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Jay “Gato Negro” Figueroa is an upcoming Kid’s BJJ fighter who is on a tear lately in local competition throughout Connecticut and Massachusetts. He has been training extremely hard and fighting as much as possible. As a result, his collection of BJJ Medals and Championship Belts seems to be growing exponentially. While there are many young athletes who standout from their opponents in BJJ competition, Jay displays a unique skillset and potential for greatness.

His latest victories in the King of the Mat Grappling tournament on March 23rd, 2013 were yet another display of this young athlete’s unique talent. Jay defeated all of his opponents in impressive fashion and as usual, displayed an arsenal of advanced BJJ techniques that most student’s his age do not know. While his technical knowledge of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is certainly impressive, that alone is not the measure of a standout athlete.

The majority of BJJ students in a typical children’s martial arts class can not comprehend the techniques Jay has pulled off in competition. A handful of kids can learn the techniques well enough to drill, but lack the necessary fundamentals to make them work repeatedly. Even fewer can make them work in competition. The real reason to keep an eye on this kid is his ability to not only make these techniques effective in competition, but his ability to seamlessly transition from one technique to another until the inevitable submission.

Watch the videos from Jay’s performances in NAGA and Ammo Fight League below and keep in mind you are watching a 12 year old. Every one of his videos is exciting and full of action. Most top level adult grapplers do not put on a show like Jay does. They are too concerned about winning. Jay reminds us why we all started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the first place. Too often I have students, more often than not adults, who refrain from competition because they are “not ready”, “don’t think they can win right now” or are “out of shape”. I am guilty as well.

The BJJ Student Becomes the BJJ Teacher
Connecticut Kid's Martial Arts ChampionWe all love to train BJJ so much that we sacrifice daily to make it into as many classes as possible, watch endless competition videos and study as many instructionals as we can. How come we don’t share that same love for competing in that same sport we love? We are too hung up on winning and only think about the possible negative outcomes if we were to lose. What will our teammates, coaches, family and friends think if I fail?

Most of us, including myself, could learn a thing or two by watching Jay compete. His timing is perfect, transitions are smooth, and his techniques are solid. He moves with finess and displays an incredibly dominant presence in all of his matches. The reason he is able to compete with such serenity is that he is doing exactly what he does in class. He is just playing his game which is something most of us have a hard time doing in competition. The difference between most of us and Jay, is that he is actually having fun out there and isn’t obsessed with the idea of losing.

I am really proud of you Jay. Not because you won, but because you train really hard and perform the techniques just like you were taught. What’s more is that you are respectful to your opponents and are always the one to bow and shake your opponents hand. You show great humility and I appreciate you representing Team Link and your coaches properly. Like I told you in the last tournament, you keep being humble. Let me brag and be cocky on your behalf.

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