For the last several years, Tom Drotar — a Monroe native who now resides in California — would travel back to his hometown to care for his ailing mother.
After placing a lunch order, the 65-year-old production designer was walking through the downtown district as he waited for his food to be done.
He came across Monroe Jiu Jitsu at 11 E. 2nd St., a fitness center owned by Todd Williams, a Monroe resident who competed as a runner for Team USA in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.
An avid lover of fitness, Drotar was intrigued by the storefront and walked in, meeting Williams. He immediately joined. And though he recently returned to California, Drotar said training at the facility has changed his life.
“You come here and by the time you finish, you’re on another level,” Drotar said. “… Williams is the best coach I have ever had. He never gets impatient and he always has a smile; he’s just a real leader.”
Williams’s business has been open since 2017. And since then, he has seen the impact his work has had on students, watching as they become healthier and more confident individuals. He’s also watched people progress in their physical fitness journeys, losing dozens of pounds.
“(I’ve seen) people become happier; they’re making eye contact, which is different to the first time when they first walked in,” Williams said. “It’s incredible seeing that change in people.”
Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that is based on grappling and maneuvering, prioritizing the concept of self-defense, Williams said. It’s like a combination of wrestling and Judo, he added.
“It’s for the smaller individual to be able to take on the bigger individual through technique,” he said. “But it’s a great workout for anyone.”
Williams love running, martial arts and Jiu Jitsu. But what he most enjoys is helping cultivate a love of fitness and exercise in his students. He wants people to prioritize their health, which affects all aspects of their well-being.
“I just want people to get outside and be active,” Williams said. “… There’s a lot of great options people can do.”
Activity is a great way to alleviate stress, Williams said, adding that is important to a person’s overall physical and mental health.
“There’s so much stress in today’s world,” he said. “(People) need a positive outlet and to surround themselves with positive people. There’s too much negativity.”
Leaving phones or distractions behind is optimal, Williams said, adding though his business is open to everyone, he’s happy as long as people prioritize their health.
“It’s a time to unplug and throw yourself into something positive,” Wiliams said. “I’m happy if you decide to come here. But I don’t care where you go — just go. I want people to exercise and be healthy.”
Training at his business includes basic conditioning drills before jumping into studying Jiu Jitsu techniques. Once a student has been there long enough, they then delve into sparring.
“That way I know every student gets some benefit,” Williams said.
Consistency is they key to success, Williams said.
“It’s not something where you can workout six weeks and be done,” he added. “It’s a lifetime change.”
And the benefits ripple out. Williams said he’s watched exercising transform his students’ diets. It’s also attracted like-minded, positive people into their lives, he said.
“It becomes their community,” Williams said. “Students become friends here.”
Nick Musulin, 43, of Monroe is another student at Williams’ business. He began attending training there as he set out to lose weight and address health issues.
He said the experience of training there and working with Williams has helped keep him on track and achieve his goals. Like Williams, he said consistency is instrumental.
“I gotta be motivated,” Musulin said. “And coming here helps do that. Being here helps push me to keep going. If I didn’t (train) here, I think I’d just fall back into old habits.”
The hardest part for many is just beginning the process, but once they take that first step it becomes easier, Williams said.
“Just start — that’s all you have to do,” he said. “People will say, ‘I’m not ready.’ But you’re ready. You can start at anytime. Anyone can start a walking or martial arts program. They just need to take the first step.”
Williams said the last 18 months during the COVID-19 pandemic have been a tough time for everyone,
including his students.
When physical fitness centers were shuttered, he stayed in contact with his students, advising them on how to adapt routines and training outside and in their homes.
“There’s always a way you can stay physically fit,” Williams said.
Above all else, Williams wants his students to feel welcome when they come to his training center. It’s important to make everyone feel special, he said.
“I treat the first-day student like I am going to treat a person who has been coming here five years,” he said. “… My goal is to make it fun. I don’t want anyone coming to this school, dreading it. I want them to be excited; I want them to come running here.”
For more information, visit https://www.monroejiujitsu.com/.