Picturing Competition Life at Salisbury

When I moved back to the amazing Eastern Shore to finish school, I honestly didn't know what to expect. 
These photos were taken during the fall semester while I was training for the DC and Cincinatti Open Championships as well as the Ocean City Classic. 
My aim for this post was to give an idea of what the competition life looks like in Salisbury, Maryland.

I took this photo at an event called Gym Wars. It was held at Southside BJJ; the Gracie Humaita affiliate academy where I train most recently. Gym Wars is best described as a big grappling party with awesome BJJ matches fueled by each fighter’s fiery desire to be the grittiest dude on the mat. The event ruleset is submission only and no time-limit.

Let me repeat that. SUBMISSION ONLY. NO TIME-LIMIT. So… yes, heel-hooks were legal.

Pretty sick.. amirite? YEAH, pretty intense too.

I like the above picture so much because the two fighters look like they are about to unleash a whirlwind of technical moves onto each other until one ends up maimed or unconscious. There’s so much intensity and aggression embodied in the stance of Zach, wearing white, as his opponent wearing black glares menacingly onward. This suspenseful intensity is what makes competition jiu-jitsu so beautiful. This is more than fighting, this is problem-solving under extreme stress and the two brown belts above are experts in this particular field.

Zack won with a collar-choke from half-guard about ten minutes into the match, the guy didn’t tap and went unconscious. It was exactly the violent showcase of jiu-jitsu people watching front-row,  sipping from red solo cups wanted to see.

These brown belts, though seemingly tense,  were incredibly comfortable with leaving everything on the mats for their academy. Imagine preparing for this moment over eight weeks, imagine every technique practiced, every submission series drilled over that time.

Now, imagine losing.

This image is a collage of screenshots from my no-gi match at the Ocean City Classics. I prepped for this tournament and the DC Open simultaneously since the competitions were back to back weekends.

Prepping for these tournaments while going back to school to finish my senior year of college was stressful. I’m grateful for the opportunity to train and go to school because it’s helping me build up some much-needed patience and self-control. I think the future me will benefit from these challenges because I believe encountering difficult problems on the mat makes solving life’s problems outside the competition realm a little bit easier.

When someone asks me why I compete in jiu-jitsu, I tell them it’s fun for me.

But, does it look like I’m having fun in these screenshots?


I don’t like losing and I definitely dislike being submitted by a bigger and more skilled opponent. I think I was more upset about not winning any medals than anything else that happened to me this fall semester. I like the photo collage above because it shows the reality of the competition life. You can train as hard as you want and as smart as you want, but there will always be someone more skilled than you.

Every day I go back to train at Southside is an opportunity to learn and work on my weaknesses with some of my favorite people in Salisbury.

Southside BJJ is not just a martial arts academy or competition team, we’re a pretty diverse bad*ss family of martial artists and this picture embodies that. The photo was taken after a grueling three-hour training session, were tired, I’m hungry, but it’s all smiles.

Mike Wilson (bottom right, blue gi) and Jack Shellenberger (middle, black gi) adopted me as their filipino-american little brother since I moved back to Salisbury. They’ve been coaching me and critiquing my technique meticulously all season long because they know I love competing and they can push me to be better which makes everyone else around better.

Dr. Nam (laying down) is a poli-sci professor at SU, but he’s also my Judo coach. I’ve been using the techniques he’s taught me to shut down some wrestler attacks. It’s pretty amazing to have a guy so well-versed in philosophy and politics as one of my coaches and close friends.

Sean, the red-head in the purple belt, will rip your legs off… so, just don’t go anywhere near him.

These pictures remind me of an article  by Aaron Bady on Ideology. The author wrote that a more successful advertisement typically hides ideology so that it doesn’t feel like propaganda. In BJJ, the intensity of fighting a skilled opponent, the bitter taste of defeat, and the sense of a progressive family are all ideologies hidden within the world of competition.