my skills. You have to put in the practice to do it. You have to put in the training to do it.

Q: And 3 hours a day, definitely does it.

Nancie: Yep, yep. And I know I have to train harder, because I’m getting older.

Q: How old were you when you started training karate?

Nancie: I was 16.

Q: And you were training 3 hours a day when you were 16?

Nancie: Yes that’s right.

Q: And earlier in this interview you said you’re training 3 hours a day, doing the weights, the cardio kickboxing, and the jiu-jitsu!

Nancie: (smiling) Yes, I do an hour each one. It’s a pretty heavy schedule.

Q: So at 16 and at 63 - 3 hours a day!

Nancie: Yeah, yep. I don’t look at it that way. I don’t believe it myself, doing that kind of training. I’m just doing what I have to do to, putting in all the hard work and time to keep up with these young girls. I want to earn it.

Q: Well you’re training like you’re one of those 15 year old girls! 3 hours a day!

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Nancie: (laughing) Yes sir, yes. Ohh I love it. I don’t want to miss a day of it. That warrior spirit is there. I want to keep training until I can’t train anymore. I hope that’s several years away. With God’s help, I’m gonna do it.

Q: I think a Christian has an advantage. We have supernatural healing to complement our sport. God doing miracles to keep our body healed and going.

Nancie: To keep us active, keep us healed up. I try to be smart with my training. I try not to over train, which I know I’ve done in the past. I try to watch my injuries more. I try not to lift too much weight. Sometimes I have to dial it back a bit because I know that’s when injuries starts coming up, starts tearing muscles. And then I can’t roll, or put as much energy as I need to, into the sport that I’m in.

Q: You train 3 hours a day, mentally you’re very strong. How does that training for combat, for a jiu-jitsu tournament correspond to your walk as a believer?

Nancie: I usually prepare spiritually everyday before I train. I want to be a witness for God on the mat and off the mat. And usually that will happen when somebody will take me to the side and ask me, “Can you talk to my wife? Can you encourage her? She wants to know how old you are.”

“Well, I’m 63.”

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“I want you to talk to her. Encourage her to try to compete and get into the sport of jiu-jitsu.”

Usually that’s what I do every tournament. Somebody will come up to me and ask me to talk to their wife about trying jiu-jitsu. And I think that’s a witness to God right there. Being up on the platform… I have people praying for me when I compete. Making sure I have that backup.

Q: I pray for you when I watch your competition!

Nancie: I can feel that! You can feel the elevation! When I was out there this match. Because I didn’t even know how the last part of that match even went. How did I get those extra points? Wow, that was God. Big time. Because she was trying to get that bow and arrow on me, and then somehow it switched over. And I got behind her and I got those points back. Looking back on the tape, now I can see what I did. That part was spaced out. How did I do that? How did that happen?

It was God.

Q: In the past I’ve asked you to pray for me, or to pray for my wife. You have a very aggressive, a very combative way of praying. Of getting that blessing from God.

Nancie: Yes, you have to have that fighter spirit inside of you. That fight of faith. You have to have that when friends are going through battles. You have to be sensitive enough to hear where the Holy Spirit is at, to come against all the attacks of the enemy. To have the authority over everything that God tells us in His word. And so I am an intercessory type of person. The fighting part of me that’s been in karate all this time, I switch it over to actually fighting the enemy the same way, through my prayers.

Q: In the daily preparation you do training your body for competition, is there a corresponding daily component preparing to fight, with your spirit?

Nancie: Yes sir. Yeah I spiritually prepare everyday when I go train. I do some bible memory scriptures. I’ll pray through my workouts. If anybody comes to my mind, then I’ll pray for them. It’s almost like a meditation type spot. The jiu-jitsu gives me a therapy type place. Losing my Mother helped me helped me direct all my energy and my thoughts. That spot, that void, I fill it with God and with physical fitness. Fighting, rolling, weights - I just try to fill that void up.

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Q: So when you’re lifting weights, when you’re doing the cardio kickboxing, and the grappling… you’re also praying for people at the same time?

Nancie: Yes, yes. Somebody will be dropped into my spirit, and I’ll pray. And it makes it more intense because I’m working out that much harder. So it kind of all develops and it helps me that much more. And then I really get into it. 

It’s just a fight! It’s a fight physically, and for the spiritual battles for people.

Q: In the past when I’ve asked you and Thomas to pray for me when I had a nasty bug that I couldn’t kick for a couple weeks. Then bam! you can just feel it. The sickness goes away and I can go back in and train. I know when I’ve asked you two specifically, stuff happens. And that’s probably what’s going on. You’re lifting weights, doing cardio kickboxing and rolling, and praying at the same time.

Nancie: The more intense the prayer is, the more intense the activity becomes. It’s like you don’t want to stop it, you want to keep going until you break through.

That’s how I roll.

Q: Literally! That’s how you roll.

Nancie: (laughing) It’s a blessing, it’s a blessing. Yes, sir. And I get to be with my boy.

Q: Talk about that. You and Leon met, and got married, at the karate dojo. And you raised Thomas up at the gym?

Nancie: We started him up at 7 years old in karate. And kept him in it through his grade school and high school years. We didn’t realize he was going to be above and beyond. He’s fought all over the world from it. We’ve raised him in the house of God, since he was 2. It makes all the difference too.

Thomas Longacre.

Thomas Longacre.

Q: I’ve noticed that you’re humble too. Even though Coach Thomas is your son, and you started him when he was 7… when he’s coaching you, you’re all attentive, all ears. You’re very humble to take in everything he’s coaching. It’s remarkable you’re his Mom, and he’s your Coach.

Nancie: That’s a blessing too. Being able to do all this with him right now, is miraculous. I wouldn’t have thought I would be doing jiu-jitsu with him. Karate yes, competing in karate tournaments. I thought that’s what we were going to do, and we competed in one karate tournament together. That was awesome. Awesome!

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Q: There’s a number of gyms in town. What are some ways this gym is different than others?

Nancie: Thomas has God at the center of his life. That makes all the difference. How he ministers to kids or adults, he has a sensitivity about him. How to help people get to where they want to be with their goals. Whether they want to fight, or they’re having trouble with life, he’s always there to spiritually bump them up. I don’t see that happening much with other gyms. That’s what separates him from the other places. Is his spirituality, and being a role model, a Christian first, for the people that come in.

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Ben Greenwood