LA PLUME — Jason Ratchford accomplished a significant feat last month, becoming the first and only martial arts fighter to hold duel ranks as a first-degree black belt in judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The owner of Pride Lands Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy, Ratchford, 38, was promoted to a first-degree black belt by Ailson “Jucao” Brites in June 2011 and to a first-degree black belt in judo by Sensei Fred Murty, Head of the State Promotional East Board for judo in Pennsylvania, in May 2015.
According to Murty, there is a “massive difference” in how Ratchford earned his promotions than most other fighters.
“He earned both promotions in competition as a fighting martial artist,” Murty said. “He proved himself under fire and that’s the best way to be promoted.”
Murty believes Ratchford’s versatility on the mat is one of his best assets as a martial arts competitor.
“He’s a good all-around technician,” Murty said. “He can execute chokes, throws and armbars. He’s not a one-dimensional player.”
Ratchford credits the sport of judo for helping to get his life on the right path.
“I was kind of a rough kid and getting into fights,” he said. “My parents got me into judo as an outlet instead of getting into trouble. When I went in there, I saw the respect for everybody, the respect for the teacher, the respect for the other students, respect for the mats and I stuck with it. It really saved me from making bad choices in my life.”
While winning is the goal, Ratchford believes much more can be gained by competing in martial arts.
“The most important thing people can learn from judo is the respect for your opponent,” he said. “If you respect your opponent, that is more important than winning.”
According to Ratchford, who also serves as an instructor at Pride Lands BJJ Academy in La Plume, a lot of the fighting techniques are similar in judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
“They are very similar in that they are both grappling arts,” he said. “I first started with judo at age 17 and then found that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was almost identical and allowed more time on the mat. I ended up pursuing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and excelling at it.
“Someone who is really good at judo could transition well to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” Ratchford added. “Judo focuses a lot on the throws and is more about being in control of the opponent, where in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu you can fight from your back comfortably.”