Skip to Content

Lion On The Mat

Directed by Asali Echols

This short documentary follows Mai Nguyen, a 29 year-old Vietnamese-American martial artist, as she trains for an upcoming Jiu Jitsu match. We witness her training process, and learn how she mentally, as well as physically, prepares. We also see her balance the demands of regular life — job, being a single mother — with training. We meet her four-year-old son Benji, and understand more of the stakes in her decision to keep fighting. Gradually, we learn more about her childhood in Vietnam, her experience immigrating and assimilating to the US, and her return to martial arts as a way to recover from the trauma of her abusive childhood and ex-husband.

Directed by Asali Echols

About the filmmaker: Asali Echols is a Bay Area filmmaker and film editor, whose work has screened in festivals across the country and worldwide. Her directing credits include the narrative short “Fast & New” (2019), the animated documentary “The Violin Upstairs” (2019) and the award-winning short documentary “Lion on the Mat” (2021). She enjoys finding visual intersections between narrative, documentary and animation, and telling stories about people who step outside boxes.

Plays in

Moments in a Woman’s Journey

Women often navigate life within systems that are oppressive—forced by roles, identities, circumstances, and values just to persevere….