Todd & Sharon Johnson

The success that we see from jiu-jitsu can come in many forms. In this column, we typically highlight physical transformations. This month we have that and much more. Todd and Sharon Johnson both received their jiu-jitsu black belts recently, which on its own is an accomplishment worth saluting. What’s special about the two of them is that they did it together. Both have seen tremendous life improvements thanks to jiu-jitsu. Their love for jiu-jitsu helped Todd lose 100lbs and has given them both something to share as a couple and reach twenty-one years of marriage together.

Todd Johnson

Age: 44  |  Height: 6’0

Starting Weight: 310

Current Weight: 210

Hometown: Murrieta, California

Home School: Dan Henderson Athletic Fitness (Checkmat)

Instructor: Ricardo Feliciano Pereira

Belt Rank: Black

How did you discover Jiu-Jitsu?

I was bullied as a kid and when I saw Royce go out and destroy everyone in UFC 1, I wanted to get my kids trained so they never had to feel threatened, so I enrolled them in jiu-jitsu. They were three and five at the time. One year later they asked, “Dad if we have to go, why don’t you?” I said good point. So at 33, I started as a white belt weighing 310 pounds. I lost 100 pounds in a year from jiu-jitsu.

What motivates you to train?

I wanted to prove to my kids that sticking to something pays off; I also have become addicted to the sport and the physical results.



What else do you do
for physical fitness?

I go to Dynamic Fitness, a kinesiologist to help with balance, cardio, and flexibility.

How have you changed your diet?

I strictly watch portions, I eat more old grains and healthier options, and I have become a vegetarian. I also drink more green tea. I should give beer up- it’s my one vice.

What’s been the biggest
challenge so far?


Continuing the momentum with work, family and injuries which are inevitable. Jiu-jitsu has also taught me how to get through those injuries and still train even when not 100%. Additionally, I found out three years ago I have Crohn’s disease.The impact on my cardio and joints have been severe, even with medication, and being able to keep focused and train even when I am hurting has been a challenge. A huge thanks to my coach Ricardo Feliciano for recognizing everyone has a different path to black belt with different challenges and different capabilities – he has encouraged me to continue to train even if I am not 100% and to just do my best. I couldn’t ask for more support.

What’s been the best benefit from the changes you’ve made?

Self-confidence and the physical changes to my body. I will never have a six-pack, but after almost 11 years, my body is very muscular everywhere, toned not bulky.

What advice would you give to someone else looking to make the same sort of change?

Check your ego at the door, have an open mind, injury will come – how do you plan to deal with it when it does, mind over matter, and persistence. I have an MBA and getting my black belt was many times harder.

Sharon Johnson

Age: 51  |  Height: 5’7

Starting Weight: 135

Current Weight: 122

Hometown: Murrieta, California,

Home School:  Dan Henderson Athletic Fitness (Checkmat)

Instructor: Ricardo Feliciano Pereira

Belt Rank: Black

How did you discover Jiu-Jitsu?

I learned about jiu-jitsu from my husband, Todd. He would always encourage me to try it, but I was too afraid to step on the mat. When I was 44, Todd and our sons, Ian and Sean, presented me with a gi for Mother’s Day. What mother can deny their children?! So, that week I stepped on the mat and just kept going!




What motivates you to train?

Jiu-jitsu has given me the ability to push my body and mind in ways not offered by other sports/activities. I am motivated to continue to improve myself, and I love that the “dance” will be different with each opponent – there is never a boring moment for me on the mat.

What else do you do for
physical fitness?

I only make the time for jiu-jitsu… working full time and family fills in the rest of my time!

How have you changed your diet?

I eat more foods from the soil – vegetables, fruit, old grains, etc, and less meat. I mostly hydrate with water and have decreased my alcohol intake.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Allowing yourself to become a leader and accept the growth that the professor and others see versus allowing my ego to still tell me I’m a white belt. Also, continuing to work and go to practice even with injuries and finding the time to go consistently with a full family and work schedule.

What’s been the best benefit from the changes you have made?

My mind and body have transformed, learning that sometimes the best return is simply to give, linking that to helping new people has shown me the more I help and give, the more people are drawn towards me.

What advice would you give to someone else looking to make the same sort of change?

I know it won’t ever be easy and find the right school that fits your style. I am so glad to be a part of Checkmat at DanHenderson’s Athletic Training Center… this old gal has always felt supported and welcome there. It’s not about beating your opponent- it’s about beating yourself.


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