NATHAN: My name’s Nathaniel Chafe. I’m 27 years old, married, an accountant. Haven’t really been training that long, I’ve been here for 9 months now and enjoying every minute of it. My friend Andre had researched some schools in the area, and located this school, and was looking for someone to come with, push, make sure we go together, push each other and generally have that support system going. So he brought me in and I instantly fell in love as soon as I attended my first class.

During high school, I swam a bit competitively, but other than that, just sports when I was a kid, but as soon as I got to college, everything stopped and progressed in life and really didn’t do much. I played Magic: The Gathering semi-professionally, I managed to make it onto the pro tour. At one point, they flew me out to Nagoya, Japan to compete in the tournament there. I’ve been the state champion of Maryland and Delaware, and played in the national tournament several times as well. It was a lot of fun competing, and that’s one of the aspects that I think drew me also to jiu jitsu, that I’d also get to use the skills I learned to immediately start competing, and have that edge and being able to really use what I’ve learned so far.

INTERVIEWER: You had that competition experience before, do you feel like that helped you out in this?

NATHAN: It was definitely a completely new experience, competing in jiu jitsu, but it was that same drive and that same motivation that I really wanted to just keep going with it. That’s what the tournament that I competed in, one week after tax season had just wrapped up, and Coach Keith was like, come on, man, you got to do it. And I just threw myself into it, because it was as good a time as any to start. And I think that drive for Magic really, it’s like just jump in headfirst and go, it was a lot of fun.

I focused more towards jiu jitsu, because it feels a lot more in control, it’s a lot better for you, and the people you meet along the way are just absolutely incredible. The thought process that goes behind it is thinking several moves ahead, and while that concept is still very difficult for me in jiu jitsu, I can understand that you go towards that area, what is my opponent going to do next, how can I react towards it, and just that whole entire… it’s basically a game we’re playing where jiu jitsu, it’s not actually… it is combat, but you’re still just playing that game back and forth and seeing if you can outsmart your opponent. I came in very out of shape, and asthmatic as well. So being very nervous about trying to push myself in such a way that I wouldn’t be able to succeed.

It was a real challenge starting classes, not being able to keep up with people, and having so much weight on my knees didn’t help at all either. And not being able to run, lift, being strong and just looking at people and saying, wow they’re so much more in shape than I am at that point. I just kept showing up to class every day, kept working on it. And the great part was that even though these people were so much in better shape, their attitudes were so perfect along. They were geared to help me, they wanted to see me succeed. They pushed me harder and made it so things went smoother for me. So I kept showing up, I started eating right. Everything just slowly fell into place for me.

I’d want to do better in class, and I noticed my energy was down, so I’d eat healthier so my energy was up. I’d start working out outside of class so I could do better. Then I started showing up to more classes, and it just all was a progression that slowly has benefited me and has just absolutely changed my life. Came in at 255, and now I’m hovering just under 200. During my first class, I had to stop midway through the workout to go grab my inhaler, because I just couldn’t make it. And Ty noticed that and walked over towards me and says, it’s okay if you slow down for now, I understand completely. I’ve seen plenty of people with asthma, but if you keep coming to class, I guarantee you you’re not going to need it. And as I’ve been going on, going through now, I do plenty of classes without even considering my inhaler. I’ll forget it and it won’t be a problem for me at all. It’s such a breath, literally a breath of fresh air, because I can just… it’s a burden lifted off of me.

INTERVIEWER: Was being asthmatic, was that something that kept you away from trying other competitive sports in the past?

NATHAN: Absolutely, like running and just the sprints required in a lot of sports, the cardio activity definitely kept me away, and eventually, I needed to take the plunge, and something like this seemed a lot more doable for me. I’ve competed once, I competed at the NAGA World Championship. I took second in my weight class. When I was at the tournament, it was really nerve-wracking, just seeing all these people who had basically had more experience than me. But I had Coach Keith with me there, and he talked me down through most of it. And the tournament ran late, so it got me time to really get into my element. Once the matches started, as soon as I took down that first match, got into a comfort zone there, it felt so much better. I went into my second match a lot easier, I was much more relaxed. And in the third match, I made a mistake that Coach Keith immediately fixed, and I can’t wait to start competing again and look forward to getting better.

My goal when I first started was I wanted to get into shape. I looked at myself and I wanted to get back down to around, at that point, I thought 215 was going to be goal, and if I made it to that, I was going to be really impressed. But as I’ve progressed through, my goals have just changed and changed and changed. So at this point, I’ve crushed all the goals I wanted to set when I came here in just my first 9 months. So my current goals that I really want is I want to get to about 195, and then put on a decent amount more muscle. That way, I can feel, have a physique that I want to at that point, that way I’m in shape, I’m strong, and I’m still around the weight that I want to be.

I want to win a gold medal at some point, I think it’s very attainable, and the pie in the sky dream at this point is my blue belt. And absolutely recommend this school to all my friends and family, just the changes I’ve seen in myself, I’ve become more energized, I’ve become much more disciplined, and at this school, I’ve made a ton of new friends. So it’s the perfect place if you really want to come to a place where you’re not going to be bored, you’re going to learn every day, you’re going to get discipline, you’re going to progress, and you’re ultimately going to learn to defend yourself as well.