Saturday, February 4, 2023

A Jiu-Jitsu Story

There’s nothing the Community Services Athletics Division loves more than hearing success stories from our programs.

We recently received an incredible essay from one of our Jiu-Jitsu participants, Thomas Highsmith. Thomas recounts his experience moving to Southlake from Washington D.C. at eight years old and finding his home with Sensei George Weidenhof and the Southlake Jiu-Jitsu community.

Thomas felt like a “tiny twig in a forest of giant oak trees,” during his first few classes as a second grader. In order to accommodate his busy schedule, Thomas started out his Jiu-Jitsu journey in the advanced class. Rising to the challenge of being amongst older and more experienced peers, Thomas knew early on that Jiu-Jitsu was where he wanted to spend his evenings after school.

The road to becoming a black belt was long and winding. Thomas had to prove competency in over a dozen techniques and build up the stamina to learn more than 15 School Rules. Sensei Weidenhof’s community encouraged him in his practice and encouraged him to become a leader on and off the mat.

After multiple years of dedication, determination, and practice, Thomas Highsmith is officially a black belt! He feels “truly humbled by this experience, all I have learned, the history that precedes me, and the sacrifices of many people involved. I have gained so much confidence, kindled a burning internal desire to always achieve my very best, learned the difference between kindness and being nice, and am grasping the challenging tenets of effective leadership.”

Thomas’s story demonstrates the positive impact participating in youth athletics can have on a child’s life. Finding Jiu-Jitsu helped Thomas grow as an athlete, person, and leader and eased his transition to Southlake to the point of becoming an active participant in the community. The confidence Jiu-Jitsu gave Thomas on the mat transferred to him “actively embracing leadership roles in academic team projects and at the Southlake Public Library.” Thomas attributes this seamless transition to “the art of Jiujitsu, its virtues, Sensei’s consistent reinforcement, and the accountability he places upon every member of [the] class.”

Sensei Weidenhof was kind enough to pass Thomas’s moving essay to our staff. According to Weidenhof, he is “so proud of Thomas, an amazing young man! The support was the best from the monitors at the Front Desk to Athletics Supervisor Jonathan Weeks.”

Congratulations on your achievements, Thomas, and thank you for sharing your journey with us!