Professor Mike Mendel’s Journey to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt

I first started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with Master Zingano in 2004 as a way to burn off some stress, stay in shape and to learn something new.

I had no idea that the "something new" would turn into a passion.  I initially thought I would work to my purple belt and that would be enough.  Well, as it turned out, I got hooked.

The journey that Master Zingano was about to take me on was a life changer.  I can still remember my first night in the academy, I was intimidated, I had no idea what to expect, but after my first class I knew I would be back the next day.

As a white belt I was in "survival mode" as other students and Master Zingano rolled me into positions/submissions that I had no idea how to counter.  The learning curve was steep.  Master Zingano and I would leave the academy and I would ask him, "how do I do this or that" and he would reassure me with "your doing fine, this is a process and if it were easy everyone would be doing this."

In essence, what I was beginning to learn was that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an exercise in humility, which in retrospect is one of its greatest gifts.   Then came the aches from engaging muscles I had never used before.  Fighting through the aches and some injuries were also part of the process.  After a year and a half of training, Master Zingano took me under his wing and I began assisting with classes.  It was through assisting and eventually teaching classes when I became a lifelong student.  For me Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is infinite, there is always something to learn.

The lessons learned on the mat are directly transferable to life off the mat.  It has helped me with problem solving, getting comfortable in uncomfortable situations and with relaxation.  As I was progressing so was Zingano Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Clearly, I was not the first to recognize the beauty of learning BJJ.  The academy began to grow and grow and grow.

With that growth came new students and those students I now call my friends, brothers, sisters and teachers.  This was another unexpected bonus to training, these connections that I was making with people, who I probably never would have met had it not been for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  People from all walks of life were bonding simply through this art.

I recently received my black belt, which again served as an exercise in humility.  I continue to learn that this journey is never ending and I could not be more grateful.  Thank you to all those who train, who keep this art evolving, to Master Zingano for his friendship and encouragement....

Professor Mike Mendel & Master Zingano