Trench Tech Gym has promoted Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners Filomenaleonisa Iakopo, Edward Andres S. Diaz, and Kevin De Torres to higher belts during simple rites at the Mihaville gym last Thursday.
BJJ black belt Cuki Alvarez said Iakopo was promoted to the rank of orange belt. “This is basically like a blue belt for teenagers under 16 years old. Filomenaleonisa just turned 15,” he said.
Edward Diaz, meanwhile, was promoted to blue belt from orange belt. “He turned 16 a few months ago. Both he and Filomenaleonisa have been training at Trench Tech for about three years,” said Alvarez.
De Torres was also promoted to blue belt. “Trench Tech congratulates these fine young athletes and encourages them all to keep striving,” said Alvarez.
Iakopo said she took up Brazilian jiu-jitsu because of his father, CNMI Office of Veterans Affairs executive officer Stanley Iakopo.
“He’s been doing the martial art for about 10 years. He asked my brothers and I if we were possibly interested in trying it out,” she said.
The daughter of Stanley and Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Priscilla said she hopes to grow more in BJJ and is lucky to have Alvarez by her side to instruct her.
“My goals in this sport are to learn as much as I can to defend myself and continuously training to get better as an athlete, individual, and disciplining the mind. Professor Cuki always mentioned ‘to never chase after the belt, the belt will come to you.’ He is a phenomenal professor and instructor. I feel very blessed and proud of myself for getting promoted. Very eager and excited to only get better,” said the incoming sophomore at Kagman High School.
Diaz said what attracts him the most to martial art is how BJJ helped him develop both as a practitioner and as a person.
“BJJ develops you physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was also attracted by the whole concept of how BJJ, especially Trench Tech, incorporates family values with self-defense. I really respect and admire professor Alvarez and appreciate everyone who helped me get this far,” said the 16-year-old incoming junior at Saipan International School.
He said his promotion to blue belt is just the start of his BJJ journey. “My short-term goal is to compete. My long-term goal is to continue my BJJ journey and hopefully, the belt finds me.”
Torres, the registrar for Instructional Technology & Distance Education at the Public School System, said it was a great honor to have been promoted to a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
“I will train hard and continue to pay my dues. It’s been a great experience to learn from professor Cuki and the Trench Tech BJJ practitioners. I want to become more proficient in the sport and be a good influence to those around me. I initially wanted to try BJJ to become more physically fit and learn self-defense. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to train here on Saipan and I highly encourage everyone to give it a try, the mats are open and the group is kind and welcoming, and the experience is one of a kind,” said the 27-year-old.
Trench Tech offers BJJ kids classes ages 5-12 every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:35pm to 6:20pm and adult BJJ classes every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 6:30pm to 8pm. Call 670-783-4MMA for more details on how to enroll today.