Joe Tate has successfully managed to transform his life.
Tate, a 35-year-old member of Arizona's Gila River Indian Community, is now fixated on winning prestigious grappling championships, at both the national and international levels.
Grappling is a generic terms for various forms of martial arts, styles and disciplines. Tate participates in Jiu Jitsu and Nogi events.
With Jiu Jitsu, which is similar to judo, competitors wear a gi and there is no kicking or striking involved. Participants can grab their opponent's gi in their attempts to take down him or her down.
For Nogi, competitors don a more traditional wrestling outfit. This disciplines allows submission holds, chokes and arm bars.
Chances are that not many people who knew Tate in his 20s would believe he has gone on to become a world-class athlete, who already has a lengthy list of accomplishments even though he's only been grappling competitively for three years.
He currently weighs 215 pounds and participates in the super heavyweight (between 207-221 pounds) category. That's a far cry from the 360 pounds that he used to weigh, back in 2007. "I was faced with a choice as I had a lot of problems then," said Tate. "I had borderline diabetes and high blood pressure. I decided to do something about it and started running and getting into shape."
Once he started going to the gym and dropping weight, Tate's health woes started disappearing. "I was having back problems before and other stuff was going on like always feeling tired," he said. "And it's all gone now."
Tate, who trains six days a week at the Power MMA and Fitness facility in Phoenix, has captured some impressive titles in the past year.
Last fall he took top honors in his category at the North American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation meet, which was staged in Long Beach, California. He'll be heading back to the same meet in November to defend his title.
Courtesy Joe Tate
Joe Tate in action
Tate was also in Carson, California, last weekend, where he won a pair of medals while competing at the U.S. nationals, sanctioned by the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation.
He brought home the gold medal in a Nogi event, despite moving up and participating in the ultra heavyweight (more than 221 pounds) category. Tate also won a silver medal in his own Jiu Jitsu division.
While in Carson, Tate also took part in the absolute challenge at the meet. This category was open to any of the Top 3 finishers in any of the five weight groupings. Tate, however, did not place in this event.
Tate, who also has a full-time job working as a teacher's aide at a Phoenix pre-school, has a handful of important competitions coming up. First up is the world Nogi championships, set for October 4-5 in Azusa, California. "There's going to be at least 20-30 competitors in my division alone," Tate said. "I believe it's going to be tough, but I'll be looking to bring home the gold."
Tate will return to California in November to defend his North American crown. "I'm definitely going to go get it back again," he said.
Afterwards, he'll start preparing for the 2015 world Brazilian Jiu Jitsu championships, which will take place next summer in Long Beach.
Tate, who has Pima, Apache, Navajo, Papago and Maricopa ancestry, is hoping to become to first Native American to win a world Jiu Jitsu title. "I just want to show the people it can be done, regardless of age and the challenges we face," he said.