Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a martial art known to challenge even the most talented of black-belts, but local athlete David Tallent says it's that struggle that's changed his life for the better. 

Jiu-jitsu is not for the weak of spirit - but it was just what Tallent was looking for about five years ago

 "I've always been an athlete my entire life, “ says David “So, lifting weights was natural, that kind of thing, but I was missing something in my life from an emotional and mental stand point".

After watching a class, David was hooked on Jiu-jitsu and asked trainers Jerry Hallert and Matt Tonkin to work with him

"I really didn't know how to teach him because he can't use his lower half,’ says Tonkin

David has been in a wheelchair for 17 years.

David remembers the day it happened; "I got hit by a train in my truck and pushed a mile down the track, fortunate to survive that".

But paralysis does not slow David down.

He does more work getting to the gym, than many of us do all day.  "The body adapts to everything that you do and your body will find a way to make it work,” says David “You just have to listen to it.”

David also listens to Jerry and Matt, who, five years ago, had to find new ways to train a paraplegic athlete. Tonkin explains; "He has to be really diligent about pressure and angles so people can't sweep him and come up on top of him, so we drill that, so it's all muscle memory". "Whereas I work more on Dave's techniques on attacks and submissions," says Jerry.

And true to form, these athletes do not take it easy on each other.

"That's just the way Jiu-jitsu is,” says Jerry “When we're drilling -we're drilling, when we're rolling -we're rolling. Dave gets what he gives, so we go just as hard against him".

"I believe I was the first paraplegic to compete at an IBJJF world tournament,” says Tallent “It was a wonderful experience.  I lost my match, but it didn't take away from my experience there. I wouldn't trade it for anything"

David will be testing his purple belt in January, and he will have the full support of his trainers turned close friends;  "It's easy to make an excuse-  and he could - but never does" says Tonkin

"I taught him about Jiu-jitsu,” says Jerry “But he's taught me about life".


Jerry Hallert runs Komainu Gym

1351 Corporate Blvd., Reno, Nevada (775) 544-3075 on Face Book @komainugym

Matt Tonkin runs Tonkin Fight Team