Training for one of the most prestigious jiu-jitsu tournaments in the world and studying full-time in college are both highly demanding endeavors on their own. Many people might say that doing both at the same time and hoping to be successful in each pursuit would be nearly impossible. But this year, purple belt Chris Wojcik made the impossible happen.
Wojcik, 22, says that his jiu-jitsu career has thus far spanned four and a half years and was inspired largely by his time wrestling in high school. “I started training because I finished my wrestling career and had little interest in collegiate wrestling (and very few opportunities to do so), but I still had to desire to grapple/learn to fight,” he says. So far, his time in the sport has paid off well for him — as a blue belt, he earned bronze at Pans and twice at No-Gi Worlds. This year, he added his most impressive accomplishment yet to his jiu-jitsu resume by winning gold as a purple belt at No-Gi Worlds.
In addition to being a BJJ purple belt, Wojcik is also in his senior year at Loyola University Chicago, where he’s studying multimedia journalism. Not surprisingly, his class workload combined with the training needed to compete at such a high level made for a super demanding schedule. “When training for No-Gi Worlds, I had to really up my discipline and focus,” he says. “I would train every day at least once, morning or night depending on my class schedule, and then Fridays I had no class for school, so I would train for about 4-5 hours split between two academies. I would also teach a few privates during the week early in the morning and try and lift weights as well early in the morning or late at night, whenever I could squeeze it in.”
To make matters even more stressful, No-Gi Worlds and school finals took place during the same week for Wojcik. “I had to really maintain focus mentally in order to perform at my best in the classroom and on the mat,” he says. It wasn’t easy, though, and all the pressure took its toll on Wojcik leading up to No-Gi Worlds. He says about two weeks before the tournament, he started to burn out, feeling “sad” and “not at all motivated to train.” But, not the type to quit, Wojcik took the break that his mind needed, and it paid off. “Despite feeling as if I ‘had’ to train, I eventually rested and I was able to peak at the tournament and not in the gym,” he says.
Wojcik doesn’t pretend that he cruised through this crazy time of his life, and if other full-time college students are hoping to win big in BJJ while studying, he advises them to focus on their mental health. “I think that taking care of your mind is really important, and I think that this is something a lot of people, especially college students who are younger seem to neglect… I just try and stay focused on myself and don’t concern myself with what ‘everyone else’ is doing.”
Graduation for Wojcik will finally come in May of 2020, and once he’s done with school, he’ll be looking to crush his other goals both on the mats and in “normal life.” While he finds that specific competition goals “ruin the fun of competing” for him, he will continue to pursue his black belt and compete against “the best of the best” in the sport’s top competitions. He’ll also be working on his education and career, and of course, he hopes to do it all with his “support system” by his side. “Academically, I want to finish my bachelor’s degree, and eventually perhaps move on to a graduate program or begin a career in media. I just want to thank my friends, training partners, my family, and my instructors Jeff Serafin and Jay Valko who have been incredibly understanding of my hectic schedule and my goals throughout the last few years.”