Member of the Month: Jon Starks

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By Jason Bove.

These days, it is rare to find a combination of both sweet and tough in a fellow human being. Jon is an earth-focused, spiritual individual that directs his energy toward being true to himself and the world with which he interacts. A student of Iroquois philosophy in a time when we struggle to find peace and optimism, Jon has found a way to seamlessly marry conflict and resolution. He is a lover and a fighter! Despite this lofty introduction, simply put, Jon is a nice, down-to-earth dude that puts smiles on our faces. We always enjoy seeing him walk through the door of our humble establishment.  

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How long have you been a member at Sacramento Pipeworks, and who or what brought you into the gym for the first time?

I was blessed to find Sacramento Pipeworks in October 2016. That summer, I assisted Rich Valdez (a Sierra College climbing instructor) with some of his backpacking classes. After a summer of trips, including a memorable group bouldering session at Paradise Lake, I fell more in love with the outdoors and also developed a greater appreciation for climbing, and the community that comes with it! Once back in Sacramento, Rich told me how cool Pipeworks was.

Next thing you know, I was signed up and coming in every day from that point on!

You seem to always have a smile on your face and enjoy taking part in playful games of “hide & sneak”hiding behind things and sneaking up on friends. Can you tell us what elements of your life contribute to these amusing characteristics?

Well, besides my extensive safety breaks?! Just kidding.

You know, to be real, my biggest fear is becoming another person’s burden. With that in mind each day, even when I am feeling butthurt about some first world issue I’m having, I try to put myself in my neighbor’s shoes. It’s hard, I do admit, but 90% of the time with another person’s potential troubles on my conscience, I feel my optimism comes easier. If I can pass that energy on with a smile and a, “How’s it going?,” then that’s not much trouble to me at all. The “hide and seek” is me just trying to hone my ninja skills, spreading happiness with every gentle step! Ha ha! It’s hard to be mad when you have good people like Jason and the other Pipeworks staff greeting you each day, anyways. Good people, good vibes.

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If we do not find you out working in the garden, or participating in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes, where else would we most likely find you?

Besides training an average of six nights a week and spending multiple hours in the gym away from family and friends, you will often find me at some sort of relative’s house vegging out and going through their food pantry! Kidding…(kind of). I do love hanging out at home with family and friends, and I also love hanging with my dogs. I have three American pitbulls: Kendall “The Queen” (9 yrs), Pepper “The Troublemaker” (3 yrs), and the new edition is Cocoa (2 yrs). As you may imagine, it’s a good amount of work having three dogs, so I enjoy a lot of time at home with them. I’m not big on fueling the Matrix, if you know what I mean. Although, from time to time you might see me downtown grabbing some grub with my Jiu-Jitsu training partners supporting the local eateries!

How many different varieties of plants/vegetables are in the garden you currently maintain, and do you have a favorite?

To start, my mom is the true green thumb in my lineage, and in the plant world, I just try to follow in her footsteps. Currently I have cherry tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, watermelon, a pineapple, strawberries, and a few edible flowers, along with an assortment of native plants from where my mom resides near Lassen National Park. If I had to choose, watermelon is hands down favorite. As far as other plants, I enjoy any of the flowers that my mom chooses to plant in my backyard; they are like keepsakes from her. I am a mama’s boy and having a garden is just one way to always have Mom around. This is my first year focusing on my garden, and I plan to have one forever.

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You have won the opportunity to stand on the podium at some large Jiu-Jitsu competitions. Can you tell us more about these achievements?

My journey with Jiu-Jitsu here at Pipeworks has been nothing but a blessing. Training under such a great sensei, Brad Sandoval, I have learned so many things other than just Jiu-Jitsu. Every one of my training partners have positively impacted me as well—I would not be where I am today in my Jiu Jitsu evolution without them.

I started my first no-gi class on March 3rd, 2016. Since then, I have only missed about a month of training days. You can definitely say I have found my permanent obsession. I am fortunate to have a sponsor and have made it to seven tournaments thus far, and have medaled in four of them. The organizations I’ve competed for are BJJTour, US Submission Grappling League, and International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation. There are plenty of others out there, but more traveling is a must! Not too many venues in the Sacramento area have larger Jiu-Jitsu competitions yet. Maybe one day we can hold one at Pipeworks!

The competitions are where you get to showcase your skills. You study for a month, and then you are tested on the skills you’ve obtained during the training process. It’s an amazing feeling to learn and also display techniques derived from such an honorable background and history. The training is the hard work, the competitions are the fun part, and the standing on the podium is what keeps me signing up for the next one! I recommend that everybody who trains in Jiu-Jitsu compete in a tournament, not only for the podium, but to experience some of your best training partners—your opponents. They will always put you to the test: “You cannot win if you do not play.”

