From Shy and Bullied to Confident Success on and Off the Mat
by Dax Alexander – TSMMA Manhattan
Last year, Jordan Sosa received his black belt in Tiger Schulmann’s MMA, in Manhattan. Achieving your black belt in an MMA school like Tiger Schulmann’s requires considerable training. You must master American kickboxing and Muay Thai standup techniques, and although TSMMA is perhaps better known for its world-class striking instruction, you must also prove that your Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Judo, wrestling and grappling skills are highly advanced. So, while Jordan’s accomplishment is unique, part of what makes his story amazing is that he’s 11 years old. The other part? Well, for that, we’ll have to go back a bit.
Millie Sosa walked into Tiger Schulmann’s Manhattan school in 2005 with her shy five-year-old son in tow. She was at the end of her rope as a young mother. Having recently witnessed a group of older boys bullying her son Jordan in a local park, she and her husband Rafael felt they needed to do something more to protect Jordan in those moments when adults could not intervene. Sensei Lopez greeted them at the door of the school, and with a terrified Jordan hiding behind her, Millie explained that she had seen a commercial for Tiger Schulmann’s kids and wanted her son to learn to defend himself if he ever needed to. Despite the expense of an MMA training program being added to the family budget, the Sosas knew that it was their only recourse to protect their then introverted son from bullies.
“Give Me 6 Months”
Jordan’s early experiences in training were very difficult. He’d often need to be excused because he was just too scared to continue in class. This continued for several weeks, and his parents considered pulling Jordan out of the program. It was then that Sensei Lopez took Millie aside and asked that she step back and give him 6 months to work with Jordan. If after that time she didn’t see dramatic improvement, she could go ahead and pull him out of the school. In a short time, however, the Sosa’s realized that wouldn’t be necessary. By Jordan’s six birthday, his attitude towards training changed completely: He became enthusiastic and wanted to train daily.
Jordan’s training proceeded and his advancing skillset became clear. Soon his instructors believed he was ready to enter a few local martial arts competitions beginning with Tiger Schulmann’s own Challenge of Champions (COC). He won that first competition and many more since then. In fact, he won just about every kickboxing or grappling competition he entered. His current tally of awards includes an impressive 12 first or second place COC trophies and two NAGA expert division championship belts.
Over the years, Jordan excelled in his martial arts training and was promoted through the ranks as his skills and expertise developed. He studied under world-class fighters like Sensei Lyman Good, Nissim Levy, Uriah Hall and Carlos Brooks, and at the age of eight, though he had received his brown belt, it would be another two years before his instructors felt he would be ready to prepare for his black belt test. When this time finally came, however, Millie worried that Jordan’s grades would start to slip as he poured all his energy into training four days a week. Jordan trained constantly, even at home, doing pushups and situps in his room every night before bed. Somehow, however, Jordan was able to keep up with his schoolwork and maintain his honor roll status, and in the summer of last year, Jordan went to Tiger Schulmann’s Headquarters in Elmwood Park, NJ where he successfully completed his black belt exam.
Jordan receives his black belt from Shihan Ron Schulmann. Left to right: Joshu Adam Rosello, Sensei Lyman Good, Sensei Uriah Hall, Jada Sosa, Sempai Jordan Sosa, Shihan Ron Schulmann, Joshu Sofia Gegovic, Sensei Carlos Brooks
Jordan’s competitive success expanded beyond martial arts
Jordan’s parents also noticed that the focus and dedication he developed in his MMA training started to show up elsewhere. He began receiving perfect conduct grades at a young age in school and made the honor roll every year. It became abundantly clear that Jordan’s competitive success had not been limited to martial arts when in 2012, he received a highly coveted academic scholarship to attend Cardinal Hayes High School. As with any scholarship, the selection process was extremely competitive, but Jordan’s experience of prevailing in high-pressure martial arts matches proved handy. He took to it like any other challenge, and after a series of written exams, essays, and interviews, Jordan won the prestigious award, which will cover his tuition at the reputable Hayes High School when he attends in 2014. In the meantime, the scholarship will pay his schooling costs for the 7th and 8th grades and provide supplemental advanced preparatory coursework on the weekends.
Today, Jordan’s martial arts learning continues. As a black belt, he’s begun taking adult kickboxing and grappling classes with Shihan Ron Schulmann, as well as helping teach kids classes in the afternoon. While it’s been tough to balance his demanding academic, football practice and mma training schedules, Jordan’s journey has gone from being a bullied child to becoming an accomplished role model for many, including his little sister Jada, who’s now training at TSMMA as well. His story is a living lesson in how Tiger Schulmann’s martial arts program positively affects young lives.