Updated: Mar 6
My name is Jeremy Akin, founder of Profectus Jiu-Jitsu, and this is my story.
Growing up in the early 80s during the kung fu and ninja movie boom, I was obsessed with martial arts like a lot of kids. I read every kung fu magazine and book I could get my hands on. My goal was to be able to stand up strongly in the face of oppression.
As I approached adolescence, my life started to take an unfortunate turn. My mother, who was struggling with alcoholism, was losing the fight and taking it out on my father and I. The abuse worsened over the next several years. Her drinking fueled the depression and she became a much different woman than I had known as a child. As I struggled to understand why, I turned to music and martial arts for refuge.
Meanwhile, at school, I started to see bullying first hand. Kids singled out my best friend as a target. Here too, I struggled to understand the abuse and the reasoning behind it. School went from being a place of friends and learning to the place I dreaded most. I stood by my best friend and tried to help him see that the bullying was just a phase—that we would go on to live amazing lives and look back to laugh at these small minded people. But the bullying got worse. My best friend began to withdraw from everyone. He called me one day after school, upset and desperate. Not knowing it at the time but this would be our last conversation. I tried to calm him down. But it was too late. He was broken.
Soon after we got off the phone, his girlfriend called me. She was hysterical. “He did it” she said. I called his house immediately. Another friend answered the phone in shock. He told me our friend had shot himself. I instructed him to call 911 from his parents phone line. When he sat the phone down, I heard my best friend’s voice in the background. I listened to his last words as he tried to hold on.
After my best friend’s death, I changed schools. I went from a private, college prep school to a notoriously violent public school. Like the plot of my own bad karate movie, I had to start dealing with physical violence on a regular basis. From a race riot at school to having guns pulled on me in the parking lot, violence became a part of my life. I soon became detached and lost interest in the future that I had once cared so much about. Eventually, I dropped out of high school.
Several months later, on my 18th birthday my mother kicked me out of the house. Now homeless, I was forced to be resourceful. Far removed from the seemingly distant childhood that held so much promise. I worked any job I could get.
Not long after, I found a traditional martial arts dojo in my hometown and poured myself into training. It might have been the only thing that kept me going.
A few years later, my mother lost her battle with alcoholism. At age 22, I was once again faced with overwhelming loss. I had lost my best friend and my mother. In the intervening years, I had also lost several other close friends. Refusing to become another statistic or cliche, I knew I had to get out of my hometown.
Through the network of people I met while studying martial arts, I found an opportunity to travel to Japan and train with some amazing people. That trip, although short, opened my eyes to a new future. The different culture helped me realize that the differences in people are minuscule compared to their similarities. I was motivated and driven to devote myself completely to studying and growing both as a martial artist but also as a person.
Upon returning to the U.S., I immediately began searching for new places to move to. I was determined to get out of my hometown. I decided to give upstate New York a shot. I started a gym with one of the guys I trained with in Japan. While the gym wasn’t meant to be, I got what I needed from the experience. We trained hard and I was exposed to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu for the first time.
After closing that gym, I returned to Tennessee to be closer to family. By then, I had experienced many different forms of martial arts including Muay Thai, Kosen Judo and Sambo. Upon relocating I began training Gracie Jiu-Jitsu under Master Luiz Palhares. The honesty and challenge that Jiu-Jitsu provided was exactly what I needed. Master Palhares treated me like family and provided me with unconditional support. I felt as though I had finally found my home.
My life has been a crazy journey filled with some extraordinary people, incredible adventures, and hard-learned lessons. I began all of this hoping to learn how to fight so that one day I could defend myself and others. I thought there was some magic technique to overcoming anything. Little did I know, the things that allow us to overcome and endure tough times are only learned through struggle.
One of the truths I discovered is that violence, much like life, is an incredibly powerful and unpredictable force. Trying to control it can often times prove futile. Sometimes the best we can do is position ourselves in a way to endure it.
Through this process, I learned to live bravely and unapologetically, to let growth be my goal. Now, as a Professor, my life is dedicated to helping others find the courage to live their truths.
I believe wholeheartedly that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the the best tools for exposing and overcoming our fears, our ego, and the insecurities that hold us back. Jiu-Jitsu allows us to forge our mind, body, and spirit in a safe environment surrounded by people that share in our triumphs and failures. The relationships we build on those mats are priceless. They help us realize that most of what we might not like about others stems from the exact same fears and insecurities.
The strength to stand up throughout life and lift up others around us.
To be gentle out of confidence and free from the need to prove.
This makes us better friends, better leaders, better parents, better people.
This is what helps us find our truth and our freedom.
— Professor Jeremy Akin Founder of Profectus Jiu-Jitsu