Why did you start BJJ?

I started BJJ because I always wanted to learn how to fight, learn a martial art, and be able to defend myself, if needed. I grew up playing competitive sports, like baseball, football, soccer, long distance running, and track, and, I also played basketball with friends on the weekends. I had cousins who practiced karate and taekwondo, and I wanted to try it, too. However, because of my involvement with other sports, my parents couldn’t afford to put me in martial arts. I wasn’t able to really try it until high school. I knew about BJJ from watching UFC fights on television in high school, and it looked like a lot of fun. One of my friends and I knew of a gym down the street from where I was living, so we decided to try it out. He tried it and never came back, but I fell in love with BJJ from day one.

How long ago?

I started BJJ in March 2010, so I’ve been doing it for just over six years.

What are the 3 most important things BJJ has taught you?

  • You can’t have a big ego, on or off the mats. If a person can’t handle getting tapped out on the mats, they won’t last. It’s the same out in the real world. You have to be nice, humble, and have a small ego, and just keep a smile on your face. You have to work with what life gives you. It takes more energy to get mad than to just be calm and happy.
  • Try to stay calm and think. Training BJJ can really take its toll on you. A person can’t stress out under pressure; they have to remain calm and try to figure out what to do. I use this way of thinking every day, whether it’s when I’m in a bad spot on the mats, or stuck in a tough situation in life.
  • Always be prepared, on time, and be dressed accordingly. I have to be prepared and on time for classes. I also have to think about what I’m going to teach, have a clean Princeton BJJ gi on, and practice good hygiene. I use these same principles when I go to work or dress in my uniform for school, or when I’m organizing and cleaning my apartment. Practicing these organizational and professional skills on the mats helps me live an organized and professional life off the mats. I guess that the most important thing that BJJ has taught me is to just be yourself, love yourself, work with the people around you, and just keep trying. Never give up. I’m a high level purple belt and I still get tapped to this day. There’s always going to be someone better than you.

What do you enjoy about teaching?

I enjoy spreading my love of BJJ to young kids. It’s so rewarding to teach a move and see it start to click with the students. I especially love watching kids who start off shy and reserved really get into the classes, and come out of their shells. I guess it’s because these students remind me most of myself. I owe a lot of my friendships, best memories, and even my relationship to BJJ, so it’s great to watch a new generation of students fall in love with the art of Jiu-Jitsu.

What is your outside profession?

I work at Starbuck’s, and I’m in school for phlebotomy.

Goals for the future?

My goals are to be a BJJ world champion and open my own school. Off the mats, I’d like to have a successful career, start a happy family, own a nice home, and maybe even have a few pets. Overall, I’d just like to be able to look at my life and feel like I’ve been successful.

Finish this sentence: If I knew then what I know now about BJJ, I would…

…tell myself that BJJ is absolutely life-changing. Simple as that.

If you could meet anyone in the world/history, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Marcelo Garcia. I’ve met him a few times before, but I’d like to ask him how he developed his game and what his mindset was during his biggest competitions. I’d like to know what his favorite sweeps, moves, and submissions are, as well as what he has sacrificed to become a legend in BJJ history. He’s a man who’s in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Hall of Fame and is known as a world champion, so I’d like to know more about his road to success. Lastly, I’d like to ask him how he balances having his own school as well as a family life. Since I aspire to one day open my own school and be a successful BJJ practitioner and family man, I’d really be interested in seeing how Marcelo does it.

What is your favorite candy/bar and why?

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups because chocolate and peanut butter were meant to go together.

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