Paul Leon: “My experiences at the MRJJA have been among the best I’ve had.”

What does Brazilian Jiu-jitsu mean to me?

When I undertook to write this testimonial, I asked myself this question and spent the next few days considering the answer. In my life, Brazilian jiu-jitsu represents sacrifice, difficulty, frustration, and hours upon hours of effort. However, in the context of jiu-jitsu, all these things take on a positive connotation. Those things also mean reward, success, fun, victory and immense personal satisfaction. 

Jiu-jitsu has this impact on my life because of the Mario Roberto Jiu-Jitsu Academy.

Paul Leon with Lyoto Machida

Paul Leon with Lyoto Machida

When I first showed up at the gym, I was an un-athletic, slightly doughy figure with little desire or courage for competition. In fact, I came to the gym on a whim, not entirely sure it was the thing for me. But after watching my first class, meeting Mario, his staff, and the other students, I was convinced, at the very least, that this was a place I wanted to be.

For the last two years, I’ve trained at the MRJJA and my experiences there have been among the best I’ve had. I remember the first time I learned to throw a punch, how my body felt after I sparred the first time (painful), the first time I was tapped out and the first time I tapped someone else out. All the time, I was learning. I remember the days when certain principles or techniques would begin to click and run together into the actual practice of what we call jiu-jitsu and the enormous satisfaction that brought with it. While I had never been involved in athletics before martial arts, I had found a sport and a gym that provided the individual accountability but collective support I was looking for.

This occurs, in part, because the actual in-class instruction is world-class. Mario Roberto, much too humble to say so himself, is an incredible athlete, an inspiring individual, and a born teacher. The care he has for his students and the interest he takes in their personal success is reason enough to want him as a teacher. But ask any long or short-term student of Mario’s and they’ll speak about him and his instruction with respect and admiration. As Mario’s student, I have not only become a better athlete and a knowledgeable practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but the determination, courage and work-ethic he has taught me extend to all parts of life.

Training under Mario has driven me to pursue a higher level of achievement in and out of the gym. Whether in jiu-jitsu competition, lifting weights, studying English at the University of Minnesota, or striving towards personal goals, I have a new level of confidence and drive that I found for the first time in that gym.

In addition, Mario’s students learn to emulate his enthusiasm and his attitude. Training with the other members of the gym is an opportunity for challenge, as well as fun. I always look forward to coming back to the gym, because I know my training partners there will push me to excel, but make sure I have a good time doing it. The atmosphere at the gym is invaluable with its second-to-none work ethic, determined attitude, and welcoming, encouraging participants.

In short, when anyone has asked me where they should go for jiu-jitsu or mixed martial arts training (and many have), I always tell them to go to Rochester and the MRJJA. I couldn’t imagine a better environment or better instruction. I sincerely hope that many more people will come to have jiu-jitsu mean to them what it means to me because of the MRJJA.

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