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May 16, 2023

Stand-Up Comic + BJJ Brown Belt Ben Roy: Crossing Lines and Living a Life Undefined

Tatyana Grechina

Stand-Up Comic + BJJ Brown Belt Ben Roy: Crossing Lines and Living a Life Undefined

Editor’s Note: Professor Ben Roy recieved his black belt at the All-Easton Fall 2023 Belt Promotion Ceremony on September 9, 2023.

There’s a misconception out there that your hobbies define you. Spawned by popular 80s and 90s movies like Breakfast Club and Freaks and Geeks that featured divided groups of jocks, nerds, and artsy kids – this seed defined our social programming, nurtured by our adolescent desires to fit in. 

If you’re a band geek, you can’t be a jock. If you’re a punk, you can’t sing opera. After-school activities gave us our safe cliques, and if you went to a special arts-focused school that had you practicing your craft for hours a day – forget it.

Then you get thrust into the post-grad real world and discover that none of those labels matter, or even exist. What does matter is what we do with our time and what we bring to the table. You don’t have to choose between arts and sports if both bring you joy. 

Easton is home to countless artists, musicians, performers, lawyers, doctors and everything in between. Many not only train with us, but they’re some of the best coaches on our mats.

Ben Roy – a two-stripe brown belt and BJJ Fundies coach, and also a stand-up comedian, actor and musician – is an individual that reminds us we can have both. 

You may recognize him from his stand-up routines or TruTV’s show “Those Who Can’t,” which he co-produced and starred in. Or maybe you’ve only ever seen him on the mats!

Ben joined Easton in 2019. He first heard of the academy while still living in LA from his friend Jeff Ake, former GM of Easton Arvada. At the time Ben was training BJJ with Alberto Crane — an old friend of Amal’s, having lived together with the Gracie family in Brazil. When Ben would come back to Colorado from Los Angeles to visit, he’d train with Jeff Ake at Easton. 

Today, Ben teaches BJJ Fundamentals at ETC Arvada Monday through Thursday at 5:30PM, and continues to run a full career in the entertainment industry.


Rewiring our limitations

Like every kid growing up in the 80s, Ben was obsessed with karate. His parents cut a deal with him: if he attended summer camp, he could take class. Unfortunately, Ben had to leave the camp early and never got to take karate, but it stuck with him. 

Ben played in punk and hardcore bands as their front person since he was 15, and around the same time became very active in his high school theater. His grades in almost every other subject were terrible, but music and theater gave him purpose. 

“I was always afraid of going to the gym,” Ben admits, “because I was afraid of being a jock or a meat head, and those were the people I didn’t like.” 

“Then I realized, we’re giving all those people the best stuff. Working out doesn’t make you a jerk.”  Exercise releases endorphins, and everyone deserves to feel good.

Ben started going to a functional strength training gym called Blunt Force, and in 2003 he found Japanese Jiu Jitsu. This led him to a BJJ academy, and Ben was hooked. He met the nicest, sweetest people and discovered, as we do, that even high level fighters are nerdy. 

“I realized I had formulated opinions,” says Ben, “based on false perceptions. As I started getting into it, I found a lot of good people.”

Switch the addiction

Ben shares openly about his struggle with anxiety, depression and substances. This May 23rd  marks his 13th year of sobriety! Discovering our body’s and mind’s resilience and capability through strength training and BJJ not only gave him the confidence to step into his life more fully, but literally helped save it.

He recognized that as the pathway for him – something new that wouldn’t keep him shackled to prescription medication. And it also gave him something to obsess about, which could help guide his addictive personality in a healthier direction. 

“Athletes and artists share a certain style of obsessiveness,” says Ben, “and truthfully, that’s what addiction is.”

Be it chemicals, substances, or activities, addiction stems from obsessive compulsive behaviors and it doesn’t disappear – it just jumps. 

“It leaps from one part of your life to another,” says Ben. “As someone with an addictive personality, I have to find that thing I become obsessed about, and I need that in my life.”

Luckily for us, BJJ became that thing. With its ever-evolving technique, it represents a deep reservoir to dig into – something never-ending. Even when you hit black belt – if you don’t constantly train and keep up, you won’t evolve and your game will become obsolete.

As Ben says, “the carrot is always dangling.”

By making the sport his self-care practice and personal obsession, he found a way to strike a balance between his creative, professional life and his personal and professional athletic practice. 

Along with teaching classes, Ben usually trains four to six times a week. (Proof for those of us who sometimes feel we can’t pour our energy into one art and also grow another.) 

Transformation through movement

While Ben’s background in theater, music and stand-up comedy has helped him on the mats and as an instructor, he has also seen transformation go the other way.

“People go from being shy to more outgoing as they get involved,” he says. “I’ve definitely seen a few particular students who were socially in a bit of a shell, and then they found their community with Jiu Jitsu.”

Being shy can mean we’re afraid we don’t have commonality with others, and going into foreign territory like a martial arts academy can feel especially intimidating. If we stick with it, overtime Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai provide that bridge – something to talk about until you’re joking around and sharing about your life.

The physical intimacy in close-contact sports like Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai accelerates the bonding process. Some people fear being physically close will emasculate them but quickly learn otherwise. We’re working, sweating and suffering together but also just remembering how to play and have fun.

“I have a lot of friends where when we’re flow-rolling,” Ben says, “there’s a lot of laughter and it’s kind of childlike – we’re just joking around and [it’s a] bonding kind of wrestling.” 

Even during training, you have moments when a person has you pinned in a submission, then lets you go and pats you on the back. 

There’s no denying human touch makes people happier. From hugs when you’re sad to squeezes on the arm, pats on the shoulder and cuddle therapists (a little too floofy for Ben — he says “just come wrestle!”), humans need touch.

While the fears that come associated with close contact definitely exist, much of the power in the lesson lies in how we face them. Ben has seen people have panic attacks under the pressure of someone, or freak out in claustrophobic positions. 

“You have to confront some very rational fears,” says Ben, “like not breathing, and it can bring shit to the surface. It’s having people around you doing it with you and helping you confront that in a safe manner that really bonds you.”. 

When we vet through some of our darkest spaces with another person and trust them to keep us safe, that sort of trust becomes a real bonding weight and human connection.


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