Finding Passion and Inspiration in the Unexpected

By Zac Cunningham, Brand Ambassador. Online Bachelor of Science in Communication student.

“Jiu Jitsu is an art of self defense in which rules and time limits are unacceptable.” - Helio Gracie.

Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that saved my life. When I was thirteen years old, I was being ruthlessly bullied in school. I was a military brat and I had just moved from New Hampshire to Los Angeles. Right away, I didn't fit in. I gained tons of weight, I was sad, and my parents made me do jiu jitsu. I didn't want to do it, but when I tried it, I fell in love right away.

The academy my parents chose was Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy, which is now known as Gracie University. Helio Gracie was the founder of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Helio’s oldest son, Rorion Gracie, and Rorion’s oldest sons, Ryron and Rener Gracie, run the jiu jitsu school. It is the world headquarters of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. The more I learned jiu jitsu, the higher my confidence rose. I was able to defend myself. Not only did I gain confidence, but I also gained role models to help guide me to be the person I want to be. I would not have gone anywhere without these role models.

As I observed everything about the role models who I aspired to be like, I noticed the main goals my role models had for themselves. The four main goals people strived for seemed to be: 1. Being elite at jiu jitsu, 2. Being an elite instructor, 3. Obtaining a black belt, and 4. Having a college degree.

As I saw these goals that the majority of people I admired had for themselves, I realized that I only personally knew one person who had achieved all four goals. This inspired me a lot because if someone were to achieve just one of those four big life achievements, it would be exceptional and something everyone should respect. However, I didn’t want to settle. I wanted to be elite in every possible way. I wanted to be the next person to achieve all four goals and more.

Having jiu jitsu principles in my life such as responsibility, respect, health, efficiency, survival, and more, plus the role models throughout my jiu jitsu journey to push me, believe in me, and motivate me is a huge factor in why I am striving to be the best I can be in jiu jitsu, in school through ASU Online, and in life. Without this team, I wouldn't be motivated to achieve anything. The truth is, I have always had a hard time believing in myself. I feel like a lot of people believe in me more than I believe in me. And to this day, jiu jitsu and these role models still guide me, challenge me, and show me that I can handle the pressure, survive, and grow to become someone who can live a life that fits my definition of happiness, and a life where I can achieve everything I have ever dreamed of.

We're so excited to share Zac’s story! Zac is a part of our #LearnASULive team, an ASU Online brand ambassador program highlighting students who are earning their degrees while living their lives to the fullest. If you enjoyed this, be sure to check back for new articles from Zac so that you can follow along with his journey. To check out all his posts to date, visit Zac’s Instagram!

Want to hear from our other ambassadors, too? Use the #LearnASULive hashtag across your favorite social channels to browse through them!

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