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August 28, 2021

People of Easton Training Center: Interview with Jack Lukasewycz

Morgan Shabani

People of Easton Training Center: Interview with Jack Lukasewycz

Jack Lukasewycz is an Easton Training Center blue belt and medical student.

She worked in a COVID Unit during 2020-2021 and has some great insight into the importance of patience, holding to your values, and remembering that if you love something it’ll never leave you.

Morgan: So when did you get back into training Jiu-Jitsu again?

Jack: I think it started in February.

Morgan: What made you want to come back in February?

Jack: I had gotten my vaccine in January. My concern was being in a crowded indoor space.

Morgan: Absolutely. And you work in health care, right? So you get to see firsthand all the issues going on.

Jack: Yeah, I work at a pulmonary/COVID unit. It was a very terrifying but interesting experience.

Morgan: Did you train with your partner during the time that you were not training?

Jack: A little bit. My husband has a wrestling background. So he’s at least able to defend himself enough in rolling. So yeah, a few times. And we did some of the online classes. Those were great.

Morgan: I heard of people who were doing them with their grandmothers or whoever was around, which is really cute. It’s nice to make it a family activity, have everyone try something new while we are all trapped in the house. Unfortunately, I had no one to train Jiu-Jitsu with, so I had a heavy bag and would take the kickboxing classes every day they were available. It helped so much with all of my pent-up frustration. Thankfully I had enough room in my place to do this. I can’t imagine people with tiny spaces who don’t have enough to even roll around in or hit a heavy bag. I wouldn’t have kept it together as well. 

Jack: You can’t see anybody. So, like, the best thing to do is to get that physical exertion and get that dopamine, at least.

Morgan: So how did it feel watching everybody still doing Jiu-Jitsu and getting promoted?  You had to sit at home, especially since you are a health care worker.

Jack: You know, I mean, I was thinking I could have gone back if I wanted to. It was frustrating, but I definitely have more of an appreciation for Jiu-Jitsu now. I got to take a year off and really think a lot about my relationship to Jiu-Jitsu. I felt pretty good that I still wanted to go back. You know, it’s interesting, the time off actually solidified my relationship with BJJ. A year off and I still want to do it? It frustrates me sometimes, but that’s awesome.

Morgan: Yeah, that’s an interesting point for sure. I was just gone for four months before I started working again. I got to go back to work at Easton and I was just like, oh my gosh, I appreciate this so much: the community, the camaraderie, the energy, and how it all helps my mental health, physical health and spiritual health. But I’ve heard from a lot of people just how frustrating it was watching the people they started with rank up, get new belts, and have a great time while they are homebound.  

Jack: Everyone assesses their own risk. Say, if you’re young and you’re not around vulnerable people, then, you know, it’s not an inappropriate place to maybe train. I just knew I personally couldn’t take that risk with my health. I’m nearly 40. I was comfortable with my choice. I think it was the best choice.

Morgan: And then when you came back, you got your blue belt!

Jack: I really was thinking I’m going to be a four stripe forever. That’s when I realized I don’t care about promotions. I just want to do this. I just enjoy Jiu-Jitsu. I feel like once you get to that stage where you’re like, I’m fine being a white belt for years, I just want to get back, everything else clicks. 

Morgan: So the experience gave you a healthier relationship with Jiu-Jitsu.  I remember when you first started, you were training a lot. I remember we started around the same time, but you were promoted so much faster than me.

Jack: Professor Mierzwiak actually texted me once. He said, “I just wanted to let you know, I was looking through the numbers, and you were one of the top ten people in attendance going to the gym for Jiu-Jitsu.” That was awesome. I was there a ton then, but my medical program got harder and I slowly wasn’t able to train quite as much.

Morgan: Are you almost done with your program?

Jack: I graduated! I just had my masters in August and my Masters project is two weeks away. That’s my big obligation then I can go to BJJ far more often. I need the distraction so much. I feel like I should just be in front of the computer constantly, but I need to get out of the house. I haven’t had time to have a social life, so Jiu-Jitsu was my social life. I saw my friends at the gym and I really miss that during a pandemic. Like, listen, I’m kind of introverted. We don’t really go out and we didn’t meet anyone. So I really missed having my Jiu-Jitsu social group.

Morgan: I really miss our 7:30pm classes and our crew at Denver!  We’re all kinda scattered to the winds now. But Chris Mierzwiak is the new General Manager of Arvada, so come on out sometime! 

Jack: Oh, for sure!

Morgan: He’s been doing such a great job with everything and the culture of the gym is just so great over there. He’s really blossoming into his new role. It’s his dream, and being able to see somebody live out their dream is cool.

Jack: I mean, just watching him coach on his Tuesday/Thursday classes, it was clear he was really into it. He loved being an instructor. His classes are great. I loved all of the support, and the big family we created those evenings.

Morgan: Oh totally, we had a whole crew that would show up every time. And I do miss that. That was a huge missing piece for me during 2020 — having that positive influence of Jiu-Jitsu people around me. People who were constantly pushing to improve themselves and help those around them. It was nice to get back to training again, but it was hard with all the restrictions.

Jack: When I first went back in February, everyone was kind of still wearing masks. It was so difficult. 

Morgan: Yeah, I mean, honestly, you’re still sweating into each other’s eyeballs. We all just did the best we could.  Don’t show up if you’re sick, and keep your training partners informed.

Jack: Yeah, exactly. And I mean, after a while, finally being confident, like, yes, this vaccine is good. And I was like, finally I can go.

Morgan: I was so lucky, because I was about to be vaccinated and then got COVID.

Jack: Oh, no!

Morgan: I know. I was joking that I almost made it to the finish line. I taught a class that day, when I was positive, but I was wearing a mask. I had no idea. I felt great that day. All my students were wearing masks. And most of my class had been vaccinated by that point. And I ended up spreading it to absolutely no one. And so that was really great. The only person that got COVID from me was my partner, and she was asymptomatic.

Jack: That was my biggest fear, giving it to my partner. Working in the hospital, if I got COVID, there’s no way to avoid that. At the beginning of the pandemic, I told him I was assigned to a COVID Unit. I asked him, “Do you want me to quarantine myself because I could just stay in a different room?” And he’s like no, I’ll risk getting sick so I can be around you.

Morgan: How romantic haha.

Jack: Well, I mean, it doesn’t sound like a lot of people close to us got that sick, which is really good.

Morgan: Yeah, but we have martial arts and now we really, really appreciate it. And we know what it feels like to have it taken away. And I think, if anything, we learned during 2020 how to appreciate the things that we have and then also that everyone has to make their own choices. We all have our own risks and our own relationship with things.

Jack: Yeah, I’m an older person so I had to take care of myself. If BJJ is important to me, and I want to keep doing it, I will come back. But I’m not going to kill myself being impatient when I know my own personal risks. That would be futile. Jiu -Jitsu will always be there as long as I want it. And now I know I will always want it. 

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