Casey Freeman

In the winter of 2005, a friend and I hit the Boulder bars. Nothing special, except that we saw a bar fight.

I blabbed I could end these two punks in a few quick seconds. I didn’t know his roommate worked as the head doorguy at the bar underneath the Boulderado (called the Catacombs back then) and was looking for a new bouncer. The next thing I knew, I had a job interview.

During the interview the boss asked me if I knew how to fight and, um, I lied. The last fistfight I’d really been in was in middle school gym class. Other than that, I’d been bullied. A lot.

He believed me! I was employed! I needed to show up wearing all black, but I figured I probably needed to learn how to fight before I stepped into the bar. Luckily, the Catacombs wasn’t known for being violent — there were other spots for that.

That week I had time off from studying for my master’s degree in journalism and interning for the Colorado Daily, so I drove around Boulder looking for a martial art that fit me. Did any? I’m fit, but not exactly svelte, coordinated or light on my feet, so there was no way I could ever do a jump kick. I thought boxing would be cool, but my new boss said we weren’t really allowed to punch people.

What the hell was I going to do? I did what I always do when I’m stressed. Grocery shopping. While loading up my car, I saw the sign for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Boulder (now it’s Easton Training Center). I walked in for a quick talk. I didn’t know what this BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) was, so I wasn’t going to give them much time. Honestly, I thought I’d just give up, quit the bouncing job before I started and use this experience for a story about the gyms in Boulder for the paper.

But instead I spoke with Amal Easton, the owner, operator and main teacher of BJJ-Boulder. He was different than all the other guys and all of a sudden I saw myself signing up for classes. Then I watched more videos and spent more time at the BJJ gym than the weight room. When the Catacombs fired me for writing a snarky Colorado Daily column about what it’s like to be a bouncer, the guys at Easton helped me find a new job, this time at the original Foundry (I have no clue what that’s called now).

The Foundry was a different place in all types of ways. Let’s just say the moves I practiced on soft mats in the gym worked perfectly in this rowdy club full of drunk college d-bags.

Eventually, I suffered an injury and then relocated. Years later, out of boredom I started again. I’m a lot older and less flexible, but I still know some moves the young kids don’t. And that’s a big point of BJJ.

A month ago, my boss at my university here in Korea asked if we had any ideas to teach our students. This would need to be a lecture and activity, both to be taught in English. There was ice skating and, um, nothing else. As a joke and to brainstorm, I said, BJJ. Not one of my other teachers was interested, but my boss was, so I prepared.

Last week I gave a lecture that nearly bored all my students and coworkers to death, but later we walked to my new BJJ gym and I showed some moves and how to protect yourself against a bigger person — which is pretty much what BJJ is all about.

Once the kids (and my boss) learned how easy it was to choke somebody unconscious (and how fun it is) they actually paid attention and enjoyed this lesson.

Now a few days later they may think I’m a badass, when in reality, I’m just a blue belt and not even close to a master. However, I received that belt from Easton BJJ in Boulder and will always be proud of that. This would have never happened without a big lie and Easton’s kindness.

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