Chris Tedjeske has worked various maintenance jobs at Kenyon since 1997. He now does utility work for the boiler room, located at the facility up the road from the Kenyon Athletic Center. But recently, Tedjeske, a resident of Apple Valley, Ohio, has made a remarkable accomplishment in a beloved hobby: becoming an international Jiu-Jitsu champion.
“I’m fascinated with the learning of it. … It’s constant learning, and it’s never going to end,” Tedjeske said of his passion for the Japanese martial art, which he began practicing about 10 years ago. “I didn’t think [practicing Jiu-Jitsu] was going to last more than a day, maybe a month,” Tedjeske. “I just fell in love with it.” Since then, Tedjeske advanced to obtain a black belt and in 2015 began traveling with the U.S. national Jiu-Jitsu team.
Although he has learned both combat, which involves striking and grappling, and Brazilian, or Gracie, Jiu-Jitsu, which involves grappling alone, Tedjeske focuses more on the Brazilian form of the martial art.
Although he trains less often than he used to, Tedjeske tries to attend Team Chitwood Martial Arts and Fitness in Lexington, Ohio, where he practices two to three times a week. His coach, Sean Chitwood, has been doing Jiu-Jitsu for 37 years and started the academy 24 years ago. About a year ago, Chitwood became the grappling coach for the national team, headed by Bob Steins, and brought eight athletes from his studio with him.
“In all this traveling … you get to meet some really interesting people,” Tedjeske said of Steins and other masters of Ju-Jitsu with whom he trained. Among them is Tony Maynard, a member of the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
According to Chitwood, Tedjeske had to practice, travel and diet for almost two years in order to reach the level of success that he has. “You sacrifice sleep, you sacrifice time and money,” Chitwood said. Before he was able to compete at the world championships, Tedjeske had to attend multiple two-day training camps and competitions in the U.S.
The World Sport Jiu-Jitsu conference in Australia was Tedjeske’s first time outside the U.S., and he won a gold medal.
He admitted that getting the gold was a lot of work, but said, “It’s fun, too. You kind of become a family when you travel with these people, people from New York, people from Virginia. … We all get together and have a good time.”
Tedjeske says that if all goes well, the team will compete a second time at the championships in Ireland in June. He expressed gratitude for his experiences, and for the emotional support and flexibility in his work schedule that he received from his department at Kenyon, which made them possible.