Andrew Wooten, before and after. Photo from Andrew’s Instagram
We often hear people say how Jiu-Jitsu can really change your life as a way for you to be healthier, have a good self-esteem and find more confidence. However is not until you encounter a story like Andrew Wooten’s that you immediately realize how empowering this art can be, and how important and meaningful it is for us as instructors, practitioners and BJJ fans to pass it on, and keep working to spread this way of life, in order to positively touch the lives of as many people as we can.
Andrew is a great example of what represents living the BJJ Lifestyle. He is active and healthy; love to practice Jiu-Jitsu, not only for hobby but for competitions as well, which requires a lot of discipline, determination and good dieting, and besides that he also works at a BJJ school. But it was not always like that, before starting BJJ Andrew used to be 120lbs overweight, struggling at school and having a hard time being away from his family. Now, most of his friends come from the mat, and after he started training BJJ his life changed. Like he said to us “ I have found a family and a purpose in life”.
GRACIEMAG: How did you start training Jiu-Jitsu?
ANDREW: I got started in BJJ when I was a sophomore in college, at the time I was struggling in school and I was having a hard time being away from my family. Then about 2 months into the year I had a new roommate that moved into the house I was living in at the time. The guy’s name was Kelly Cook and he was a Gracie Barra Blue Belt. I had known Kelly for about a year but did not know he trained. One night I was telling him about some of the struggles I was facing and he suggested that I come with him to Jiu-Jitsu one day and try a class. I wrestled in high school so I figured “why not? Could be something fun.” So I went with him to Gracie Barra Augusta and that is where I met the man that would change my life forever, because after that day I was hooked and I have not missed more than 2 weeks of training since then. His name is Joshua Miller; he is a one stripe Black Belt under the legendary Eduardo de Lima, as well as the owner of Gracie Barra Augusta. He and his wife played a major role in all of the amazing changes I made in my life.
GRACIEMAG: What positive impacts it had in your life?
ANDREW: Jiu-Jitsu has had so many positive impacts on my life and till this day continues to have several positive impacts, but there are a few that really were life changing for me. Before training jiu-jitsu I was 300 lbs., unhealthy, on the verge of flunking out of college, and struggling with being away from my family. Now, after 6 years of training Jiu-Jitsu in the Gracie Barra system I have lost 120lbs, I have graduated college with my bachelor’s degree in Business Management, and I have found a family and a purpose in life with Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu.
GRACIEMAG: How many times a week do you train?
ANDREW: Now that I am competing full time, I train 2 times a day, Monday thru Friday, and once on Saturday. A normal day for me is getting up at 7 am, eat breakfast then off to train at GB Irvine with Professor Otavio and all of the other amazing guys that are always there to train. Training goes from 9-11am. After training I go home, shower, eat lunch then drive to GB Dana Point to work in the office until 4pm. After, I help teaching the kids classes, then adults and at night I train with my students. My day normally ends around 9. It is a crazy schedule but I would not have it any other way! I love my life and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. It’s a lifestyle. It’s my lifestyle.
GRACIEMAG: Do you follow a special diet?
ANDREW: When I am getting ready to compete I follow a specific diet to help me maintain the proper weight for my division which normally consists of oatmeal mixed with acai and bananas for breakfast, for lunch tuna or chicken mixed with quinoa and vegetables. Snacks during the day, normally, a protein or granola bar, and then when I get home for dinner I normally have a protein shake and some fruit. I don’t normally eat a big dinner. If I am not getting ready to compete I still like to keep a pretty clean diet, I don’t drink soda or eat fried foods, I eat a lot of greens and still eat my tuna and quinoa. The one bad habit I can’t break is that I love some ice cream! When I am not competing I will sneak some ice-cream or some frozen yogurt in once a week so I am not perfect.
GRACIEMAG: What do you like the most about the BJJ Lifestyle?
ANDREW: There are many things to love about the BJJ Lifestyle, living a healthy life is one that I really take to heart from eating properly to exercising daily and that is for everyone not just the full time competitors! Any and everyone can live the BJJ Lifestyle. They just have to be focused and committed to it. Another thing I love about the lifestyle is when training Jiu-Jitsu you become a part of a brother hood. Anytime you go anywhere you will always meet other people that train and they will treat you as if they have known you for years and you are family. For the most part everyone shares the same discipline ideas and values that were set by Master Carlos Gracie Sr. and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
GRACIEMAG: Do you do any other sports or activities besides Jiu-Jitsu?
ANDREW: When I have free time I like to enjoy a few other sports, since moving to California back in April I have started learning how to surf. It is a great workout and is so much fun! I also enjoy long board skateboarding. I will go with my roommate and fellow Brown Belt competitor Inacio on Sundays and long board down the Huntington Beach boardwalk. It is a workout as well as very relaxing.
GRACIEMAG: How did you decide to work with Jiu-Jitsu?
ANDREW: After Jiu-Jitsu and Gracie Barra had changed my life and given me so much, I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to the Gentle Art. So about a year after college I decided that I was going to chase my dream and make Jiu-Jitsu my job and my life. I packed up my car with everything I could take and drove across country from South Carolina to California. The first two months were really crazy, I was teaching at GB Whittier and living in a house with a bunch of other guys that have dedicated their life to the sport as well. But, after 2 months, I received a email from professor Felipe Guedes asking if I would be interested in working for Gracie Barra Dana Point. He knew I had my degree in business and I had a background in sales as well as teaching. I took the interview and things went great. After that Professor Feilpe Guedes and Flavio Almeida decided to take a chance on me and now I am the Program Director for GBDP and with the help of the great team I am surrounded by we are growing everyday. Now I can truly say I am living my dream. I get to train everyday as well as be a part of an amazing group of people and learn from one of the greatest minds in Gracie Barra.
GRACIEMAG: Can you imagine your life without BJJ now?
ANDREW: For me now there is no life without BJJ. I mean, I have a life outside of BJJ don’t get me wrong, but I would not be the person I am today or where am I at today without it. It has become a part of me that I can’t live without, and don’t want to live without.