Full Name: Cruz Soto
Belt Colour: Blue
Professor: Carlos Eduardo
Short Term Goals: Drop under Ultra Heavyweight! Heavyweight is where I’ll feel more comfortable to compete in.
Always be opened to trying new passions, especially if it's already brought an abundance of happiness and fulfilment in many of those that do try it. Jiu-jitsu has become a form of both physical and mental therapy for many practitioners and Cruz Soto is an excellent example of this. From struggling with previous injuries to finding new inspiration for life, Cruz has dedicated his life to being an active practitioner. We discuss topics from depression, back injury rehabilitation, the importance of living an inspiring life, and much more! Check out the rest of this article for an inside look into the thoughts of a passionate BJJ practitioner.
How long have you been doing jiu-jitsu for?
8 months total time.
Where do you train out of?
As of right now blueline Jiu-Jitsu but its closing down so I’ll be moving to a new gym here soon :/
Do you prefer gi or no-gi?
Gi all day!!! I love learning what you can do with it!! Grips are everything:)
Have your instructors helped you in other aspects of life other than jiu-jitsu?
Yes, he did. When I first fell off the roof and broke my back he came and help us with my wife’s and I newborn. He made sure we had everything taken care of. He has also been there for me emotionally when I was struggling outside of the gym.
What are some lessons you learned from jiu-jitsu that apply to everyday life?
In Jiu-Jitsu you can't lie to yourself. The work you put in it is the result you’ll get. I use that in my plumbing career. You can see when you do the work the right way. You can’t lie to the customer or your coach and teammates. They’ll see right through you and you’ll see it when you compete.
How often do you train?
5 days a week and I try to do two a days. It’s an obsession at this point!
What made you want to start training?
I actually got into it by accident. I went to watch some MMA fights and I saw two twins win their fights. I was curious about where they train. I added them on facebook and found out and scheduled a free trial. I used to fight so I was pumped. But soon after I started the MMA coach left the Jiu-Jitsu coach stated and took time to teach me and I stuck to it.
Do you plan on training your whole life?
Jiu-Jitsu saved my life so I owe it my life. Plain and simple:)
What’s it about jiu-jitsu that makes it so addicting?
I honestly think it’s the feeling of self-accomplishment. When you first start you don’t know a thing and struggle to learn but the more you do it the more you do. You figure out how to implement submission and escapes and it feels great. Also teaching other new students gives you confidence cause you know that you were there at one point.
What has jiu-jitsu done for your physical health?
This question is close to home. When I first started to train I thought I was invisible that I can never get hurt and that I didn’t need to take care of my health. But that changed quickly. As soon as I started to fall in love with it I fell off a roof and have a compound fracture on my L-2 and lost 30% of that bone. I had a lot of nerve damage and couldn’t feel my left leg anymore. They told me I had to push myself in physical therapy to start feeling good again.
My doctor instructed to use yoga and other exercises to help my backstretch he said to continue Jiu-Jitsu to see what it will do. After 4-6 months off I can finally start. It was slow in the beginning but slowly but surely I was able to touch my toes again and all the hernias went from 7mm to 3mm. They were no longer pushing into my spine allowing me to feel my legs again. I also lost weight which helped my back.
For anyone that might be dealing with an injury and is feeling down, what would you like to say to them?
Please know that it will get better and you’ll be back to training sooner than you think! One day at a time and work on your mental health while you let your physical health get better:)
Has jiu-jitsu benefited your mental health?
Yes, it has!! I was super depressed when I first started.
I felt like I haven’t found something that I’m good at. Jiu-Jitsu showed me that If I work hard I can accomplish anything. And that has pushed me to do better at everything else in my day to day life.
Do you have any advice for someone that might be going through depression like how you were before starting BJJ?
Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and try it. You will see that it’ll prove your inner voice wrong. Also, allow others to help you and talk to them that you’re doing it to help you with your mental health. You’ll be surprised how many others do it for the same thing.
Why do you think BJJ has become a form of therapy as well as fun sport/art for so many different practitioners?
Your gym becomes an extension of your home. You are surrounded by your teammates and coach that are considered your family. After a hard training session, you sit around talking to everyone about things going on in your life. Everyone laughs and listens. Not sure where else you can find that.
If you could restart your jiu-jitsu journey, would you do anything differently?
Nope, Never! I love the progress I’ve made from my mistakes and the friends I’ve made
What’s your advice for someone that’s never tried jiu-jitsu saw before but is interested in trying it?
Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t let others knowing more intimidate you. They were once in the same position as you and didn’t quit. Also, it’s a lot of fun!!!
Do you have any aspirations in jiu-jitsu?
To become the best version of myself and pass it on to my community.
I want to show them that no matter where you come from you can learn this Art and become better.
What’s your favourite move?
If you didn’t discover jiu-jitsu, where do you think you’d be now?
Dead to be honest. Being told I would lose the ability to walk scared me to death.
Would you like to see the sport become more mainstream?
YES!!! High-level athletes should get paid more during tournaments.
Have any of your training partners pushed you to reach your full potential?
Yes! One pushed me and told me to quit being lazy during drills. That me being lazy is hurting his progress. I didn’t think that my teammates depend on each other to grow.
When you were first starting, what was the most difficult concept of jiu-jitsu that you had trouble getting?
The traditional side of it. Some gyms are uniform only and some have strict rules on who & where to train.
If you could roll with any practitioner, dead or alive, who would it be?
What makes you want to inspire and motivate others?
I want others to feel the same way I do when I set a goal and accomplish it. Also by doing that I am pushing myself to lead by example.
Was there a difficult moment in your life where jiu-jitsu helped you get through it? If so, please explain.
I kept setting limits on myself after my life-altering accident. Jiujitsu taught me that it's only in my mind. I need to stop being afraid and push through my mental blocks.
What was it like competing for the first time and what was going through your mind right before your match started?
My first tournament was eye-opening. I wanted to win so bad that I let the adrenaline get the best of me. I made simple mistakes that cost me the match. After that, I learned to keep calm and breathe.
Describe what was going through your mind the second the ref raised your hand after you won your last match?
It was the greatest feeling known to man. I trained my tail off to showcase what I’ve learned! I about cried, to be honest, hahaha
What would you like to say to everyone that's supported you on your journey?
Thank you so much for the love and support everyone has shown me. It has not been easy but it wouldn’t be possible without every single one of you. And if you see my slacking please remind me and push me back into gear!
Has having a child changed your outlook on life? And if she reads this one day, what would you like to say to her?
It’s been such a motivation having her in my corner. I want to leave a legacy she can be proud of. I want her to say “that’s my dad!” When she sees me compete. I want her to be proud and see that if you work hard you can accomplish anything. What would I tell her? I’d tell her that please don’t quit. Work hard on your goals and no matter what gets in your way push through it. Lead by example and be the best version of yourself. Love you so much Violet!!
When the journey is over, how would you like to be remembered?
The man that never gave up. That you can see the love I have for this sport. That I did everything in my ability to help others.
Pictures are taken From Cruz Soto's Instagram page with his permission & Pixabay*
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