According to Me: Character, pride are real art of Ross Martial Arts

For the last eight years, I have covered virtually every aspect of community life in Demopolis in some form or another. My strongest penchant has always been for sports given that my initial role in the community was as a sports journalist.

In the course of executing that function within the community, I got the opportunity to write about impressive men and women such as Jay and Ronda Russell and Daniel Alexander as they competed in martial arts and mixed martial arts competition.

Through the years, Ross Martial Arts became a staple of the editorial sports product I was responsible for putting together. I continued to be impressed with not only the performance prowess of the competition teams at Ross, but also the reputation the gym garnered within the community through both its martial arts and fitness programs.

Having written about Ross so much, I was never surprised to hear of the character of the Russells or the high level of expectation they placed upon their students.

Perhaps, the merits of the school’s programs and inherent character benefits were never more unmistakable than when Tony Nicholson took to competition for the first time mere months after having lost most of one leg to a gunshot wound.

With every passing story, I found myself wanting to take part in the Ross MA family. In 2014, I finally took that step. And when I got there I found that it was just as I had always expected it to be: it was a family.

An out-of-shape 32-year-old with no athletic background, I signed up for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes and found the Russells and Alexander to be just three of a myriad of encouraging personalities who take pride in themselves and one another.

Last weekend, I stepped onto the mats to represent Ross in a tournament for the second time. And the end result of the individual matches wasn’t quite as important to me as the desire to represent myself, my teammates and my instructors well. There really is an inherent pride that comes with being part of the Ross team.

The pride serves as a driving force through the bruises, the sore muscles, the joint pain and the constant reminders that it is hard to make up for decades of inactivity.

I don’t know how far I’ll go with BJJ. Lord willing, I’ll go as far as I can. But if something should ever happen and I find myself having to leave Demopolis, Ross Martial Arts and the family that calls it home will be near the top of the list of things I’ll miss the most. For now, I intend to find ways to better myself every time they allow me to step onto the mats.

Jeremy D. Smith is managing partner of The West Alabama Watchman. He has covered news and sports in Demopolis since 2008. His column, According to Me, appears weekly on