I’ve been training at Atomic Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Berwick for almost four years and it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Jiu-jitsu is the martial art of grappling and performing submissions. It is NOT karate, which means there is no striking.
So far I’ve achieved the ranking of a second degree blue belt, which is not bad — I’m just about halfway to achieving my purple belt, which is really good.
Child belt rankings are white, grey, yellow, orange, green and then, at the age of 16, they’re qualified for blue belts. From there, it goes blue, purple, brown, black, coral (red and black) and then red belt.
Prior to starting jiu-jitsu at the young age of 21, I was a black belt in Shotokan Karate. I trained in karate from the ages of 10 to 17 when I quit to join the high school football team and then attend college.
During my Shotokan days, I achieved junior black belt at the age of 13 and received my senior black belt at 14, for which I was not supposed to be qualified until I was 18.
I met Atomic Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy owner Mark Collier several years after leaving Shotokan through a mutual friend, and he persuaded me to sign up for the grappling sport.
With my martial arts days behind me, I politely declined Mark’s offers — nonstop for about a good two hours, I might add.
To get him to stop asking me to join, I agreed to take just one class and four years later, Mark can’t get rid of me.
While training jiu-jitsu, I’ve learned a lot of different things such as the importance of being humble and keeping an open mind.
I’m still constantly learning and that process will never end. But now, being a little more skilled, it’s more fun to learn new things because it sticks easier.
I’ve learned from Mark, but I’ve also met and learned from world class Mixed Martial Arts fighters such as Swoyersville’s own Jimy Hettes, Ashlee Evans-Smith, Ben Saunders, Brian Ebersole, Claudia Gadelha, Matt “the Hammer” Hammil and every week we train with former UFC fighter turned professional wrestler Matt Riddle.
I’ve also trained on multiple occasions with Kroyler Gracie, grandson of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu founder Helio Gracie.
I’ve got bruises on my arms, legs and neck and, on several occasions, I’ve even gotten black eyes at competitions.
But they’re worth it.
What is my ultimate goal in jiu-jitsu? Why do I train four to five times a week and come away with bruises and sore muscles?
The answer is simple — it’s fun.
I’m not looking to become the next UFC competitor and step into the octagon with the likes of Connor McGregor; I’m just looking to have fun with good people and “choke my friends,” as Mark says before we train.
I keep small goals in mind such as landing a certain submission when we live roll, or spar as some call it, or perhaps go an entire month without one of the higher ranked students submitting me.
The biggest goal is black belt, but it’s way too soon to start thinking about that. My long-term goal for now is achieving my purple belt, which I’m hoping to do within the next two years. I’m not looking any further than purple belt for now, but once I achieve that, my long term goal will switch to brown belt, and so on.
Will I ever see the day where I get my black belt? I’m not sure. It takes at least 10 years of consistent training to achieve such status, and I’m only on year four.
One thing for certain is no matter where my jiu-jitsu journey takes me, I’m enjoying the ride one way or another all the way to the end.