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Martial Arts Inspiring Story - Anthony Smith - Chattanooga Jiu Jitsu

By Created: July, 2017 - Modified: April, 2018

My name is Anthony Smith. I am 24 years old, and I have been training jiu-jitsu at Chattanooga Jiu-Jitsu Academy here in Tennessee. I am currently a purple belt, and have been training for the past five years. Since the day I first joined, I have seen tremendous positive change in my life. I saw your ad on facebook for the most inspiring story contest. It sparked my interest, because I haven't gotten the chance to really reflect and share my inspiring experience.

Improvement of physical or mental health
Improving physical and mental health is a great way to describe what martial arts can do for someone. It's true that training martial arts is a great way to stay in shape, and I have personally seen improvement in my strength, flexibility, and cardio, not to mention, I find it to be a much more enjoyable way of staying in shape than just lifting weights and working out in a gym. There was even a guy who came to a seminar at my academy who had lost over 100 lbs from training martial arts!

However, I believe there's more to be said about the character building aspect of it. The mental side is equally if not more challenging and beneficial than the physical health improvements. I have seen so much positive change in my life on and off the mats.

I have gained more confidence in myself and my ability to accomplish goals, which permeates into other areas of my life. Confidence is so important when it comes to succeeding at anything. Being confident in my ability to defend myself has helped me be more sure of myself, and secure in the fact that I can defend my loved ones and I. Having that assurance is priceless, especially in this crazy world we're living in. You would think that having so much confidence could easily turn into pride. Not for a martial artist.

We are humbled and brought back down to earth every day. I have learned that there's no room for pride and ego on or off the mats. Unfortunately, it took me a while to learn those truths, but I may not have ever learned them without martial arts.

I have learned that the way I handle victory and defeat helps to shape my character. I understand I can learn something from anybody, even if they are a lower rank. I ask more questions now, realizing I don't have it all figured out. I am more willing to share my knowledge and ''secrets'' with my training partners, because at the end of the day we all have the same goal; to be the best we can be individually. I could speak volumes on how martial arts has improved my physical and mental health, but I'll sum it all up with a quote that has proven to be true, ''Martial arts is a vehicle for developing human potential.'' It's a vehicle I'm grateful to get to ride.

It breaks my heart knowing how many kids get bullied in the world. And not only kids, adults too. I was very blessed growing up with lots of friends and never had to experience the pain of bullying. However, I have seen it in the lives of friends and loved ones. Bullying is a poison, and if there is such a cure, it would have to be martial arts. Bullying occurs when someone allows another person to mistreat them verbally or physically. It continues to happen because the individual getting bullied doesn't stand up for themselves.

Why don't they stand up to it? More than likely because they don't know how. The Gracie families ''Bullyproof'' program comes to mind when talking about anti-bullying. They are the family that developed Gracie Jiu-jitsu, which is the martial art I train. They emphasize that learning to defend yourself from bullying begins with how to talk to people. They employ phrases and tactics to diffuse situations when a child is getting bullied. Then, if the situation escalates and leads to a physical confrontation, they equip them with the techniques and tools to deal with it from there.

One extreme case of bullying that their program was able to help with is a boy named Austin. Austin was a young teenager and had been bullied at school. One day another student was bullying him and took it too far and beat him up bad, and the camera at the school caught it on tape. Somehow the video ended up on the internet, and it get millions of views.

Needless to say this crushed Austins self esteem and confidence, and was very embarrassing. Someone shared the video with Rener and Ryron Gracie who live and teach at the Gracie Academy in Torrence, California. After seeing it they got in contact with Austins parents, and insisted to have their family and Austin flown to California to train with them for a week, all expenses paid. What took place in that week is nothing short of a miracle. Austin went through a total transformation, and at the end of the week, had gained confidence and his self esteem back. The whole experience is on YouTube for everyone to watch, and I recommend anyone who has children or knows anyone struggling with bullying to watch it.

Positive Guidance for Children
There is so much to be said about positive guidance for people of all ages when it comes to martial arts. But I think it's especially important for children to have the positive guidance and lessons that come along with training instilled at a young age. I'm going to list four ways in which martial arts can impact children in a positive way and provide them with guidance.

The first is obedience. This is something most children seem to struggle with. Its hard for them to sit still, and take orders from somebody. I believe the structure and environment of a martial arts academy is a perfect place for children to learn obedience early on. They are required to sit still and listen while the instructor teaches, and then they break up into groups and practice the techniques. Not only are they learning obedience by sitting and listening, but they are learning it through practicing techniques and and being corrected when they do them wrong. This coupled with obedience being taught at home will promote respect and compliance.

