For thousands of years, the evolution of mixed martial arts has been continuously refined by those who have honed their skills and built on the foundation laid out by their predecessors. When man needed to learn to survive, mixed martial arts proved lethal in the right hands, and over time with modifications to attain precise technical proficiency, mixed martial arts have become more than a set of skills based on instinct and survival.
The pursuit of mixed martial arts is a lifelong journey toward self discovery. Even the highest ranking individuals are always learning and fortifying the essence of their physical and mental capacities. Anyone can be taught self defense and self discipline, but it is the resolute passion of an exceptional mixed martial arts practitioner that will achieve the title of “sempai” (senior student, meaning “older brother/sister”) or black belt.
“Only the strong, courageous and persistent can attain it (black belt).
It is not in the pursuit of the belt, but in the pursuit of skill that a true martial artist reaps the rewards of training.”
Joshu Shane Burgos has studied for 9 years under Sensei Jose Montes, the owner/instructor of Tiger Schulmann’s Mixed Martial Arts (TSMMA) in Vails Gate, NY. Montes, a third degree black belt with 38 years of martial arts experience, has been teaching for about 20 years. (“Joshu” means assistant mixed martial arts instructor. “Sensei,” meaning “born before” is a title given to a senior mixed martial arts instructor.) Both Sensei Montes and Joshu Burgos have received direct instruction from Master Tiger Schulmann, and Burgos has become a prodigy of sorts within the organization. When he is not training, Joshu Burgos is also teaching at TSMMA Vails Gate. The weekly series taught in kickboxing and grappling classes for both adults and children builds on the basics of mixed martial arts he once learned from Sensei Montes.
An objective view of Joshu Burgos is that of an exemplary role model with unrelenting perseverance through training and hard work, but his personal struggles are a considerable source of his success as a black belt mixed martial artist and a fighter. At the age of 16, Burgos was diagnosed with scoliosis (curvature of the spine) that significantly impacted his health and mobility. Typically, curvatures less than 30 degrees are closely monitored, however with a curve at almost 50 degrees, Burgos was at high risk for dangerous postural changes that threatened his functional mobility and organ integrity. Surgery was required to prevent further progression, and Burgos had steel rods and screws inserted along his spine to provide correction. If closely observed, the visible effects of the scoliosis are still apparent today, however it does not stop him from pursuing his dream of becoming a prominent mixed martial artist. But surgery would not be the only obstacle in his way.
“When it gets really tough, most people quit. For Joshu Burgos, quitting is just not an option. For him, it just doesn’t exist.”
Three years later, Burgos received his high brown belt, and the road to black belt appeared evident. Outside of TSMMA, many other disciplines of martial arts schools award the rank of black belt within as little as three years from starting as a white belt. Burgos had trained for four years consistently, but the high standards of the TSMMA’s belt system ensure that mixed martial arts students are proficient in the respective skills for kickboxing and grappling before each promotion. But both Sensei Montes and Master Tiger Schulmann expected more from Burgos. He excelled at grappling and was a talented striker with the prospect of becoming an asset to the Tiger Schulmann’s Fight Team. Burgos remained a high brown belt for three more years, with three failed attempts at the black belt test, one of those at the hand of Sensei Montes. “I was so angry after the third failure. I said I would never test again after that.” Although discouraged, Burgos continued to train and dominated against higher ranking students in tournaments such as Challenge of Champions and North American Grappling Association (NAGA). After a series of impressive wins as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter, an unattainable feat was finally satisfied when Burgos was the first student in years who had the honor of being presented a black belt by Master Tiger Schulmann at their headquarters facility. Today, Joshu Burgos continues to train at TSMMA headquarters with many reputable mixed martial arts fighters directly under Master Tiger Schulmann.
The undefeated mixed martial arts champion has since conquered several professional venues including Cage Fury Fighting Championship (CFFC), Ring of Combat (ROC) and Xtreme Caged Combat, and his achievements have earned him the respect and recognition of his fellow mixed martial arts instructors, peers and students. “Only the strong, courageous and persistent can attain it (black belt). It is not in the pursuit of the belt, but in the pursuit of skill that a true martial artist reaps the rewards of training,” says Sensei Montes. Montes continues to mentor his most senior student, and believes that Joshu Burgos will fulfill his dream of fighting in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) someday. “I’ve had many people walk in and say ‘I want to be a mixed martial arts fighter.’ But none were willing to put in the work. I believe that Joshu Burgos came in with a different mindset- ‘I want to be the UFC World Champion!’ He has a warrior’s heart and spirit, and I think he can do it!” The merits of remaining goal driven and focused are an essential key toward success, but Montes credits Burgos for putting in the hard work and dedication that others are not willing to endure. “When it gets really tough, most people quit. For Joshu Burgos, quitting is just not an option. For him, it just doesn’t exist.”
Joshu Burgos couldn’t agree more. “To Quit Does Not Exist.” He believes in this sentiment so much that it is tattooed across his chest, and Joshu Burgos has certainly lived up to those words. Many have witnessed complete resolve in the face of adversity, as his health, career and the heart and soul of his essence may have been compromised. He defines what it means to live by the code of Tiger Schulmann’s “non-quitting spirit,” and believes that anyone can make their dreams a reality. His passion for mixed martial arts drives him, and Joshu Burgos instills that same principle when he teaches mixed martial arts and refuses to let his students give up. “Believing you can is always the first step toward success.”
By Lauren Rose