Eric Grover, 15, of Barto, with medals and a trophy sword he received when he finished second at the Jiu-Jitsu Cherry Hill Challenge.
What started out simply as a way to stay in shape for wrestling has dramatically affected the life plans of 15-year-old Eric Grover.
The soon-to-be freshman at Upper Perkiomen High School has quickly progressed in the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since taking it up a few years ago. Now he is working diligently to rise as high as he can in the martial arts while preparing for adulthood.
“I want to be in the military for combat, and a future police officer. I was thinking about wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu for combat,” Eric said recently.
Eric has proven to be something of a prodigy, attaining the level of blue belt which is usually not doable until age 16.
Charles Grover, Eric’s father, recounted how that came about. “His instructor said, ‘Why hold back? He already knows adult blue belt discipline; he’s been in it for a year.’ He took the test for the blue belt and he passed.”
Every couple of months, Eric competes in area events against other schools. Recently, he finished second at the Cherry Hill Challenge and third at a tournament in Marlton, New Jersey in May.
Eric was looking forward to a NAGA (North American Grappling Association) event this month, but will have to wait until November for the next one.
“He was scheduled to go, coaches were all psyched up that he was going, and then he broke his collarbone,” said Charles Grover.
Eric suffered the injury in the last middle school track meet in the spring when he fell while running the 200 meter.
The slightly built Barto resident is currently learning at Reality Martial Arts in Quakertown. Most of the participants at the school are in their 20’s, some older. Eric is the youngest.
[Reality Martial Arts] teaches you the art of the sport,” explained the elder Grover. “It teaches you different techniques in the sport. You don’t just jump from this step to this step.” The strategy and the thinking behind the moves are explained.
“His instructor says that [Eric] is a student of the sport, not just showing up so that he can beat somebody up. He actually asks questions.”
“You have to have self-control,” Eric added. “You have to have discipline, respect for your teacher and yourself, and dedication.”
Eric trains four days a week, two and a half to three hours at a time. He is also taking Mixed Martial Arts classes which emphasizes the striking and punching used in UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) competitions. Eric would like to participate in cage fighting.
Eric began wrestling with the Upper Perk Braves when he was 10 years old and came across Jiu-Jitsu while looking for an off season conditioning program. Specifically, Eric was attracted to the Brazilian form which emphasizes ground fighting and leverage to defeat potentially stronger opponents.
Of course, in wrestling getting put on your back by an opponent is often a fatal position, but in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, on his back is the place Eric wants to be. “I like going to guard. You lay on your back, and you wrap your legs around the guy,” he explained. That move puts Eric in a position to use a choke hold or arm bar by extending his opponent’s elbow.
“I like the motion and the technique of [Jiu-Jitsu]. In wrestling it’s more just out-muscling the guy.”
Despite the heavy schedule of practice, Eric, the oldest of three children of Charles and Tammy, describes himself as a “dedicated” student who is active in school. At Upper Perk Middle School he participated in choir, the newspaper and basketball in addition to track.
And in the eyes of his peers, especially those who are into UFC, Eric’s avocation is something that is “pretty cool.”