The second is social skills. While training martial arts you will be meeting lots of new people from different walks of life, and will also be up close and personal with hands on training. I believe it is different and healthier than the social interactions they encounter at school. Children will learn to befriend other children they have never met, and work with them to achieve proper technique and form. Training martial arts will reduce the awkwardness of meeting new people and developing relationships, because you are forced to do so everyday.

The third is goal making. I think its vital to set goals for yourself at any age. For a child who is training martial arts, those goals can range from getting in shape, better at techniques, getting another degree on their belt, and eventually promoting to a higher belt rank. This is a perfect illustration for a child of how hard work and discipline pays off. They will see the reward of all their training, and will encourage them to set and reach goals for themselves outside of the gym as well.

The fourth and last thing I want to mention is confidence. This goes back to what I said about the mental health I have gained personally. When a child learns to be confident at a young age, they will take that confidence with them wherever they go. They will be less likely to be bullied, they will dream big and take risks, and they will develop healthier relationships. I personally do not have children yet, but when I do, I will enroll them in martial arts so that they too can become more obedient, social, goal-oriented and confident human beings.

4. Camaraderie
Websters definition for camaraderie is a feeling of good friendship or trust among the people in a group. I can't think of a better way to describe the relationships you build by training martial arts together. There's a level of mutual respect martial artists have for each other, whether they are training partners at the same academy or not. I believe its because we each know the struggles and joys of training, and how hard the journey can be at times. That mutual respect is seen at the end of a martial arts bout when both fighters hug and shake hands. It's not only good sportsmanship, it's saying ''I know how hard you worked to get here, and the sacrifices and time you've put in, and I can relate and respect you for that.''

It's a universal language we all share who train. That language is spoken more fluently though within academies between training partners. Being around your training partners you get to know them. You meet people from all walks of life. For example, I train with doctors, police officers, teachers, students, accountants, young people, old people, men and women. We all share a bond that we would never have had if it weren't for martial arts.

Martial arts brings people together, which can lead to lasting friendships. There is a large amount of trust shared between each other, because we are using dangerous techniques that can inflict serious injury. We trust that our training partners won't intentionally hurt us. We also trust each other to help us grow and learn. It's very common to see people sharing techniques, and picking each others brains about certain moves. The camaraderie is easy to have because most people who train martial arts are very down-to-earth individuals.

It's because martial arts weeds out the prideful and arrogant people, and the ones who are left are there because they were able to accept defeat and adversity, and make it through it. They are humbled and molded by it. I'm sure everyone says it, but you can't find a better bunch than the amazing individuals I have the privilege of training with. If you don't believe me come on down to Chattanooga Jiu Jitsu Academy and try. Your first few classes for free!

Instance of self defense
Luckily, I have only had to use my martial arts training on two different occasions outside of the academy. I'm going to focus on the one in which I feel like exemplifies what martial arts training is truly for. A few years back, I worked as a waiter at a restaurant downtown. There was a guy who worked there who had some anger issues, and would take them out on some of the staff. I would see him harassing girls, and would occasionally give me a hard time.

Usually, it was only verbal. I told him to stop multiple times, but he continued to act the same way. The first physical altercation we had was one day we were working together, and he through a gift card at me, and it hit me and fell to the floor. I reached down to grab it and he lunged forward to step on it so I couldn't grab it, but stepped on my fingers in the process.

I pushed him back and he warned me that customers may see us since we were out near the dining area. I brushed it off and went about my business. Our second run in was more serious. I was at work one night bringing dishes to the kitchen to clean them off, when he swung open the kitchen door and stormed back there sweating, and in a demanding way said, ''Hey come take care of this table that just sat down!''

So I asked him where it was, and found out it was in his section. All I did was shrug my shoulders while cleaning off my dishes as if to say, ''What do you want me to do? I'm trying to take care of my own tables.'' When I did that, he got physical. He leaped forward and threw a punch to my groin area.

I had my apron on with my order pad in the middle so it absorbed most of the impact, but I could tell he was serious from how much force he used. I immediately shoved him forward to create some space between us. He started walking back towards me. I had no idea what he was going to do, so I did what I was taught to do. I put my arms up to guard my face and when he got close enough I clinched him with a bear hug, and immediately tripped him and fell to the kitchen floor with him. We landed hard, but he took all of the impact since I landed on him, and it was concrete.

