We Are SI
Michael Dunne '16
When you were in your adolescent years, did your parents ever sign you up for a mixed martial arts class? For many teenagers, like Chris Jereza ’16 the answer is yes. However, when Chris and I discussed his karate experiences, he said, “I took classes for about two months before dropping out to focus more on music and theater.” Instead of ending, however, Chris’ amazing journey as a mixed martial artist was only beginning.
Taking him only a year to realize that he missed the sport, he met a grammar school friend’s father who took him under his belt (no pun intended) and taught him new forms of mixed martial arts. After six years of dedicated effort, he earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
Wax on, wax off
Chris’ martial arts career gradually escalated as he had “only competed in ‘unofficial’ local tournaments until about a year ago.” Just how serious you may ask? Chris claimed, “I started participating in AAU Tae Kwon Do tournaments around California and with USA Tae Kwon Do.” As a result of practicing two hours nearly every day, he and a few other elite competitors were fortunate enough to qualify for the national championships in Chicago this past summer. Unfortunately, Chris said that he had to “forfeit [his] match at the national championships due to an overuse injury.” Despite this disappointment, through his “indomitable attitude” and “unconditional belief in himself,” he found the strength to pull himself together and motivate himself to continue competing at an elite level.
Later, Chris explained that mixed martial arts are much more than a competition to him. “As a martial artist,” he said, ”I have developed a deeper level of respect and humanity towards other people.” Prior to each match, he prays and meditates, both of which contribute to the unification of his mind, body, and spirit.
Since he acquired his Tae Kwon Do black belt, he currently is on his quest to acquire one in Hapkido. With so much success in his mixed martial arts career, I’ve already contacted Jackie Chan advising him to replace Jaden Smith with Chris Jereza ’16 as his new protégée.
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