Four students, sweaty and smiling, are causing a ruckus in the corner of the quad in the taxing summer heat. They spar with each other on a black mat. One proudly sports Vegeta’s battle armor across his chest.
Each showed off their favorite martial art moves in an attempt to draw a crowd. It is their passion. It is Jiu-Jitsu.
Despite all the physical contact, this sports club does not engage in any in-club competitions.
Rather, they use the time to train to reach a point where they compete in events outside the club.
“It’s a community,” Jiu-Jitsu club president Emilio Bautista said. “We don’t do competitions…we teach and reach out to other [Jiu-Jitsu] clubs to see if they want to collaborate and host seminars together. We all want to learn from each other and teach beginners.”
The Jiu-Jitsu Club was previously on hiatus before Bautista revived it. Once Bautista took over, he had to renew interest in the club and recruit members for what he envisioned for the team.
“Instead of hiring a black belt, I just got a group of students who had been doing Jiu-Jitsu for nine-plus years,” Bautista said.
Bautista said that not having a black belt requirement created a more inclusive environment for students.
For novices who are interested in the club, whether for self-defense or a good workout, the team trains members at their own pace. As someone who started as a novice, Bautista used his personal experience to come up with this method of training.
For Bautista, his decision to enter the sport began as a way to defend himself from bullies while he was in middle school.
“I decided to get some martial arts in my background as a tool to protect myself from being harassed,” Bautista said. “But now its changed to a lifestyle where I get to pass it down to people.”
Club instructor Jordan Nguyen grew up with his father being a martial artist, gaining a passion for combat sports at an early age.
“[My dad] was more traditional, he did bo staff and Kung Fu,” Nguyen said. “[I chose Jiu-Jitsu] because I realized it was more advanced and efficient.”
At 12 years old, Nguyen had gotten training in Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling, eventually dedicating himself to Jiu-Jitsu because he realized that the techniques allowed him to take control over his opponent without getting hit.
Nguyen is not the only one who made the transition from wrestling to Jiu-Jitsu. Club member Aaron Salgado chose to follow the same path after joining the club last year.
“I saw the similarity between wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu and I liked the transition because I am a very contact [driven] person,” Salgado said. “I like the respectfulness we have for one another… because even though you are supposed to dominate your opponent, you are never trying to fully hurt them.”
The club defers a lot of times to the golden rule, “treat others how you want to be treated,” which is how they have been able to avoid major injuries during their seminars and meetings. Love and respect for one another is what has helped their group grow.
“If you don’t want to get choked out then why would you choke out someone you’re training with,” Bautista said. “[That rule helps] build a sense of comradery when we’re doing activities.”
For all those looking to join the club, Bautista recommends going to Jiu-Jitsu seminars. He said that learning consistency will help yield positive results, improve skills and boost self esteem.
“We do it by levels, so the more experienced people do riskier moves like slams and spine manipulation,” Nguyen said. “The new group members work on regular chokes so they can just tap right away.”
At one point only four members consistently attended meetings. This year, the club has nearly 40 dedicated members.
Investing in this community is what gives its members the environment to playfully poke fun at each other when they have them tangled up in submission. Bautista said that trust does not happen overnight, but it occurs after they immerse themselves in the team and the community.
“It’s a lifestyle, so everyone’s interested in it,” Bautista said. “I think that’s how we recruit [the right people] in Week of Welcome and Smorgasport.”