Interview with JD Mierzwa

JD Mierzwa has been a bouncer, professional kickboxer, underground street fighter, prison guard, sheriff, and cage fighter. Currently, he’s a fitness trainer and MMA coach.

Oh—he’s also my brother!

JD Mierzwa and Ando

Training MMA with my brother, JD Mierzwa, in Florida.

For as long as I’ve known him, I can tell you that JD pulls no punches—in a fight or in life. A longtime martial artist, JD’s learned much from both throwing and taking punches, which is why I was excited to finally corner him with a microphone over the holidays to capture some of his words of wisdom for you.

To hear the full interview, check out my podcast, Fight for a Happy Life. The conversation is broken up into two parts: Episode 26 and Episode 27.

If you’re short on time, I’ve typed up some of my favorite moments below. Hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did!

A Conversation About Martial Arts and Life with JD Mierzwa

Do you think you were born with the fire to fight or was it something you learned along the way?
Learned along the way. I don’t think it’s organic in anyone. Situations arose that it became evident that you needed it if I wanted to be productive, I guess, or assertive in life.

Were you impressed by Bruce Lee?
Confidence for sure. When he lines up for like Big Boss, or whatever it is, the big scene, fighting 50 guys, the attitude in his face, his aura, the confidence, you’d want that. Who wouldn’t want that?

Feelings about weapons?
I’ve always liked weapons. … Even by eighth grade, I had quite an arsenal that would be illegal in most states and not healthy, probably!

Would you classify yourself as defender and never a bully?
For sure, I was always the hero in my story.

Any thoughts about your early training?
Looking back now, everything’s off the core. So, I would have liked someone to point that out back then.

Any lessons early on that made a big impression on you?
Do whatever’s comfortable, whatever you’re good at. The same thing that Judo guy taught me in the beginning. Out of the 76 techniques, you pick out three. You get two good throws, two good submissions, and you just work ‘em, work ‘em, work ‘em and you get 90% of the people, 90% of the time.

You give Bart Vale credit for removing the mystique of the martial arts?
For actually saying the words, “Hey—we’re not splitting the atom here, man. This is what works for me.” … He was just the first one to say it. Boom. “Hey, martial arts is for everyone. There is no secret, there is no mystery, there is no best-all move for anyone.” So, I’ll give him credit for that.

Your feelings about style?
Anyone can learn anything… but initially, take what’s good about you, strengthen that, then you can always add, but get your foundation to be you.

What training tips would you give to yourself as a young boy?
Slowing myself down for a second. Realize where everything comes from. I was very emotional back then, so everything was about power and rage and that fuel. So, just bringing myself back down.

I would have liked to have had it long before, to have that kind of self-control and awareness.

Do you feel that living with fire, the push-push, go get ’em attitude has hurt you?
No, never.

Push, push, push, push, push, push.

And if someone is yielding while you’re pushing?
I’m going to look for a new direction to push… one that gets me where I want to go.

JD Mierzwa

JD Mierzwa

So, no yielding?
The moment I sit back, I find, then it falls apart. Everything falls apart. It’s constant work. Everything is a job. The relationship is a job. Working out is a job. The diet is a job. It should be. You should be working. If you’re not working, what are you doing? No yielding. No stopping.

Always go on two. Never wait to three.

It’s easy to be a quitter. Quitting is a habit. And once you start doing it, it gets carried away. You quit on everything.

What are the biggest frustrations you deal with as a trainer?
Exactly that. The quitting.

They know they’re not trying. And they pretend! So, they’re putting more effort into pretend when they could just actually do. It boggles my mind.

We can work around anything. As long as we can communicate and be aware, there’s nothing in this world that you cannot accomplish, or the task that can’t be fixed, if you just be aware and communicate. And that’s martial arts, life, love, relationships, physical projects, work, all the same. Self-aware, conscious, communicate, and push, obviously. I mean, you have to do the work.

What advice do you hear yourself giving the most often?
Breathe. Engage your core. Breathe. … And that goes right from my fighters to everybody. Everybody’s the same thing. Consistently conscious breath.

With all of your experience with violence on the street, in prison, working as a law enforcement officer, and in the ring, what lessons can you share with people who haven’t been in lots of fights or taken down a bad guy?

