Uson, Calica Aim to Bring Jiu-Jitsu Legacy to MHS

Mina Pecoraro and Chloe Kitsu

MHS Math teacher Jed Uson and Agriculture teacher Matthew Calica met at James Campbell High School six years ago. Having a passion for martial arts, they started a successful jiu-jitsu club, at Campbell, that had the opportunity to compete at the North American Grappling Association (NAGA), one of the largest jiu-jitsu tournaments on O’ahu.  

    “I met Mr. Uson at Campbell High School. Maybe about, six years ago. I just remember him always talking about jiu-jitsu and I was interested in jiu-jitsu as well, but I never practiced it. So, he asked me to start a club with him, and so we helped establish a club at Campbell High School,” said Calica. Uson added, “We both had a passion for — not fighting per say — but we enjoyed watching the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), and I told him I like jiu-jitsu, and we both kinda had that in common. And then we had students that, at Campbell, they love that. They love that type of sport, so then they asked one day, ‘Hey mister, I heard you like jiu-jitsu, would you ever be interested in starting a club?’ And one thing led to another, we got approval and that’s what we did. So once we got approval and I went to Mr. Calica because I knew he liked watching fighting.”

    Uson found a love for martial arts as he prepared for his time with the Army National Guard. He had tried karate, but found his love for jiu-jitsu once he came home. Calica gained most of his jiu-jitsu training through Uson once they both started the jiu-jitsu club at Campbell. “So I thought, alright let me try to learn this. I kept that in my mind. I finished, I came back home, I started college, and then I took a job in Ko Olina and at Ko Olina, I had a friend that said, ‘I heard about this jiu-jitsu thing, it’s so popular at UFC, let’s go learn the art.’ So I said, ‘Alright, I’d be interested in it,’ because I want to know the ground. I went to a school for jiu-jitsu,’” said Uson. Calica added, “I learned it all from Mr. Uson. It was, once we start the club he would bring in other practitioners, other professors, senseis, to come and teach the class. Yeah, that’s basically how I learned everything,” said Calica.

    NAGA hosts the country’s oldest and largest submission grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournaments throughout North America and Europe. Uson had gotten connected with NAGA through the competition’s owner, Kipp Kollar, and had the tournament come down to Campbell. “I brought my Campbell jiu-jitsu team down, and I met the owner and the owner was like, ‘I’m looking around for other places, I said, ‘Would you be interested in ever coming to Campbell?’ and after telling him, ‘Yeah Campbell’s interested,’ he brought the tournament down to Campbell and we started getting to know each other more there, and then I told Kipp, the owner, ‘Hey, I’m transferring to Mililani, would you be interested in following us here?’ And so, one thing led to another, I got hired here, the tournament came here, and that’s how I’ve been part of NAGA ever since,” said Uson. In 2017, MHS hosted its first NAGA tournament.

    The enjoyment that jiu-jitsu brings to both Uson and Calica comes from the amount of determination and persistence it requires. It allows students to learn about their physical strength but also their mental strength. “I like jiu-jitsu because it’s a very humbling experience. And it also really tests your limits. It’s humbling because a lot of times you get beat. When you first start out you get beat all the time, you get tapped out, people choke you out. If you’re not willing to be humble about it and you’re not willing to learn from the experience and get better then you are just gonna give up. It think its a good way to test — I guess your determination because you’ll get tapped out. Mr. Uson used to tap me out like ten times in the five minutes. And as you get better, as I got better, that ten times turned to five times, and then two times, and then before I knew it I’d go a whole five minutes and Mr. Uson wouldn’t tap me out,” said Calica.

    As for the future, Uson and Calica plan to start a jiu-jitsu club and to host more NAGA tournaments at MHS.