Beyond The Mat – Gramercy Instructor Jimmie Rivera
Jimmie Rivera’s initial martial art attraction came as a little kid, after watching the Karate Kid and Ninja Turtles. His steady, ongoing dedication to getting better became a driving force of his life. Jimmie is a martial artist living his dream, and the dream is a real-time reality! A pro since 2008, he has gone an impressive stretch of winning 20 of 21 consecutive matches, and will be returning to the ring to face John Dodson in UFC 228. Jimmie’s uncle gave him the nickname of El Terror and – during a competition – that seems like the perfect name for him.
His story, however, is multi-dimensional. In our first Beyond The Mat profile, Jimmie talks about the mind, body and soul aspects of martial arts, motivation, confidence, his one-to-one connection to his students, and memorable elements he has experienced as a top professional instructor at the Tiger Schulmann’s Gramercy School. It will give you insight into who Jimmie Rivera is – both as a person, and as a key foundational part of the Tiger Schulmann’s family.
Also make sure to follow him on Twitter @JimmieRivera135.
How has martial arts become an integral part of your overall health?
The fact you are getting into shape and learning self defense at the same time. Nothing compares to it. It is the ultimate workout for body, mind and soul. It has educated me on nutrition and the importance or being in shape and staying in shape.
What separates Tiger Schulmann’s training from other types of gyms?
Just to be able to take care of myself and stay in shape as well as to learn to eat healthy. Being in shape isn’t a chore, it is a lifestyle where I can wake up every morning, look in the mirror and be super happy about what I see. It is a huge confidence motivator.
Share a story of a student that joined Tiger Schulmann’s to make a dramatic change in their health and/or their overall fitness. What results did they achieve under your guidance?
Maria Blanco is a great story. Maria came in with no muscle tone, no definition and zero understanding the importance of martial arts. Fast forward to today, now the whole family trains with us. She’s a two-time 90 Day Challenge winner, in unbelievable shape, and earned her black belt under me. It has been a great out look for her to stay in shape and let out stress.
How do you make your teaching connect to students’ real-world experiences?
It varies on student depending on the class they are in and what they came in for. One of my main aim is to educate them of the importance of being shape and taking care of their body. Once they grasp that, we can move into the intermediate level, where a focus is to address the importance of defense and countering.This is where we get a bit more detailed and explain “the why” behind each technique.
Have you competed in martial arts competition? If so, how do you think you benefited from your experience(s)?
Yes in everything Challenge of Champions and amateur fights, to professional fights all the way up to the UFC. I believe it makes me a better martial artist and instructor. The bestway you learn is from your own mistakes and then figure out how to use those turn those errors into ways to benefit others.
What are you thoughts about the importance of competition for your students?
I believe the importance of students competing in Challenge Of Champions is to push them out of their comfort zone – its kind of like public speaking. Competing helps with comradery and getting students better; they learn from their mistakes and that makes them a better martial arts. For the kids it is super important – its a great tool to teach them if they do lose to get back up on the horse and try again.
How do you motivate and set goals for your students?
I set small goals for that are achievable for the everyone. Whether you’re new or experienced, young or old, there are goals perfect for everyone. In the beginning its baby steps, but still staying focused on long term achievements like working towards a black belt or losing significant amount of weight.
How does the competitive nature of martial arts play into your teaching philosophy?
I think it plays a big part. Students see the challenges that I go through, the training and discipline it takes, and how hard I work to get my hand raised in the ring. It motivates them. As well as they see nothing is easy or given to you. You have to work to achieve.
How do you feel when you see your students achieve a goal you have worked with them to achieve?
It’s one of the best feelings ever. Watching hard work pay off for students is when I’m most appreciative to be an instructor. Being able to help people when others couldn’t, words can’t describe the feeling. For example, when a kid comes in so shy and scared and I am able to break them out of the shell and they become confident and is able to stand up to a bully! No better feeling!
Share an example of how you helped coach or mentor someone. What improvements did you see in the person’s knowledge or skills?
I have so many great students and all of them have a great story, but here’s one that always makes me smile. I had a student named Matthew (who is now away and in college.) He did not pass his black belt of the first try, or even the second. It took him three times to pass. We worked hard together, we trained non-stop, going over grappling moves daily for him to approve and get better. We discussed the importance of understanding and balancing when to use his strength versus when to use more technique. The work paid off though, because the end goal was accomplished. He got his belt! When he passed, I received a phone call from his dad, how he told me that not only did Matt pass the test, but he slept with his black belt on in his bed!
Why did you become and instructor and what does it mean to you?
I became instructor to give back to the students, like my Senseis gave to me. Their influence on me was so great, that I strive to pay it forward. Like the saying goes, when you love what you do – you never work a day in your life. I love my job. I mean, what other person can show up to work and wear pajamas and teach kids how to protect themselves, help get adults in shape and build both kids and adults confidence?! I truly have the life.
How important is family support to the success of a student?
The support is right here within the school. But the successful students first benefit when the support is all around them. Whether its parents or sibilings, grandparents or significant others. When there is that motivation in school and at home, and those people are encouraging them to push and reach their goal – that’s when the real magic happens.