The person who’s going to be victorious has more time in those situations. So, emotionally aware, controlled, not fits of rage, of panic, or anything of those natures, but actually had the emotional dump of having an altercation.

I was winning everything in the street and the bars because I already had my first step set out. Emotionally, I wasn’t involved. … This is on any level. Cop, not cop, whatever it was, every situation I intervene in, which is a lot, I know exactly what I’m going to do and they don’t know. I’m in control emotionally, so there’s nothing that’s going to rattle me that I haven’t seen before on any level.

In order to learn about yourself, in all martial arts, and this is on every level, you have to go to the brink.

You have to know what level you’re going to go to. If this is protecting my family, you’re dying. If this is protecting my dog, you’re dying.

The more training you can get to going up the roller coaster of bringing yourself through the emotions and have control of yourself at all levels is the key to everything. … You’ve got to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and then make yourself act in those situations.

What is your chief fighting tactic?
Get your skills in order. Then once you decide what your fighting style is, when you decide it’s time to apply it, you just go as hard as you can, as long as you can. And that’s it.

If I don’t go 100 percent it could very quickly turn not my way. … Anybody who’s a competitor on any level would know even if you’re playing badminton with your sister, you spot her two birdies… it can get tough times, of trying to win. Okay, winning is not important? Yes, winning is very important. I’m not losing anything to anyone. So, I’m not conceding to–it’s not good for anyone to pretend to lose or pretend to win. Egos shouldn’t be that fragile. And they shouldn’t be helped if they are that fragile. Win, win, win. Win, win, win.

Do you have a motto?
My motto, my credo for years was I have one minute for anyone in the world.

It’s not like I was ever invincible. I never had that delusional attitude. But I want to fight. And I love it. And for a minute, there’s nobody that I won’t go toe to toe with to figure out are you tougher than me.

Feelings about fighting?
I’ll fight for a dollar.

The whole idea of it is beautiful. It’s pure. When they close that door, or you get in that ring … some of the biggest relief is you don’t have to go through the emotional dump and say, hey, has this guy said enough for me to punch him? Has this person done enough to me to unleash my best effort of trying to beat this person?

I don’t like getting hit. I hate it. I’m not one of those people that say, “Oh, I need to get hit a few times.” No! If I can help it, I want to hit first. … The hitting first is so huge. I don’t ever want to get touched. Ever. I don’t want to have to escape something. I want total dominance like my superheroes. That’s why the whole goal of trying to go kill him first wins. Because I’m not even going to—“Oh, let’s see what this guy has. Okay, let’s see if he’s got a jab. His kick, let’s see if I can time myself.” No. Go!

The key to fighting?
The key to fighting is being conditioned to be able to maintain best form. It’s running that constant mental checklist: feet positioning, hand positioning, chin positioning. Am I firing off my legs? Am I overreaching? That constant assessment. That’s why, again, it’s so pure. Because all the thought of everything else is gone but being you. Being in that moment.

A word about quitters?
It’s easy to quit. It’s easy to stop. Look around you, whatever your situation is, and 75% of them are right there with you, because they are quitters. They’re not the ones willing to push the envelope. They’re right there to pat you on the back, “Well, you did good.” Uh–you didn’t do good. You failed yourself and you’re never going to be better for it. You’re worse.

I’ll start Monday. That’s the sure line of a quitter.

My biggest regrets are those times when I did bail. And they haunt me.

A word of motivation?
What are you willing to let slack? And why? It’s a constant fight with ourselves, but what is that? What is our hierarchy of human needs? What is our mental checklist on a daily basis, emotionally? What are we holding in value? Who are we holding in value? And how are we dealing with them? How are we fighting to keep that, whatever that is? Physical strength up? My health up? My liver enzymes down? Whatever it is. That’s the fight.

I’m going to say 90% of us that are making these things that we’re wanting, they’re good things, and they’re things that should be followed through on. So, as long as you’re striving, keep on adding to that consciously, subconsciously, you’ll have the awareness that you’re on a track of betterment. Whether you’re getting the result yet or not, on some level you don’t have to, you’re aware of it, that it’s benefiting you. … It always shows worth eventually.

If you’re interested in training with JD Mierzwa, contact JD Fight and Fitness Systems through