I was fully mounted on him and instead of sitting up and reigning down punches, I simply put my forearm across his throat and told him not to touch me ever again. Around that time a fellow employee grabbed under my arms and lifted me off of him. At first, I was very unsatisfied because I didn't get to hurt him other than maybe some bruised ribs and jammed finger, but after cooling off some, I realized I had reacted exactly how I should have.

I was able to use self control and discipline in a situation that could have ended up much worse. I felt confident enough about how I handled myself that I told my instructor about it the very next class I went to. He was proud of the way I dealt with it, and told me that what I did was enough to let the guy know not to mess with me, and hopefully it humbled him some in the process.

Word spread quick at that restaurant about what happened, and people were coming up to me asking me about it. I just said that we ''wrestled'' a little and that it was a misunderstanding. He later apologized to me, and we put it behind us. A question I'm asked frequently is, if I felt confident that I would be able to use my martial arts training in a high stress situation. My answer is yes. We train techniques countless times, repetition after repetition, to develop muscle memory. That muscle memory allows our bodies to go on autopilot when a self defense situation occurs.

Martial arts have helped bring balance to my life. Not only in the sense of physical balance, but the ability to balance my life outside of the academy as well.

Learning to utilize and divide my time efficiently while training has helped me be better at multi tasking in everyday life. It's easier for me to see what will be a good use of my time, and also the easiest way to go about solving problems. One of the unique aspects of martial arts is the fact that they can build you up while at the same time keeping you leveled and down to earth. There is a special ebb and flow between the two.

For example, after training for a few years you gain a certain level of proficiency with the techniques, and are able to execute them against your training partners. It builds up confidence and a feeling of accomplishment. All the while that you are getting better and gaining confidence, you are also being reminded daily of the fact there are so many people who are better than you, and who humble you with defeat constantly. It is in this sense that there is a healthy balance.

I have learned to take both defeat and victory lightly. As my instructor has said, if I am beating people at a lower rank, and losing to those who are higher, then all is how it should be in the universe. This perspective is true off the mat as well. Hard work + time put in = results. I can apply that formula while looking at other martial artists, or at people in college or the workplace. This helps to understand people's success without getting jealous or having my pride hurt.

I feel like training martial arts has shaped my life tremendously in a positive way, and has also brought balance and structure to my life. I am forever grateful for my amazing instructors, training partners, and academy that I'm proud to call my home away from home.

I want to end by talking about my personal journey before and after I started training and how martial arts has impacted my life. I was a trouble maker back in high school and got kicked out my freshman year. I was shipped off to a boarding academy. I thought it was the end of the world since I didn't know anyone.

During my stay at the boarding school, I met some guys who were into martial arts. We became friends, and I took an interest to what they were doing and started training with them. After high school, I got a job serving tables at a local restaurant. I got mixed up with the wrong crowd again and began doing drugs and eventually became a drug addict.

My life was falling apart, and my health and individuality was slowly fading. I still had the passion for martial arts in the back of my mind, and decided to go check out some free classes at Chattanooga Jiu-Jitsu Academy. I instantly fell in love and knew that I wanted to sign up. After singing up I was still doing drugs while training. It was hard for me to give them up at first. In time, with help from my family, friends, church and martial arts, I was able to get clean and sober!

I have been sober for quite a few years now, and have taken my training to the next level. I attend 6 classes every week, have a full time job, and attend church weekly. Looking back on the path that led me here, I can clearly see how everything happened for a reason. If I wouldn't have gotten kicked out of school, I may not have ever been introduced to martial arts.

I am grateful for the struggles and adversity I have gone through. Martial arts has been no different. There are ups and downs, but the discipline, structure, humility, and self control that I have gained from training helps me to keep moving forward to reach my goals. I also found out after a few years of training that I have a passion for teaching.

My dream is to teach martial arts one day and to be able to pass on the knowledge and life lessons that I have acquired. I love to see people light up when they understand techniques and begin to build confidence in themselves. I see myself in new students, and it inspires me, and I want to do the same for them.

In conclusion, I just want to say that martial arts is for everybody. There's no such thing as too young or too old, too big or too small, too weak or too strong. Anyone can be benefit from martial arts and learn to defend themselves and grow in all areas of their lives. I am so blessed and grateful for my journey and for the opportunity to share it with you, and please know that if I win it will go a long way. Thanks for taking the time to read my story!

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Anthony Smith
Chattanooga Jiu Jitsu Academy
Chattanooga TN 37343