How Jiu-Jitsu Helped Me Recover From My Mother's Suicide | A Personal Story from Nicolas
Submission Shark Community | Instagram: @bontempo_bjj
Belt Colour: Green belt with Four Stripes
Professor: Jon Friedland | Neutral Ground
Short Term Goals: Working on getting my blue belt
I met Nicolas through social media not knowing what kind of conversation to expect. I enjoy talking with the community and sharing knowledge and inspiration between each other but his story was a little different. It touched my heart in many ways and I felt like others in the community can benefit from his story. He is a brilliant young man with a great heart to make a difference in this world. Take the time to get to know other like-minded individuals in the martial arts community and you will find supportive, kind, and inspiring people.
Here’s his story:
My jujitsu journey started when I was 12. I was going through a tough time because my mother just committed suicide and I was going down that road where I was going to end up like her. As I sat there for the first time watching my future neutral ground brothers and sisters roll I said: " how is this going to help me, I'm never going to be good at this and I will never use this". At that point, my dad's co-worker told me to get on the mat and pin him and I said "how" and he responded with "exactly".
The moment I stepped onto the mat and actually started training for a class or two I was hooked for life. I got my first stripe on my white belt after three months of training and I competed in my first competition after just 6 months of training. After blood, sweat, and more sweat haha I received all my stripes on my white belt, and then I got it thinking it's just a matter of time until I get my green belt and sure enough after three years of hard work, dedication and determination I got my green belt. That moment for me was so amazing, I honestly tried to hold back tears because here's a 15-year-old kid who's been through hell and he's come out of it a better man because of it. It was also awesome because I never thought a bunch of adults could accept a kid into their gym.
My journey has been a very long and interesting one and I can't wait for what the future holds for me in my jujitsu career. Now I'm working my way to a Blue belt!!!! Jujitsu has definitely saved my life and changed it positively for sure, I'm blessed to be able to say I train Brazilian jujitsu. A big shoutout to @proudbjjwhitebelt for supporting me and communicating with on possible opportunities with them!!!! So this little story is to prove that even when you think you can't accomplish anything in life, this proves you can, just with hard work and dedication you can do anything. Thank you guys for the support and respect that you guys give me.
How long have you been doing Jiu-jitsu for?
I have been training for 4 and a half years.
Where do you train out of?
I train out of Neutral Ground, under Professor Jon Friedland
Do you prefer the gi or no gi?
To be honest I love them both!!! I couldn’t really choose between GI or no GI.
Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu?
Absolutely! They have helped me big time in other aspects of my life.
Tonight I gave my professor his custom rash guard, and as I asked Jon Friedland to step in the middle of the mat so I could surprise him with this, a bunch of memories started flooding back and I started thinking back to who I was before Neutral Ground and my professor and as I was thinking about all that stuff and who I was, I started to get choked up.
Jon has taught me a great deal about life and how to conduct myself as a man, champion and overall a Martial artist. Jon has given me a family and he has accepted me when I thought no one outside my blood family would accept me. He has taught me to go after my dreams and he has taught me to not be afraid to do, try or say new things, Jon may be my professor but he is also one of my closest friends, training partners, and brothers.
I constantly live the good life and I’m reminded continuously who truly cares about me and who are truly my friends and family!!!! So as my professor says, stay the course, in other words, follow your dreams ladies and gentlemen, don’t ever give up, dream big and work hard!!!! Thank you Jon for everything you did and continue to do for me, I’m glad you loved the rash guard, it’s just a small token of appreciation of what you do for me, it will never be enough sir, thank you again!! Thank you guys for the support and respect that you guys give me.
What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that applies to everyday life?
Some lessons I learned from Jiu-Jitsu that applies to everyday life are patience, respect, control, honor, calmness under high-stress level events etc.
How often do you train?
I try to train every single day, two times a day, either a morning class and an evening class or a nooner and evening class.
Do you have any goals and aspirations in jiu-jitsu?
I do one day want to get my black belt, maybe even red belt because I started so young. I’m just on the journey and I love it!!! No rush though!! I am however in the process of buying the Grandmaster Helio Gracie book so I can start studying for my black belt one day.
Do you plan on training your whole life?
I do plan on training my whole life. I plan to train like Grand Master Helio Gracie. He was training just two days before he passed away. That’s what I want to do.
What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?
The thing that’s so addicting about Jiu-Jitsu is every single day and training session you have no idea what could happen, you know that you are rolling but you don’t know what could happen when you roll, what you could learn. I think for me. The thing that’s most addicting is the new challenges and mysteries every day.
What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?
Jiu-Jitsu has done wonders for my physical health, I was 256 one time when I was training now I’m around 210-216.
Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?
Jiu-Jitsu has improved my mental health in a great way. I can problem solve easier, and I’m more confident in myself and my abilities.
