There are several movies that show athletes who make sacrifices to train and get up early in order to win championships or overcome difficult challenges. Preston Blackmon, the head of the jiu-jitsu club at BYU-Idaho and a junior studying physiology, said he decided to start his journey to become a fighter after watching a movie about ultimate fighting four years ago.
Blackmon said he came to BYU-I for school and while here, he found he could continue training and practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu through the jiu-jitsu club.
Blackmon said the jiu-jitsu program at BYU-I has been passed down from student to student for several years.
“People come and they fall in love, and then they are able to maintain the club through the years,” Blackmon said.
He said he found his love for jiu-jitsu after enrolling in a kickboxing school.
Blackmon said Will Rodgers, who travelled to teach jiu-jitsu at the kickboxing school, trained him for tournament fighting.
Blackmon said he was invited to wrestle some experienced fighters before his first tournament.
“He puts his best guys against us, which are these two grown men who have been doing jiu-jitsu, and they just obliterated us,” Blackmon said.
Though this experience broke his confidence, Blackmon said it motivated him to fight harder. He went on to the jiu-jitsu tournament and took the gold medal. He said he got what he calls “gold fever,” which is when competitors want to compete for more gold medals.
“After that tournament, I was in another one within a month and a half,” Blackmon said.
Taking gold in the several tournaments that followed did not come easy or without consequence, Blackmon said.
He said he switched to training with Rodgers at his studio 45 minutes away.
Blackmon said making this commute three times a week at 4 a.m. on top of weight lifting and other trainings six days a week helped him to become the great fighter he is today.
“I loved it, so I didn’t care,” Blackmon said. “I just put up with it.”
Blackmon said although he does not get to train as fully as he did back home due to a full school schedule and running the jiu-jitsu club, he trains as much as he can to be ready for tournaments and for when he competes with his team back home.
Blackmon said he invites anyone who wants to learn to join the club.
The jiu-jitsu club meets in the wrestling room in the auxiliary gym at the John W. Hart Building Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 a.m. according to the BYU-I website. These trainings last for two hours, and students can learn basic techniques and also have a chance to spar a little when they are ready.
Blackmon said he loves teaching students, and though not everyone sticks with it, for him it is worth it to see even one person get into jiu-jitsu and love it.
“I did the program for a while, and I loved it,” said Levi Smith, a sophomore studying history. “Preston is a tough guy. Though I do boxing, jiu-jitsu was fun, and I learned a lot.”