Tell us about your background:
I wrestled for 14 years. I started at 5 years old and continued wrestling up to and through my freshman year of college. I had varying levels of success as a wrestler, and got to experience the sport as both a winner and as a kid who struggled. Wrestling really helped define my early years of life. I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2000 and did a combat tour in 2004-2005. When I got back I was searching for an adrenaline rush of sorts. I was lifting weights and playing football. I made it through training camp for a Professional Arena Football team before being cut, so that was my failed shot at glory on the football field. While I was playing, I still craved something. I always looked for tough things to do to prove to myself that I was… I don’t know. Tough. Something. I had heard that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu had a lot of similarities to wrestling so I dropped into a class at Henry Matamoros’ gym in Milwaukee back in 2008. It was love at first choke! I eventually made the move to Mixed Martial Arts, and have been teaching, competing in and coaching various forms of martial arts ever since!
What do you teach at Pura Vida BJJ & MMA and tell us about your expertise in it:
Along with Zak, I teach a majority of the classes at the gym and we oversee them all. I enjoy puzzle solving and story telling, and I try to envision everything we do as a different kind of puzzle and a unique story. My degree is in Creative Writing and one of the assets I think all good story-tellers need is a deep understanding of human psychology. You need it to tell the story of your characters, and you need it to understand your audience. My connection with my students is probably a bigger asset to me than anything else I bring to the table. I have a lot of experience in grappling. I have a lot of fights. I have coached a lot of fights. I always thought I would be coaching… something. Wrestling or football earlier in my life. When I got into BJJ and MMA I realized I had found my calling. I love to do them. I love to teach them. I love to coach people doing them at all levels. The human story is what I’m into. Struggle and failure and great, great successes. My job, as your coach, is to recognize when you’re at your low point, and to pull you up and to recognize when you’re reaching to do something great, and to lift you higher.
What would you say to someone that is thinking about coming into the gym?
Oh, man. Come in. You’re going to fit in. We’ll welcome you and we’ll help you reach a level you don’t think you have. If you’re trying to become a pro fighter, we can help. If you want to join a family, join ours. If you’re looking for that workout that sucks the life out of you and leaves you gasping for air, it’s here. If you have no athletic aspirations, but hate your job or parking tickets or figuring out how to pay rent, come forget about it all for a couple of hours with us. There is no excuse you can possibly come up with that will justify waiting. We call ourselves “Pura Vida” because when you’re here, you can’t help but live it. There is no drama in the dojo. No hate or anger. All of your problems get left at the door, because if you bring them onto the mats you’re gonna get choked! It’s hard to spend time worrying about your problems when you’re in the gym because you’re so hyper-focused on Jiu Jitsu. If I’m fighting off a choke, I can promise you that I’m not thinking about filing my taxes or anything other than that choke! Your body will feel better. Your mind will be challenged. Your spiritual and emotional self will grow. Getting away from the stresses of life is life, and you’ll get to feel that on your first day!