Intramural Spotlight: Technique Overpowers Strength

You may have seen it in movies, TV shows, or attempted to physically fight your sibling at some point. Many know martial arts, but not the specific forms behind the sport.


Judo originated in Japan and was used by the samurai and feudal warrior class for over hundreds of years to hurt, maim or kill opponents in actual field battle.

Techniques were modified and do not include kicking, punching or striking of any kind. The sport involves two opponents who, by gripping the judo uniform, use the forces of balance, power and movement in an attempt to conquer the other.

Scott Watkins, a brown belt mechanical engineering major from Plano, Texas, is a member of the judo club at Texas Tech. He says there are two key principles to the sport: minimum input, maximum output and mutual prosperity.

Watkins and teammate during practice. Abby Aldrich/The Hub@TTU

“You don’t want to do a lot of work when you’re throwing someone to the ground,” Watkins says. “You want them to fall on their own and do as little work as possible. That’s where the thinking comes in – you have to know where to move your body to be most effective.”

Watkins said the sport is more physical at the beginning, when an individual is trying to get their body to move the right way. After the body has the motions and ideas down, it becomes more mental. They must think about what motion to move forward with to get the effect they desire.

The most rewarding part to Watkins is realizing when something works.

“When you’ve been struggling with a technique and have been struggling with an idea, and then finally you get it,” he said, “suddenly everything starts falling into place after all that hard work.”

The sport can be seen as a system of physical, intellectual and moral education. Watkins says it all comes down to will power.

“You can learn the skills,” he says. “You can learn how to do things and how to move a person, but if you don’t have the will to go through a lot of failures, a lot of trial and errors, you are not going to learn anything.”

A theory claims during World War II, many U.S. soldiers were exposed to judo and brought it back to America. Today, more than 20 million individuals practice the art. The principles of the sport are carried from the practice mat into most participants’ lives in their interactions with family, friends, colleagues and strangers.

Pitalua demonstrating a technique. Abby Aldrich/The Hub@TTU

Mario Pitalua, a judo instructor, has been with the club since the beginning. After years spent teaching the ways of the sport, he sees the impact it leaves on his students.

“Some people are a little aggressive or short-tempered,” Pitalua says, “and through this, they develop control. They don’t get upset as easily, they can deal with a challenge better and they react differently. You start seeing they have better judgment.”

Watkins says one of the hardest things about the sport is breaking bad habits and trusting that you do the right thing.

“To actually have the confidence to attempt the throw,” he says, “to go for it and know that you could be throwing yourself easily and completely fail, but you have to take those risks – that is the hardest part.”

The team participates in competitions that are sanctioned through U.S.A. Judo and currently have around five to seven members.


Texas Tech Brazilian jiu-jitsu club warming up in practice. Abby Aldrich/The Hub@TTU

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art and combat sport that teaches a smaller person how to defend against a larger opposition by using leverage and correct technique.

The sport was brought to life in the mid 1990s with the emergence of the Gracie family. Esai Maeda, a jiu-jitsu champion from Japan, introduced Japanese jiu-jitsu to the Gracies in Brazil around 1914. Maeda travelled to Brazil and befriended Gastão Gracie, a businessman, who helped establish Maeda. To show his appreciation, Maeda offered to teach Japanese jiu-jitsu to Gracie’s oldest son, Carlos, who passed his new knowledge along to his brothers.

The youngest brother, Helio, grew up physically frail. Most of the techniques he learned from Carlos were difficult for him to perform due to his size, so he became interested in making the techniques work for him. From there, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, commonly known as BJJ, was born.

Watkins said judo focuses more on the throwing aspect of taking someone from standing and putting them on the ground, while jiu-jitsu is ground-work, where you have the person on the ground already and figure out how to subdue them from there.

Sustaita and teammate in practice. Abby Aldrich/The Hub@TTU

Israel Sustaita, a senior kinesiology major from Gainesville, Texas, is the vice president of the Texas Tech Brazilian jiu-jitsu club.

Sustaita said with jiu-jitsu, you are first taught how to get out of headlocks and distance yourself from an opponent. The second part of the class is the ground aspect, where you learn technique and how to sweep an opponent and put them in a submission.

Once the techniques are learned, you compete against other members of the team. He said the hardest aspect is never giving up.

“A lot of people quit or get discouraged,” he says, “because they see the black belts and they want to do what they do. They want to be able to do all the cool moves and what not, but you have to learn the basics before you do that.”

Ethan Noble receiving his blue belt by an instructor in practice. Abby Aldrich/The Hub@TTU

Different colored belts symbolize ranks, starting out as a white belt and moving up blue, purple, brown and black. Each belt has five levels, a clear belt and then four strips, which may be awarded for time, knowledge, behavior and tournament performance. It can take anywhere from 8 to 14 years to reach black belt status.

There are many benefits of jiu-jitsu including perseverance, happiness, confidence, weight loss and health advantages.

Sustaita said the sport gives a powerful sense of accomplishment for everyone, especially the elderly and women, who can keep themselves safe when under attack by a larger, stronger opponent.

“As far as competition goes, this is really intense,” he says. “You can take this and use it in the real world. Say someone is trying to mug you – a lot of people don’t really know what to do on the ground. Here, we learn how to control a situation and person, and a lot of it is just being calm.”

Abby Aldrich/The Hub@TTU

Sustaita explains he grew up playing football, soccer and power lifting, but nothing compares to this form of martial arts.

“There’s not really supposed to be much strength with (jiu-jitsu). You do not have to be a top-level athlete,” he says. “It’s where your technique really overpowers strength and if you just happen to be athletic, it helps out.”

The Texas Tech Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Club practices Monday 8:30 to 11 p.m. and Wednesday 6:45 to 8:30 p.m. and have open mat practices Saturday 12 to 2 p.m. in room 116 of the Texas Tech Recreation Center.

About Abby Aldrich

I am a senior journalism major from Fort Worth, Texas. I graduate May 2017 and currently work as the Sports Reporter at The Hub@TTU. I could talk for days about my cats and the Green Bay Packers. Go Pack Go!

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