Jiu-Jitsu is a modern martial arts discipline with ancient roots, and it is growing in popularity in Mississippi. Unlike other martial arts that focus on strikes and kicks, jiu-jitsu focuses on close-contact “grappling” holds and techniques and applying chokes and joint manipulations. Even though it can take Jiu-Jitsu students seven to ten years to earn a black belt rank, it is a sport that anyone can learn at any age and has the added benefit of doubling as self-defense skills. Not to mention, it’s a great way to get and stay in fighting shape.
Stephen Lusk of Southwest Mississippi started training Jiu- Jitsu after a bout with COVID and hasn’t looked back since. “After I got COVID-19 for the second time, I knew I needed to do something to get healthier,” said Lusk. “I had always been interested in martial arts and decided to try it and was hooked.” Lusk is currently a four-stripe white belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Lusk is under the instruction of Professor Chris Holmes at Epic Martial Arts in McComb, MS. “It is one of the most valuable investments I’ve ever made in myself,” shared Lusk. “It takes physical and mental discipline and a lot of courage to step on the mat with an unknown opponent.”
Lusk knows what courage in action looks like, being raised by a single mother who shortly after giving birth to him became disabled. Lusk and his mother lived with his grandfather in rural Mississippi until his passing. Lusk’s mom eventually married, and there was stability even without the shinier things in life. “While I was growing up, my family didn’t have much. We didn’t drive nice vehicles, we didn’t take vacations, and we struggled to make ends meet,” explained Lusk. “But my mom and stepdad always made sure I had what I needed and encouraged me to get an education and chase my dreams.”
Lusk’s first dream worth fighting for was going to college. In 2018, Lusk graduated from Mississippi State University, becoming the first person in his immediate family to graduate from a four-year university. “My mom was so proud,” Lusk said. “She always wanted me to have a better chance at a financially secure life than she did.”
Unfortunately, Lusk’s mom’s health battle wasn’t over. In May 2021, Luck’s mom was diagnosed with Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. She immediately began fighting. “Mr. Harold, the man I considered my dad, passed away in January 2022, during my mom’s fight with cancer,” explained Lusk. “She lost her soulmate, and I lost my father. Mom went downhill after that.” June 2022, Lusk’s mother’s fight with cancer ended peacefully in her sleep. She was 59.
Lusk’s mom had always been his biggest supporter, and now it is his turn to keep fighting for her and everyone else who’s going toe-to-toe with cancer. Lusk is representing Mississippi and cancer patients at the 2022 Tap Cancer Out event at the Alario Center in New Orleans, LA on October 1st.
“I know that even during my toughest training session, competitive match, or open mat, nothing compares to the fight that my mom endured.”
Tap Cancer Out, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and their beneficiary organizations.