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Do you have a particular training regimen or special diet to lend to your results?

As far as diet or regimen goes, I can’t say I follow anything specific. These last few years I have tried to become more in touch with my body, both spiritually and physically. With that being said, I try my best to listen to my body and to eat when I feel like I need it. I like to do fasts from time to time; I feel it’s like a restart. In my opinion, as long as you are happy and moving your body, like I do with Jiu-Jitsu, and not overeating, it’s bound to be healthy for you. Get your 60 minutes of physical activity in a day and the smiles will come.

What color belt do you hold with your current Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills, and what, if any, is the significance of that particular color?

Since March 2016, I have evolved to blue belt. The adult belt order is white, blue, purple, brown, black, and last, but not least, red. In regard to the process, a blue belt (in my opinion) is the beginning of the true Jiu-Jitsu journey. The reason why I say beginning is that during my white belt period I was just trying to learn how to practice Jiu-Jitsu. It’s almost as if the white belt stage is just an apprenticeship or probation period to see who sticks with the training. If I am a white belt, getting promoted to blue doesn’t mean I am a blue belt, but it is giving me the right to learn and become a blue belt. Once I’m promoted to purple belt, I feel I can say I am a blue belt in Jiu-Jitsu. In other people’s opinion it’s the other way around; to each their own. As far as today goes, I am competing in the blue belt divisions in each of my tournaments and will be for at least another year or so.

You have the whole day off, and nothing to do. Walk us through what this day would most likely consist of, and why you chose these particular activities.

On any days off, I will always try and make time to see family and friends that I don’t get to see Monday through Friday—whether that means I am going to my mom’s up by Lassen, my dad’s toward Placerville, or even just making it to the river with some good friends. I will say that most of my days off recently have involved a lot of driving back from tournaments; but that’s like vacation, right?decorative image

Family is very important to you. Please tell us more about this strong bond you have, and a few reasons that reinforce these feelings.

Yes, my family is very important, and they are also spread out everywhere. While growing up, it was pretty much myself, my younger sister (Vanessa), and my mom (Deborah), with my stepdad being around whenever he wanted to be. With that dynamic, I relied on my mom for everything, as she relied on me to help with any added tasks for the family. Since we lived in rural areas and I was enrolled in home study, I was able to go help her with landscaping jobs and any other work that she needed a hand with, even if it meant missing school work. That time I spent with Mom created a never-ending bond between us, and I am forever grateful to our higher power which chose me to be her son. I plan to always be a mama’s boy, and she is why I wake up and work hard everyday.

I believe we moved from Placerville to Sacramento when I was about nine years old; well, to West Sac to be exact. My eldest sister Rachel was 18 at the time and already lived in Sacramento with her now-husband, Matt. I decided to move in with them, and this allowed me to attend public school, with hopes to catch up from the home studies I fell behind in during my mom’s seasonal work. Rachel ended up taking me on full-time, giving me the opportunity to flourish in the public setting and education process, which I didn’t see much of living in the woods with Mom. Still, living in the woods with Mom was great in its own ways, and I cannot repay my sister for making such a sacrifice at such a young age, and in helping to create a path of opportunities for me. Another reason family is so important to me is that I have witnessed each one of my kin help one another in some way, and that’s what family is for! There are many more reasons my family is my priority, but the main is that they tough it out and LOVE me.

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If you could be any creature, real or fictitious, and also possess an extraordinary superpower, describe what you are and what you are capable of.

I would be a “Time Ninja” working for the future seventh generation army. My superior ability to be incognito, reverse time if needed, and martial arts skills to defend against evil would play a part conquering the evil plague that seems to be surrounding parts of world. I would go from place to place, wherever there was conflict that may jeopardize the generations to come—third world countries, for example, and other places of poverty—and reverse time to give the ones in proper position the time to make the changes needed to sustain a healthy earth. My source of power would be derived from the telepathic and spiritual connections with people who hold themselves to the Seventh Generation standard on earth.

(Seven Generation sustainability, the idea that decisions should be considered for their impact on the seventh generation to come, is inspired by the laws of the Iroquois. The Seventh Generation Amendment is a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution to put ecologically sensitive areas under government control.)

Though the strength of my powers would vary depending on the success of my work, it would just be incentive to push forward and continue my path as a Time Ninja—reversing the bad on earth and brightening all corners of the world.