Interview with Ohana Academy owner Jason Yerrington about his philosophy on running a gym, Cronh's disease and their up coming Ohana Award Ceremony.
“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think”-Socrates
BJJ is not always about being number one or how many titles you obtain. For some, the lives of the people positively affected while on the journey truly is THE POINT. United States Martial Arts Inductee Professor Jason Yerrington talks to us about his special journey. A journey that he needed a helping hand with and those that love him rallied. Tamo Junto (TMJ) means you can count on me and when he needed it the most, Team Ohana was there to be counted on. The Ohana Academy Owner discusses training with Crohn’s Disease, the changes that led to the Ohana expansion, new black belts, and how he still has a fighting spirit whether or not the odds are in his favor. He has had the overwhelming love and support of friends, family, and his students during the most difficult time of his life. Professor Yerrington is living proof that it really isn’t about how you start the race but how you choose to see it through to the end.
BJJL:Why BJJ, not baseball or basketball, what drew you to this particular martial art?
JY: BJJ was something that I decided to start doing after I had finished playing basketball. I played two years at Angelina College in Lufkin, Texas and then transferred to the University of Incarnate Word where I red shirted my first year and finished out my eligibility the next two with them. When basketball was done there was a competitive void in my life. I saw the fight between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin. I was captivated watching those two guys put it all on the line. I knew right then and there I have to do that. Three months, I was the main event at a show in Waco, Texas. Needless to say, I got knocked out. I went back to the gym and started to really throw myself into Jiu Jitsu. Prior to that fight I had never trained in the Gi but as soon as I put it on and had my first roll, I was hooked for life!
BJJL:You are the owner of Ohana out of San Antonio TX. Ohana, what does it stand for/represent…why that particular moniker?
JY: Ohana is a Hawaiian term referring to family. The concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another! As I began to progress in my Jiu Jitsu journey I started to feel a sense of community and bonding with every one of my training partners. I chose to name our school Ohana because of this and the Hawaiian culture seemed to embody a lot of the concepts that I was becoming accustomed to from my experiences in Jiu Jitsu.
BJJL:How long have you been training, what’s your lineage?
JY: I started training in February 2006. I received my blue belt from a man named Jaime Miller. Shortly thereafter I left and enrolled at Marra Senki Jiu Jitsu Academy where Professor Sergio “Marra” Correra took me in. Once he awarded me my purple belt he helped me open my first Ohana Academy and he has been my professor ever since.
BJJL:How involved is your family?
JY: In the beginning my family (mainly my wife) was just a supportive and fan. Once my daughter Arianna turned three yrs old we started her in our Jitz for Totz program and since then my family has been very involved in everything we do at Ohana. Well that’s not totally true. My wife just recently started her journey on the mats a couple of weeks ago. My second daughter is two now but will also start training when she turns three. It makes my heart so happy seeing them on the mat. I know that I can feel comfortable as my girls grow up because they will be prepared in ways that the majority of people will not be. They may never ever want to compete and that’s fine. I know that the experiences they gain through Jiu Jitsu will prepare them in ways I never can as just their dad.
BJJL:A guy your size must have a difficult time finding the optimal training partner. You are in great shape, but you are what I call, a size extra. How do you compensate when training so that you don’t get hurt or so that you don’t hurt anyone?
JY: Being a big guy comes with its challenges and its pros for sure. It has always been my approach to training to try and move like a little guy. I never wanted to have a static strength type of game. I have always strived to have a flow more in tune with someone that is 150lbs or lighter as opposed to the kind of games that you see from guys 220lbs and above. Injuries will happen in training but I have found that there are three main philosophies when training jitz. Win/lose… lose/lose… and win/win… I strive to keep a 40% win/lose to 60% win/win ratio. A win/lose roll is a competitive roll. A win/win roll is more along the lines of catch and release or flow rolls. This way it allows me to explore and expand my game because of the investment that my partner and I put into our training rolls. You cannot however ever remove competitive rolls. If you do then what good would it be if you had to defend yourself on the street or in a competition.
BJJL:What aspect of your game do you think has improved the most since you began training?
JY: The aspect of my game that has improved the most would have to be my inversions and also my escapes. Movement with a purpose but never straying from the movement. As soon as you stop moving you start dying
BJJL:What do you try to instill in your students the moment the set foot on the mat?
JY: I try to instill in the students to invest in losing or as we call it learning. I try to let people know that the wall of China wasn’t built in a day. There are so many ways to answer this question but the truth is that it is different for each student. Everyone has an individual journey!!
BJJL: I don’t know how many people are aware of this but in 2012 you were inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Instructor of the Year. That is an AMAZING accomplishment. Talk about what that meant to you, to your family.
JY: That was a VERY unexpected honor! I do this because I love Jiu Jitsu and I love helping people. In a way I see Ohana Academy as a church, a church of Jiu Jitsu! Lol but that is the truth. Being inducted was a major validation and one in which I am EXTREMELY proud of!
