Top of Their Game

Six local athletes tell us about the sports that changed their lives — and dish out some inspiration for the rest of us



(page 5 of 6)

Newburgh jiu-jitsu wrestler Steven Olivier

Steven Olivier

28, Newburgh

Olivier, a Newburgh resident, works in law enforcement full-time and as a part-time instructor at the city’s New York Martial Arts Gym Academy. In June, he took home first place in the 207.5-pound men’s purple belt division at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship. Olivier competes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a martial arts form that emphasizes close-quarters grappling and favors technique over strength.

How did you first get involved in jiu-jitsu?
I played football in high school and at Pace University. I went for a couple of tryouts after that, but football didn’t happen for me. Then I started doing Japanese-style jiu-jitsu, just to fix my competitive streak. I got into Brazilian jiu-jitsu while doing the Japanese style, and I’ve been doing Brazilian ever since. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is more like a sport. There are a lot of opportunities to compete, and I like that.

Tell me about your workout schedule.
Training for jiu-jitsu is a tremendous workout in itself — I’ll do that anywhere from four to five times a week. When I’m not doing jiu-jitsu, I’ll run four miles, do the core routine that I have, and then bike for an hour. I do a circuit workout in the gym that’s jiu-jitsu specific; jiu-jitsu is all about muscle endurance, so I run through the whole program — beginning to end, no breaks — for maybe 30 minutes.

What’s been your greatest challenge so far?
Winning the world championship. My toughest opponent was my fourth fight, as opposed to my last one. The last time we had fought, he beat me on points. I knew once I beat him, I was going to win the whole thing. I ended up beating him on a submission.

How do you respond to the criticism that jui-jitsu is too violent?
I know from the outside looking in, it looks very violent. It does feed into that inner caveman in everybody. But you’ve got guys who have master’s degrees who just do it for the challenge. If you’re working with guys who respect the art and respect their training partner, it’s not that dangerous or violent of a sport. At any time in jui-jitsu, you can just tap, and it’s over. It can be as violent as you want it to be.

Do you have any advice for beginners?
Just do it. If you’re thinking about it, don’t talk yourself out of it. I’ve had so many people sign up and train with me and say, “I’m kind of hesitant about doing this.” I told them to just come to the gym and give it a month, and if they didn’t like it, leave. But I got them hooked. It’s a good sport in terms of getting in shape — I don’t care what level you start out at, you’re going to get in phenomenal shape.

View video highlights from Olivier’s matches here.
 

For information on places to pursue these sports, check our listings.

 

 

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