TOTOWA, N.J. – Growing up as the oldest of eight kids in a single-parent household, Devhonte Johnson didn’t get out of his hometown much.
He remembers leaving Paterson to go “down South” once and to New York City a couple of times.
But all that changed when at 17 he injured his hand, and searched for an activity that wouldn’t aggravate it like his old sports of boxing and baseball would.
Johnson took up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the sport has expanded his horizons.
It has taken him to tournaments in Atlanta, Chicago, California and Abu Dhabi. Next week, he’ll be leaving for a competition in Lisbon, Portugal.
“I would never be going to these places on my own,” said Johnson, now 22, adding the best part about traveling is learning about different cultures.
Johnson currently holds titles in the most competitive Jiu-Jitsu league in the world, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF).
In March, he became the 2016 IBJJF GI Medium Heavy Pan American Champion. In April, he became the Abu Dhabi World Pro – 94 kg Champion, and in June he took the silver medal at the IBJJF World Championships.
Johnson works hard to stay on top of his game. He trains under world-renowned Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitor Murilo Santana in New York City.
“I am always training,” he said. “And if I am not training, I am teaching.”
Johnson is the head instructor at the Unity School of Jiu-Jitsu – New Jersey, in Totowa.
His students come from Totowa, Wayne and Paterson, and also as far away as Staten Island, South Jersey and Connecticut.
He thinks students come from all over because, “people can tell when you genuinely care.”
“Here, nobody is in competition with anyone. We are helping each other to get better,” he said.
He likes to bring his students to tournaments too, and show them that there is a world outside of what they see every day.
“They get to see that there are other things out there to shoot for,” he said.
The Unity School of Jiu-Jitsu – New Jersey runs programs for both children and adults. For more information, CLICK HERE .