What is TAS and what's the message behind it?
T.A.S stands for Teens Against Suicide. To sum it up, the message is that you are not alone!!! No matter the situation you are strong and if you need to talk, we will help you. We will get you back on track. We all care about you, you all have such a bright future!!!! You may be damaged but you are not broken. Don't give up. TAS is a family and you are our family.
Another one of my training partners bought a TAS t-shirt. @ruddly22, thank you so much for getting a shirt, It means a lot to me and my organization!!!!!! I want to thank you for always being there when I needed a good laugh, or a serious conversation, or even when I just need to roll hard and to push myself, I know I can always count on you for those things. I'm so glad that I'm able to train with you almost every single night, you are truly family to me and I'm so happy you bought a t-shirt. Thank you again, Emma, for everything that you do for me, this again means a lot to me and my whole organization!!!!!!! Thanks again!!!! OSS!!!!! Remember ladies and gentlemen, suicide is not the answer, it doesn't take away the pain it only gives the pain to someone else. Don't be a bystander, be a helper and leader!!!!!! Let's bring suicide out of the darkness and into the light. If we do that, we will be able to fight it better!!!!! Join the fight ladies and gentlemen, if you are interested in joining TAS, just contact me and we will talk!!!!!! Thank you guys for the respect and support that you guys give me. Have a great night everyone!!!!!
If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything different?
Absolutely not! I think I would do everything the same!!!! There’s nothing I’d change!!! Maybe start younger. But no I wouldn’t change anything.
What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu before but is interested in trying it?
My advice is to just go into your local dojo and jump into the shark tank. Everyone is there to help you. You just have to trust them and give it a shot!!!
What’s your favorite move?
Hmm, I don’t really have a favorite move, I love them all! But I think the one I hit a ton is the S-Mount Arm Bar. That one is pretty sweet.
If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?
If I didn’t discover Jiu-Jitsu, I firmly believe that I would have ended up dead or been that kid drunk or high on drugs. Man, I don’t really know where I’d be without it!!!
Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?
Absolutely!!! I would love to see Jiu-Jitsu become more mainstream!! It’s so important to life and learning to defend yourself!!!
Have any of your training partners pushed you to reach your full potential?
Oh Absolutely man!! My training partners have all pushed to keep reaching my full potential every single day!! For four and half years they have been supportive of me no matter what! I’ve got the best team in the world.
Nicolas and his training partners after being invited to the intermediate class
When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?
I think personally for me because I wasn’t flexible when I started, the hardest part for me to understand when I started Jiu Jitsu was how to move in ways I have never moved before, and how to train and teach my body to evolve to different moves and techniques.
What made you want to start training?
When I was 11 my mother committed suicide, so a few months later my dad’s best friend and co-worker who trains Jiu-Jitsu as well. Knew I was going down the wrong path(getting suspended, getting into fights, mentally weak, like I was starting to think like my mom) so he told my dad to bring me to the dojo, and I was sitting there and was like how the hell is this going to help me. And my dad’s co-worker told me to get onto the mats and pin him and said how and he said exactly so I got onto the mat. And within a few weeks, I fell in love with it and it saved my life!!! Literally!! So that’s just kind of a brief overview of how I started and what made me start.
What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?
Man, what makes me want to inspire and motivate others is that I see greatness in everyone, people all have a choice to either do something they absolutely hate for the rest of their lives or do something they absolutely love and are passionate about and do that for the rest of their lives. I just want to see everyone reach their full potential, because if I can do it then anyone can do it!! Everyone has a purpose in life, the important part is to figure out what that is and apply it to their lives and everyone else’s lives.
What would you tell someone that’s going through something traumatic right now?
something I would tell someone who is going through a traumatic experience right now is to hang on, keep fighting, I know it feels like you will never make it out of this but you will!!! The bad times aren’t here to stay they are to pass. Just keep fighting ladies and gentlemen. I’ll always be here to talk as well!!
Not a moment goes by that I don’t think of her but I’ve come to grips with her death and I’ve accepted it in great ways this year.
I think my mother would be very proud of me, especially with everything that I’ve done with my life after she died by suicide, I know damn well my mom would be there cheering for me every time I give a speech, compete in a Jujitsu match, and I especially know she would be cheering louder than anyone else if she was alive today to watch me fight.
Suicide is a real problem in the world today, how about we start focusing on things that no one wants to talk about, instead of focusing on the same old bull crap every single day, that’s what I’m setting out to do, I’m setting out to make a difference and I’m setting out to save lives every day.
Rest In Peace Mom, I’ll continue to make you proud of me and I love you mom, now and forever!!!! Happy belated birthday once again mom!!!! Thank you guys for the support and respect that you guys give me.
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