Ian Matuszak on How Jiu-Jitsu Changed his Life & Competing in The First Ever Tournament for Grapplers w/ Disabilities

Like for many of us, Ian Matuszak’s life changed when he started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He became hooked to all the benefits it brought him. Ian is physically disabled with Cerebral Palsy but has adapted very well to Jiu-Jitsu. He will be competing at Grappler’s heart which is the first ever tournament designed for grapplers with disabilities. Find out more about Ian in his interview with BJJ Eastern Europe:

Hi Ian can you please introduce yourself to the BJJ community?

My name is Ian Matuszak. I am from Long Island, New York. I currently hold one stripe on my white belt. I train at Longo and Weidman MMA under Dave Patton and Pete Sell who are trained by Former UFC Welterweight Champion, Matt Serra. I am very passionate about Mixed Martial Arts as the pacing is mostly unpredictable. Naturally, this slowly introduced me to the different fighting styles associated with MMA. Throughout my time watching, I always found the ground aspect of fighting more compelling to watch as I didn’t really understand how the positions worked in a technical sense as I wasn’t training at the time.

How did you start training BJJ?

This is actually really great to look back on considering February 28th will be one year of training on a regular basis. Before training, I just was visiting Chris Weidman’s gym as a fan as I enjoyed watching our amateur and professional fighters train. After a couple of visits a team mate asked me if I would be interested in trying to get on the mats and learn myself. Being physically disabled with Cerebral Palsy, I didn’t know if it was possible, I wasn’t sure of my ability. The word ‘ability’ is actually really interesting as it can be perceived two ways. How individuals measure themselves and abilities that have yet to be discovered. I always tell myself that I want to try new things to test my ability. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was the perfect outlet to do just that, so I said I would give it a try— and I am so glad that I did.

Please tell us about your disability

Cerebral Palsy is a neurological condition, caused by too much or too little oxygen being sent to the brain. This interrupts signals that are sent to the brain from the Nervous System causing mobility and speech to be affected. I mainly use a walker for mobility and a wheelchair for long distances. I also have a stutter, which is triggered based on the current situation I am in.

Please tell us more about the first Jiu Jitsu tournament strictly for the disabled, Grappler’s Heart, where you will be competing this coming April

Grappler’s Heart is an upcoming Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition, exclusively for disabled athletes. It is being held at Renzo Gracie’s school in Brooklyn, New York on April 26th. I think this is a great opportunity for disabled athletes to showcase that they in fact can compete regardless of physical or mental “limitations.” Personally, I can’t wait to get on the mats and test myself among those who are on an equal playing field. However, thats not to say that I won’t be competing in regular divisions in the future. The way I see it, I am using Grappler’s Heart as a starting point for the competitive scene. I will play it by ear. Regardless of the outcome in April, I am so proud of myself and what I have accomplished. My goal is to inspire as many people as possible, to show that anything is possible if one’s mindset is clear and focused on the task at hand.

What are for you the benefits of training BJJ instead of some other activity or sport?

The beautiful thing about Jiu Jitsu is that it is extremely adaptable. It allows individuals who are generally not athletic to develop their own ‘game’ and skill set. If compared to another sport, say, American Football, Jiu Jitsu allows so much more room for personalization. There is no other way to hold onto the ball and run down the field, hoping for a touchdown besides the play the team decides to go with. It is very one dimensional in regards to the technique used. However, in Jiu Jitsu there are so many ways to go about doing every submission. Individuals like Eddie Bravo take it one step further by redefining concepts like the traditional guard, transforming Jiu Jitsu with their own personal flair, in Eddie’s case the Rubber Guard. Jiu Jitsu’s benefits me personally by improving my endurance, reducing my stress, learning to control my mind in regards to my objective, and increasing my confidence as a whole. Jiu Jitsu has also improved my social life as I find myself speaking more in my college (university) classes because of the relationship I have with my training partners and instructors while on the mats.

How do you adapt your BJJ game to make the most of your disability?

I would like to think my Jiu Jitsu game is very unique. I mainly rely on my upper body to get me into the more dominant positions, as I am deceptively strong. I can however use my legs to some degree. I would say the split is 90% upper body, 10% legs. My legs are mainly used for assisting in transitions. Side Control and Half Guard are the best positions for me, as I hit different chokes from many different angles. I allow my partners to get into a position that makes them think that they have an advantage, while at the same time I am looking for the right opportunity to explode, in hopes to turn the tables. I do this by regulating the amount of arm power I use and how much pressure I apply. I am also getting into the habit of sticking to my partner forcing him or her to carry my weight and endure my strength. I often find my partners focus on resisting my strength rather then focusing on offense.

However, this plan does not always work, especially with the more experienced belts as they work faster to keep up a good pace, forcing me to work and think of what I know of the situation and how to defend or otherwise combat against it. I also need to learn not to over expose my arms for attack as well as gaining speed in regards to hip movement to help situations where it is needed.

What do you think of disabled BJJ athletes such Nick Newell or Jean Jacques Machado?

Actually, I was not aware of Master Jean Jacques Machado’s disability until now. Upon looking into it, I have even more respect for him. It’s one thing to have a disability, people in general often see that as a negative, but to turn something as negative as a disability into a positive, that takes a special kind of human being. Not only that, Master Jean Jacques Machado is world class, highly respected, and one of the most influential people in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I would like to think he has the same mindset as I do. If by chance he is reading this, it would be an honor to meet him one day. One can only hope. Disabled athletes need to have a special type of personality and Master Jean Jacques Machado has just that. I know it, I can tell.

Adaptive Warrior Fight Club

The Official Adaptive Warrior Fight Club Shirt. This shirt was designed to support a group of amazing people with varying disabilities. Proceeds from this shirt will go into helping them compete. This shirt celebrates the amazing stories they all have and what they have done to overcome the obstacles they've had to deal with. Adaptive warriors are inspirational to all of us.

KThis shirt is made of very high-quality material. It's soft and well-fitted.

Material: 100% Cotton

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What is next for you and your team in 2015?

2015 is a very exciting year. After Grappler’s Heart I will continue my training and decide when to compete again upon discussing it with my instructors. I look to improve every aspect of my game as well as gaining new skills to add to my arsenal.

Other events of Longo and Weidman MMA in 2015 are as follows:

My instructor, Dave Patton will be competing in the New York Open April 11th and 12th

UFC Champion Chris Weidman will be defending his belt against Vitor Belfort

UFC Lightweight Al Iaquinta will face Jorgre Masvidal on April 4th.

UFC Middleweight Eddie Gordon will face Chris Dempsey on April 18th

UFC Light- Heavyweight Gian Villante will face Corey Anderson on April 18th

UFC Bantamweight Aljamain Sterling will face Takeya Mizugaki on April 18th

Be sure to tune in!

If you want to thank somebody or sponsors, feel free

If you would like to follow me throughout my Jiu Jitsu journey, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, do so @IanMatuszak
I appreciate everyone for taking the time to read my story.

If you would like to follow me throughout my Jiu Jitsu journey, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, do so @IanMatuszak
I appreciate everyone for taking the time to read my story.

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