26-year-old Diwiz Piya is one of the few people in Nepal who have ventured into Jiu Jitsu, an unarmed close combat martial art with the central theme of grappling. It’s been four years that he’s been practicing it and Piya finds sparring in Jiu Jitsu similar to a game of chess—a battle of the mind but with physical consequences.
Even though Piya himself is competing on a regular basis and learning at the same time, he gives lessons whenever he is free. “I can teach without issue. But sometimes, it’s very complicated. It feels as though I have been given a big responsibility. I used to be skeptical on whether I was ready or not. But every class I conduct makes me more confident,” he says.
Alongside practicing in the country itself, he usually spends two to three months a year training outside the country as well. Reflecting on the time he spent in Thailand, Piya confesses, “Many Nepali athletes are capable of going head-to-head against foreign professionals. But, maddeningly, there are neither enough resources for the athletes nor proper infrastructures that provide them a platform.” Even after trainees go pro, it’s especially hard for them to find sponsors and investments. In these situations, it’s only natural for them to feel uninspired.
The Week’s Kumudini Pant caught up with Piya to talk about his journey, struggles and how he chooses to overcome them.
How did you first get into Jiu Jitsu?
I met an American coach from Seattle when I was doing boxing and kickboxing in Bangalore. After a kickboxing tournament, he came up to me and started up a conversation about Jiu Jitsu. After hearing him out, I immediately jumped in at the suggestion that I should learn it. Soon after the conversation, I started training with him and continued for a year and half. Then, I headed to Bangkok which is also the home of Muay Thai. And that’s how the journey began.
What motivated you to be an athlete?
I actually wanted to follow my father’s footsteps and become a military man and was planning to do that. But I didn’t enjoy authority. I wished to make something of myself. And honestly, not having to get a nine to five job was a huge motivation.
What are you doing currently?
I finished my MBA from Thailand. It’s kind of ironic because I actually went to Thailand to learn Jiu Jitsu and I ended up getting a degree as well. Right now, I’m teaching Jiu Jitsu at a few gyms.
I have plans to establish official Jiu Jitsu training spaces in gyms like Gymkhanna. Right now, we are talking about setting up the places with a total of four gyms. Hopefully, those will provide an outlet for interested athletes to compete professionally.
Growing up, did your dedication to Jiu Jitsu affect your academics?
No, never. And people who spread those rumors are usually afraid of trying it themselves. If you want to do something different, you have to have the dedication. Just because the axis shifts doesn’t mean everything else is destroyed.
How does having to travel affect your practices? Do you need to take breaks?
Every place or country I go, I go with the aim to train and visit the gyms there. For example, I was in Delhi for two months where I found a fantastic gym for wrestling. Obviously, you need breaks sometimes. But that usually includes going out with friends and family.
As a professional, do you have to maintain your diet?
It depends. I mean, I don’t go around keeping track of everything I eat and counting calories. It’s only when I’m going to be competing in a tournament that weight is an important factor and I have to make changes in my diet.
The most important thing is that Jiu Jitsu isn’t about fitness or bulking up—it’s an undying pursuit of something more.
Have you ever used the techniques you’ve mastered in your practical life?
Learning a martial art is about not having to use them. It also helps that I hate confrontation. I hate crowds and I stay away from drunken parties.
When I was younger, I used to get into fights. And yes, in some of them, knowing martial art was an advantage. But as I grew older, I have never had to use it. The more important thing is that, if worse comes to worst, at least I will be prepared.
How do you see the future of Jiu Jitsu in Nepal?
Now that I’ve come in contact with people who are Jiu Jitsu professionals, we hope to bring changes in the country. With motivated people like us pushing this field, it could go in a lot of different directions.
Right now, we’re focusing on building the culture of accepting Jiu Jitsu as a physical sport rather than a brutal match. While it might seem like a simple game, it’s the simplicity that makes it so complex. And I only wish to be a decent ambassador of it.
If you had to define Jiu Jitsu in one word, what would it be?