Friday Spotlight

Posted by Hannah Zeciri on


Joe Miller


And what's your age?

What rank are you Joe?
Brown Belt

How long have you been training for?
Off and on for 13 years

And where are you from?
I live in Stoughton, Wisconsin

What do you do for a living?
I am a Stay at Home dad by day and BJJ Coach by night.

What gym do you train at?
Stoughton BJJ

How did you get into BJJ?
When I was getting out of the Army a doc told me that a physical activity would be the best thing to help me adjust to civilian life. So I found a traditional martial arts school. I had done combatives in the Army and liked that, but the school was lacking in grappling, so I started a grappling program. After a few years I was promoted to blue belt and the rest is history.

How has it affected your life?
In just about every way possible. I went from being a hobbyist, to competitor, to gym head. That is kind of crazy when I think about it. I am training 5 days a week and almost every day answering questions, emails, messages, and laundry, lots of laundry. My family has traveled for Jiu Jitsu camps, traveled for tournaments. I have met people from literally all over the world doing this and it is great.

How do you spend your free time?
Being daddy. I have 4 kiddos under the age of 6, so I spend a lot of time being a jungle gym, cat wrangler and kiddo pillow. When I’m not on daddy duty I enjoy shooting sports like trap, skeet, 5 stand and hunting. I also love to ride motorcycles and will be back on two wheels after my littles get a bit older.

How has BJJ impacted your personal life?
I have 5 kids so running a school and managing being a dad and husband. I have seen students crumble when faced with all that. My wife trains, my kids train. So for me it has actually brought my family closer in some ways and my wife and I know that if we ever have frustrations or anything along those lines, we can roll and it almost always resolves things. Jiu Jitsu has also made it possible for me to come off a lot of medications that I was on. The level of physical activity it provides me circumvented some of the medications I need on a daily basis. That alone is amazing.

What is your biggest accomplishment and why?
My biggest accomplishment is starting a school on terms that reflect my values and other people agreeing with that and coming alongside me. Not many people would say sure I will teach for free in a small town and let most our students train free and then just give away gear. We do that and we are growing. I never could have seen that happen. I had hoped a few people would come train, but we have had to move 4 times in 3 years because we have outgrown our spaces.

What are your goals for this year?
My first goal was to move my school to a new location. We did that this last May. My second goal is to increase access to training for disabled veterans in my area. I actually just joined a program with our local VA to start doing that. Lastly is to connect our school into our community with events that show who we are and how BJJ can help them. We are doing a ladies self defense workshop as a way to do that.

Who has influenced you the most?
In my early years of Jiu Jitsu I can say my training partners across the gyms I have trained at. In my last few years, I would say Chris Haueter. Our school joined Combat Base a few years ago and after meeting him and talking to him, he was able to change my philosophy and the way I teach. Also, the way I train. I was primarily a guard player and after my time with Chris, I transitioned to a top side player. It isn’t just because of his Golden Rules of Grappling, but the methodology approach and thought process. As I get older it is more difficult to deal with younger athletic guys being on top, so fighting for, and maintaining, the top position is better, and Chris taught me that.

We know you work with veterans how do you find bjj to be beneficial for them?
This is a great question. The first thing it does is put you as part of a team again. One thing that gets cut off right away is the comradery of military personnel. You go from being on a team to being a lone very quickly. That sucks. Because of that a lot of vets get lost and go down roads that are dark and scary. Jiu Jitsu puts them back as part of a team and they can look around and see other people struggling and succeeding next to them. Second it gets them moving again. Physical fitness and the military go hand in hand. I went from working out 5 days a week to nothing over night and without being forced to do it, I didn’t. Physical activity is one of the best ways to combat depression and anxiety. Jiu Jitsu helps to get you moving and doing a very strenuous activity several times a week. Lastly, it can give you many forms of exposure-based therapy. Jiu Jitsu is very good at putting you in very bad positions quite often. The cool thing is, you can stop it at any time by tapping. For someone who is struggling with a variety of mental and physical health issues, having that ability can offer a start to a lot of healing.

What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to be through my kids. In Jiu Jitsu I want to be known as someone who opened the door to anyone to train. That helped hundreds of veterans find a way to heal on the mats, and help the community see that we are not about making money, but being a chill place where people had a great time and learned a martial art that improved their quality of life.

Any advice for our readers on or off the mats?
Jiu Jitsu is a journey. There are going to be ups and downs no matter what you do. Enjoy the process. You are going to have great days and really crappy ones. The crappy ones can make us want to quit, but those are the ones we grow the most from. That goes for life too. I think the last few years have taught us that life can suck, but we can find ways to still find joy. Belts, titles and promotions are all cool, but a title or belt color don’t change who you are they just show other people someone else thinks you did good. At the end of the day, you are more important than any of that and just enjoy the process and keep at it.