Leilani

By Leilani

LifeBuzz Staff

The Unstoppable Competitive Mindset Of These Jiu-Jitsu Stars Is Inspirational.

Earlier this year, LifeBuzz sponsored nine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) athletes for a chance to compete in the World Championships of Jiu-Jitsu.

The group is diverse; there is a full-time student, a busy mother of two (who also happens to be a small business owner), and one of the best black belt competitors in the world. Despite their differences, they have one thing in common: the pursuit of happiness.

Whether you're familiar with BJJ or not isn't the point. What is important is that their stories and pursuits are not too far from our own. Just like us, they have no guarantee of wealth, no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And still, they continue to fight one of the biggest threats to our spirits: defaulting.

Defaulting is when we follow a structured path: go to school, get a job, get married, and have some kids. Rinse and repeat.

While there is nothing wrong with this path, especially if you feel like it aligns with your inner self, it is problematic when we ignore the things — our talents and passions, for example — that make us unique.

Every now and then, we'll watch a film, read a book, or meet someone that tells us to run in the opposite direction, that of purpose and of calling. For our own reasons, be it fear, pressure, or guilt, many of us end up defaulting back onto the path of safe and secure.

But we still hear about the rebels. The late Steve Jobs is an obvious example of someone who took risks, succeeded, and failed — only to repeat the cycle three times.

Some people do things differently and end up being the greats in their fields. The ones that are remembered. The ones that risk comfort and security for a chance to do what they truly believe in.

We've all heard the quote, "History is written by the victors." Although the origin is unknown, it is often attributed to Winston Churchill. It reminds us to pay attention to not just the victors but the victors-in-progress.

Through a series of videos, we invite you to learn more about nine athletes who are still in the trenches, still grinding away. Here they are training under multiple-time world champion and professor André Galvão at Atos Jiu-Jitsu in San Diego.

Continue watching for exclusive interviews with BJJ athletes who find happiness on the mats and in the moment.

JT Torres

Jonathan William "JT" Torres has been training for 12 years. He started BJJ through a natural progression after attending karate classes as a child. He opens up to us about working everywhere from ice cream shops to a hospital to support himself while training.

Dominique Bell

Dominique Bell has been practicing for over five years now. He entered the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu while training for boxing; there happened to be a class going on at the same time. At first, he was critical of the art but was soon impressed with the athletes' effortless power. He now describes BJJ as the "greatest thing."

Rolando Samson

This full-time student has had an on and off relationship with the sport for seven years. He credits his father, UFC 1, and the fact that he was bullied as a smaller kid as the main reasons he started training. One of his biggest motivators is having an impact on youth.

Nisar Loynab

It's been six years since Nisar Loynab got into the game. At the time, he was 16 years old and a big troublemaker. "It makes me feel happy," he says of the sport. "So if it makes me happy, it can't be wrong." Win or lose, he loves it and feels great.

Elizabeth Liera

Even though she is only 16 years old, Elizabeth Liera has been practicing Jiu-Jitsu for four years. She learned about it through her brother, who won his first world championship at the time that she started, and her father. For Liera, it isn't just about the competitions. "On and off the mats, I become a different person," she says.

Veronica Hamzeh

"It's a place where you step on the mats and forget about all that noise you have in your head... work or kids or stress from the business, everything else," says Veronica Hamzeh. She was introduced to Jiu-Jitsu by her muay Thai coach as sort of a joke, but the joke was on him; she has now been training for about 3 years!

Heather Morgan

After college, Heather Morgan took a job at a sports performance gym and from there fell into BJJ. Even though she's only been training for two years, she says she cannot imagine her life before the sport. She already had a healthy lifestyle but Jiu-Jitsu inspired her to further improve her eating and sleeping habits.

Conner DeAngelis

Three years ago, Conner DeAngelis grew tired of soccer and followed after his brother into the world of martial arts. He enjoys the technical aspects and intricacies of BJJ. Even if he's getting beaten up every day, he acknowledges when he can get little things here and there and is grateful to train with some of the best athletes in the world.

Ricky Briceno

Before training in San Diego, Ricky Briceno started out in Virginia. He says that the sport feels natural to him because he was born a fighter. Altogether, he's been grappling for four years and has committed his life to it; at one point he lived off of $20 a week to train.

"I believe there's nothing more in life better than chasing what you believe and what you love and what you think is pure," he says. "In Jiu-Jitsu, there's no faking. You can't pretend to be someone, you can't act like somebody that you want to be but you're not, you can only get better."

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