USCS Grappler Spotlight: The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Reflection of Eli Knight
Analyzing a martial artist's journey sometimes can only be understood backwards to fully explain the current state they are at today. Artistic expression, physical refinement, facing adversity amongst other variables all become distinct representations which describes a practitioner’s progression through the art.
17 years of deep reflection of his own journey has brought one Royce Gracie Black Belt, Eli Knight to fully realize the personal benefits Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has contributed to his life. Looking past the glory and gold medal chasing trend of today’s generation Knight's outlook on this martial arts practice centers on uncovering the truths of life based on the principles and techniques established by the Gracie Family years ago.
Covered with some heavy burdens during his teenage years, 15-year-old Eli's enrollment in martial arts would serve as a positive outlet steering his attention away from the negativity plaguing his life during that time.
“I got involved in martial arts at around 15 years old, after my sister passed away,” Knight told USCS. I was an emotional wreck and getting into a lot of trouble. I didn’t have much discipline or guidance in my life, and looking back on it I think the structure that martial arts seemed to provide was an attractive feature to me.”
Deeply passionate about his new found hobby Knight became immersed into all the aspects the world of martial arts had to offer. Unfortunately with martial arts resources very limited in his place of residence in Western Kentucky finding suitable assistance proved to be a difficult task for this aspiring practitioner.
Not fazed by this dilemma through his vast travels through various fight disciplines, studying books, attending seminars, and meeting like-minded aspirants, the strong support system kept Knight’s motivation alive through his journey of enrichment.
“Training basically consisted of a group of us studying together with friend and mentor Jason Hawkins leading the way and refining the techniques from the most recent seminar we had visited. Although we called what we were doing “Jiu-Jitsu” we would frequently train techniques and concepts from various other arts.”
Studying numerous art forms during his three year stint Knight’s path of enlightenment would take an interesting turn after his viewing of an astonishing performance by a Brazilian fighter named Royce Gracie at UFC 1. This televised image would forever stick in his head thus introducing him to the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Gracie Jiu-jitsu).
“Being involved in martial arts, we had heard of the Gracie family, but had never really seen Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in action before,” Knight said. Of course got together to watch the pay-per-view, and we were amazed at what we saw. It was worlds different than the arts we were doing. “
Eagerly itching for the opportunity to learn this new art form Knight and his friend’s frequently visited Royce’s seminars throughout the Midwest gave them all a glimpse of what Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was all about. As time progressed Knight’s various appearances and deep interest would soon catch the eye of one Royce Gracie which would spark the beginning launch of a lifelong-friendship with the entire Gracie family.
Of course like his past participation in other disciplines the road was never easy especially when training jiu-jitsu in the Midwest. Nevertheless going through these difficult times the jiu-jitsu experience allowed Knight to gain a full understanding of what training jiu-jitsu was doing for him on a personal level.
“Training was my rock. It helped shaped me in positive ways. When relationships, friendships, work, school, etc. we’re all going badly, training kept me together. Training gave me the guidance I needed when I was confused and it reaffirmed the positive decisions I made because I knew I was becoming a better person because of it. It wasn't always easy, but that was the point: I learned that anything worth doing is worth the effort.”
The long hard years of seminars, training, competing, and knowledge gained from MMA/BJJ legends gradually built Eli Knight positively on the inside and out. Coming to a major crossroad in his adventure, September 2011 marked an epic culmination in Knight's life with him becoming the honorary recipient of earning his BJJ black belt from the Legendary Royce Gracie; a feat only 50 individuals have reached in the United States.
Putting those 17 years of martial arts expertise toward the community in his role as the instructor at Three Rivers Martial Arts Academy located in Paducah, Kentucky the Royce Gracie Black belt has used this facility as a major hub for aiding and guiding students in fulfilling the goals they wish to accomplish in their lives.
“Jiu-Jitsu has the power to change lives, and I am happy to share that. I have students that are champions, and I have students with physical, mental and emotional challenges who have difficulties with otherwise simple daily tasks. I have been honored to share this art with military and police who protect us. I have taught kids who are being bullied how to take up for themselves. I don't want to seem like I am bragging on myself, rather I am explaining what keeps me going and motivated to serve.”
Refinement, personal development, and beauty of the art the world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu has many wonders one can uncover. Taking his own trip down memory lane Eli Knight's martial arts reflection paints a clear portrait of the service and impact Brazilian jiu-jitsu can make in one's life. Eli's journey should serve as a constant reminder for all to never give up on something your passionate about because through that struggle the ultimate prize of happiness is waiting for you at the finish line.
Eli Knight’s Special Thanks: Jason Hawkins is the man responsible for more opportunity for me in my martial arts journey than anyone else. He has given me knowledge as my teacher, support as my brother and always been there by me. Jared Jessup is my best friend and fellow black belt who took most of the journey with me since we were essentially kids. He and I have very similar beliefs and vision as to what BJJ is. Derik Perry, Brad Lynn, and the late Kevin Traughber are my other brothers of the sword and much thanks to them for being my BJJ family and of course, Royce Gracie and Rodrigo Gracie for being my primary teachers and mentors in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Lastly I would also have to mention all those special people who pushed me when I needed and convinced me to go harder and that I could someday be a teacher.