Interview: Jason Soliz

“Train first, everything else second”

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Jason Soliz

Interview by: Richard Burmaster
Photos by: Richard Burmaster and Barry Laminack

Many of us know the coaches kid, the kid who was always given his position just because his dad is the coach.  It’s a little different in the Soliz household.  When your dad is a BJJ Black Belt, a Golden Gloves boxer and one of the leading authorities on Jeet Kun Do, you have some big footsteps to follow in. Usually kids of coaches either succeed or leave the sport of their fathers. Jason from a young age showed the desire to win and the passion to constantly improve. He jokes about training first everything else second, but drop into Sugarland MMA at any point of the day, and you’ll see it’s not just a joke. It will be easy to find Jason, he is usually the guy sweating through a cardio routine or rolling with students. Never one to sit around, Jason constantly strives to improve himself and those around him.  He was born to compete and he is not slowing down anytime soon. I was able to catch up with Jason in between classes at Sugarland MMA and talk with him about growing up in martial arts.

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TCD.Net: How did you get started in Martial Arts?

Jason: I started in Jeet Kun Do concepts, that’s what my family was brought up in. You learn all kinds of different techniques. One of the main parts is grappling I really enjoyed the grappling side of it and started learning more grappling. I really didn’t start competing till I was 12.

TCD.Net: How old were you when you started JKD?

Jason: I was around 9 when I started training. My dad had always showed me techniques and I was always messing with the sticks and knives. There are some pics of me in boxing gloves and diapers. [laughs]

TCD.Net: How was the experience of starting tournaments at 12?

Jason: I was a big kid, when I turned 14 I was 210. So when I first started in the kids division I only had one or two opponents. So I had to move up to the men’s division.

TCD.Net: What was it like being 12 and competing with the adults?

Jason: It was kind of fun, it was cool. I never looked at it as competition, it was always a game, and I was never really supposed to win the game. That always made it better because there was no pressure. If the other guy loss it was always you got beat by a kid, did you take it easy or did he actually get you? [laughs] around 14 I started to take it seriously. I started to compete heavy in the men’s divisions then. I started doing pretty well with bigger guys; they were a lot bigger then. I was competing at a 180 weight, and a lot of those guys were cutting 20 lbs to make that weight class so I was actually fighting 200lbers at that time.

TCD.Net: Did you have guys who wanted to make an example of the kid?

Jason: Yeah I got a lot of that. We were in Austin at the Machado tournament I think, I had already been through three or four matches and my mom and brother were sitting off on the side and heard my next opponent tell his friend that he was not tapping for some 13 or 14 year old punk. At first everyone thought I was 18 so it wasn’t a big deal, then it leaked out that I was 14 and all hell broke loose, and nobody wanted to tap to me [laughs]. So we get set up and the guy has this real serious look on his face and will not even shake hands [laughs].  It took about 5 minutes, but I caught him in an armbar and I had to pop it 3 or 4 times to get him to tap but he did. Our strategy back then was to excel in conditioning because I was not going to beat them in strength.

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TCD.Net: Did you run into more who were against you being in the men’s division or more that supported you?

Jason: It was about 50/50. Here in town they were pretty supportive. When I would go to Dallas and Austin they were not very supportive. [laughs]

TCD.Net: You have achieved all of your rankings under your father Joe Soliz. What is it like to have your coach also be your dad?

Jason: It’s brutally honest. It gets aggravating sometimes but you always know you are getting the truth.  He is my dad and he is playing the father figure and telling me what I should do, he is also my coach and telling me what I should do. He also has the ruling to say what I am doing badly and what I should be doing. Some coaches worry about hurting feelings. Usually right after a match my dad has the tape out showing me what I did wrong; he chops it all up and points out every single detail where I can improve. A lot of the times when we break down the fights, we move all the furniture out of the living room and we work on the moves as we watch the match. Then we run over them again at the gym the next day then we start the training.

TCD.Net: How has the martial arts helped to strengthen you relationship with your dad?

Jason: We are closer than about anybody I can think of. I don’t see my dad as just a coach or a training partner. I get aggravated about the stuff he is telling me to fix sometimes but he is always right about what I should be fixing. [laughs] It just strengthens our relationship, the more we do it the more respect I have for him.

TCD.Net: Where is competing in MMA on your radar?

Jason: I would like to get my black belt first. I’m just focusing on my jiu-jitsu right now. Most people know me as a ground guy which is pretty cool because they don’t know about the standup I have been working on. No video of me striking, it’s like a surprise package. Before I compete in an MMA event I would like to make it to Abu Dhabi.

TCD.Net: Who are some of your favorite martial artists?

Jason: Of course Bruce Lee, even though he wasn’t a black belt in all these forms his mind set him apart from everyone else. He was so far ahead of everyone else, even now all these people are training MMA but back in the day the JKD guys just called it cross training.  Another one that gets me in trouble sometimes because I mess around a little bit is Fernando “Terere” Augusto is one of my favorites. Also Octavio “Ratinho” Couto is another favorite

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TCD.Net: If you could roll with anyone who would it be?

Jason: I would take Ratinho because he helped start a lot of guys and helped build their foundations.

TCD.Net: As an instructor at Sugarland MMA what is more satisfying, watching someone you have trained win or winning your self?

Jason: Seeing someone I trained win is great. I am more nervous for them than when I go, it’s a nerve wracking experience because you can’t push them to fight but you love to see them work. We try to get them as good as we can as fast as we can

TCD.Net: You found success in martial arts at a very young age, what do you tell a new person coming into martial arts to keep them motivated?

Jason: Find a routine, then break it, [laughs] then do it again. You have to keep changing it up. The traditional way is you learn an art and you get a black belt but don’t ever really apply it. We try to train to constantly be evolving.

TCD.Net: Is there any art that stands out above the others?

Jason: It’s more of the concepts and ideas. I’m not going to say JKD is the best because JKD the art form died with Bruce Lee. No one moves like him. What’s left is the concepts and ideas. There is not just one way how to do something, it’s up to us how it’s applied.

TCD.Net: Any motto you live by?

Jason: It’s kind of funny and I use it as a joke all the time but train first everything else second.

TCD.Net: Anyone you want to mention or thank?

Jason: Daniel, my dad Joe Soliz, everybody and anybody who has helped me, I can’t really pick out a few names, so everyone along the way.