BJJL:What are the various programs that Ohana has to offer?
JY: My first academy (the Central San Antonio location) offers it all and we still pretty much do. We have BJJ, Boxing, Wrestling, Muay Thai, No Gi, and of course MMA. My second location in Stone Oak we wanted to create a grappling only school where our focus was Jiu Jitsu!
BJJL:Ohana had a transition with its black belts. Gustavo Carpio moved to California and you were able to partner with Bruno Alves (GFT). How did that transpire?
JY: Gustavo had a great opportunity to partner up with some business men in California and open his own school, Connect Jiu Jitsu. I was sad to see him go but so happy for him and his family! We still text and talk all the time. That’s one of things that I love about jitz, every class is the opportunity to meet your next lifelong friend. Basketball never did that for me. The opportunity to work with Bruno Alves was like a golden egg falling into my lap. He is a great guy with great Jiu Jitsu and an awesome addition to our family. It has been a pleasure to get to know him and his wife Alessandra.
BJJL:What are your long-term plans for Ohana?
JY: My long term plans for Ohana are to always be a family environment that uses Jiu Jitsu as a vehicle for accomplishing whatever your goals are. Whether that is to be a world champion, lose weight, stress relief, self-defense, or open up your own school.
BJJL:You have had a rough year due to illness, will you talk a bit about that?
JY: This year has been one of the most trying years of my life. I was diagnosed in 2009 with Crohn’s disease/ ulcerative colitis. In Nov 2014 I went into the ER for lower abdominal pain. At the ER they diagnosed me as having diverticulitis. I then had another colonoscopy in Dec 2014 and it was there that the doctor said I was misdiagnosed and it was not diverticulitis but instead a ball of cancerous cells in my colon. This is the average for people with active ulcerative colitis.
The risk for cancer increases dramatically after 6 years of an active disease. Since being diagnosed with that I have undergone chemo infusions, steroidal treatment, tons of drugs. I literally can’t even list them all. I have had countless accidents. At times it feels like I’m trapped in my own home due to the fact that I can’t leave without the risk of an accident. Then the doctors ordered me on total bowel rest which means they inserted a PICC line and every night for 14hrs I was given medicine and food. When I say food I mean this nasty white substance that had carbs and fats and proteins. I did this for just over three months before the PICC line became infected and the organism tunneled through my heart and made its way into my lungs and then was filtered into my blood.
I then had heart failure, kidney failure, and liver failure with a bad case of pneumonia in my lungs. In other words my body was septic. The doctors said that if I had waited one more hour I would have been dead. I then spent six days in the ICU. After getting out I refused to have the PICC line put back in and instead went on a juice fast after watching the documentary fat, sick, and nearly dying (I also competed in the Austin open five days after getting out of the ICU…DUMB). Since then I have begun a drastic recovery. I am still receiving infusions and am still on numerous medications including the steroids.
The good news is that after all this the ball of cells has decreased dramatically. I am still waiting to do another colonoscopy to biopsy the mass and go from there. Throughout these things I would never be able to have made it to where I am now without the constant help and support of my wife Megan. She has been there for me through everything and her undying love even in the worst situations has been such a blessing, but that’s what family is! That’s OHANA.
BJJL:Biggest setback since you began training?
JY: The biggest setback in my training has been these last 9 months.
JY: My proudest moment was winning the No Gi worlds as a brown belt. I have not yet been able to compete in the worlds as a black belt due to my health but I promise you I will make it back
JY: I think we all have regrets or things we would have liked to have done better. I wish I had started juicing earlier, paying closer attention to my health, and trying to do everything in my power to not let this sort of happen. I know that some things are out of my control but if I had known the type of affect that juicing has had on my disease I would have started years ago.
BJJL:Do you have anything coming up in the next few months at Ohana that you would like to announce?
JY: Coming up at the end of the year we have our rank day on Dec 3rd and I’m excited to announce the 1st annual OAC (Ohana Award Ceremony)happening on Dec 4th. This is going to be an awesome event where it will not be as strict as a black tie affair but more like a black tie affair OHANA style!
BJJL:Would you like to thank anyone for helping you along the way?
JY: First and foremost I want to thank the lord Jesus Christ, then my wife, and my two beautiful princesses. My father and mother for their support. My professor Sergio Correra, Gustavo Carpio, Randy for all of his awesome insights, and all my students that have believed in us and the concept that is Ohana Jiu Jitsu.
A journey begins and ends wherever we want it to. The path is ours to choose. When the time comes will you fight? Will you fight for your hopes, your dreams, and the very air that you breathe? When the time comes will the fight be in you? Will you push the limits and go above and beyond what is humanly possible? Professor Yerrington chose to fight. He has fought every step of the way of his journey in BJJ and in life. Professor Yerrington’s Journey is unique and inspirational. On that day when you know you have absolutely nothing left and you think you have gone as far as you can go. Just get up, think outside of yourself for a moment, and just like Professor Yerrington, FIGHT!
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”-Confucius
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