Do I Have Any Jiu Jitsu Heroes?

By Elisabeth Clay

This is a question I am asked A LOT and every time I give the same simple answer: no. Upon thinking about this more, I realized I was dead wrong; I do have a hero, but it’s probably not anyone you know at all, unless you happen to know him as my professor, Jordan Kontra.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, and your probably rolling your eyes a bit. Honestly, I do the same when someone says, “Oh my professor, he’s just the best. He’s like my hero.” It’s not like that for me. Upon reflecting about it, it’s more, well… I wouldn’t be competing anymore if it wasn’t for Prof. Jordan.

I Used to Hate Training

2016’s IBJJF Worlds would have been my first and last Worlds ever, not because the competition went badly (it actually went quite well), but because I was in a very bad and dark place. I had fallen completely out of love with jiu-jitsu months and months before the tournament. I kept training, like I had been before, because I knew that I did deep down love it. However, I also knew that I now hated where I was training, and how the facility was being run. I used to look at the clock and I would drill and roll and do everything how I did before, but I couldn’t wait for that clock to tell me I could leave and go home.

That’s what I did: Every. Single. Day…

I did this multiple times a day for months. Then, after Worlds, circumstances changed and made it so that I couldn’t train there anymore. I had nowhere to train. I was done. My jiu jitsu career was over. Then, on a visit up to Anchorage (we lived a few hours away) to go to the dentist, I knew a new gym called Legacy Jiu-Jitsu had just opened up a month or so before, so I thought it was perfect. I figured I would go and try out a class just to do something because I was going crazy and becoming super, super depressed.

I went in to try a noon class and Jordan was there behind the desk with a cast still on his wrist from breaking it (yes, and he was training with it on too). The class I took wasn’t a class he taught. Another one of the black belts was leading class. I took the class and I absolutely loved the vibe of hard training mixed with sick reggae beats.

My mother and I stayed and talk to Jordan about how things didn’t work out with my previous gym of 4 years. We talked about what I HAD wanted, but that I no longer wanted to compete anymore, or at least for a long time. I needed to see if I could fall back in love with jiu jitsu first, because I didn’t love it anymore (or so I thought). Well, Jordan agreed and felt he could give me everything I needed.

elisabeth clay and coach

BUT, There Was One Big Problem

I didn’t live there, and he hardly knew me (well, he didn’t know me), so he had my mom post on the Legacy FaceBook page that I wanted to move up to train and needed somewhere to stay. Jordan said, worst case scenario, if no one offered a place that I could stay at the gym (he offered this to someone he didn’t even know)! Luckily, a family volunteered and I ended up with a place to stay. I stayed with that family for a couple months, but before I actually came up to stay he wanted to make sure that I really knew Legacy was a great fit for me. So, we came up and stayed and trained for (I can’t remember) either one or two weeks. Yes, my mother and I stayed in the car, it’s all we had, and we also camped. It worked, and the lesson is you should do whatever you need to for the things you love (I guess I still loved it, but I wasn’t sure).

Within 2 months, Jordan not only had me back in love with jiu-jitsu, but I competed again in August of that year, not even two months later. Within nine months, he took me to ADCC trials and won. Without him, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today.

So yes, I do have a hero, but not the big name jiu-jitsu people you know. My hero is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu professor in Anchorage Alaska, Professor Jordan Kontra. Thank you prof!

Be your own lion or lioness!

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