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Don LeBlanc

Checkmat Purple Belt, Head of LEMA South Kids Program

What year did you start training and what was your attraction to BJJ?

I began officially training in BJJ in September/October 2017. Like a lot of people my age involved in martial arts, I was first drawn to it by seeing the early UFC tournaments dominated by Royce Gracie. I was 14 when I first saw UFC 2 on video cassette. I was already involved in karate but we did some rudimentary grappling as well. Seeing Royce do that to trained people who were bigger was like seeing magic. It took a few decades but life finally brought me to a point where I was able to jump in to jiujitsu as a further study of martial arts. It instantly overtook all the striking arts as my main focus, and can say that the magic I witnessed Royce perform is very real, and now get to not only see it, but also be a part of it.

What do you most enjoy about BJJ and training at LEMA?

I mentioned the magic before and that applies here as well. Having somebody half your size or double your age being able to do whatever they want to you is laughably humbling. I would also say the challenge and therapeutic properties it has had for me. It has given me tools not just as a fighter, but as a human to work through the darker and harder aspects that life can throw at us. To compliment that, jiujitsu has brought me in to contact with people from every walk of life, and shown me that you never know where true friends will be made. Go anywhere in the world and you can find a BJJ school that will welcome you to train for a night, a week, or for a lifetime. The community is real, and LEMA showed that to me.

Who is your inspiration and why?

Students that are NOT naturals; my mother; and ANYBODY that fights against their own demons and struggles and overcomes them, or at very least does not let themselves get broken by them. Life is challenging and there is plenty of darkness. It is easy to get swallowed up, so seeing those people who have so many odds against them keep showing up, keep trying, and fighting for every bit of ground they gain, is truly inspiring to me.

What are some of your achievements?

Living four decades plus LOL. Holding an official 2nd degree black belt in karate; a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do, and a purple belt in BJJ. Winning my first gold medal in BJJ at a cancer benefit tournament on my mother's birthday and having her be there in person. Helping numerous kids and adults grow through various martial arts over the last 20 years.

What is your favorite submission?

The one that gets the tap ultimately, but I often find myself finishing with hangman choke or belly-down arm bars.

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