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Student Life

HES Assistant Department Head Advises Grappling Club

J.D. Lee brings his jiu-jitsu expertise to the mat as the advisor for one of NC State's newest student organizations.

Members of the Grappling Club make wolfie signs in an indoor room with white walls

Say hello to one of NC State’s newest student organizations on campus: The Grappling Club. 

Organized in September 2021, The Grappling Club at NC State University aims to teach its members about grappling techniques and self-defense while emphasizing discipline, respect and self-improvement. While many of the techniques that are taught center around Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a ground-based martial art that is growing rapidly worldwide, there is also a focus on wrestling techniques and etiquette. 

J.D. Lee, assistant department head and assistant teaching professor for the Department of Health and Exercise Studies, serves as the advisor for the club. Lee currently holds a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. His grappling experience dates back to 2010, when he initially took interest in the sport and decided to pursue it.

“We have a lot of beginners, so they’ve asked me to help them work on the basic knowledge and skills behind Brazilian jiu-jitsu.” said Lee. “We’ve also focused on different real-life scenarios where they could find themselves in a ground-fighting situation. At first, many of them found themselves panicking once they got on the ground, but as they learned more skills and became more confident in their ability, they are much more effective and comfortable in those types of situations.”

A student in the Grappling Club tackles Lee

Lee went on to discuss some of the more technical aspects of grappling, along with some common misconceptions that are associated with it. 

“When people talk about martial arts, or you see martial arts portrayed in the media, they are mostly referring to striking and kicking, which is a standing-fight situation. However, during physical confrontation in real-life, a person will commonly stumble or end up taking their opponent down to the ground. So, then the question is how will you react? My goal is to help them become confident and comfortable if they ever find themselves in a situation like this.”

The club is composed of Wolfpack students with a variety of different academic backgrounds, from computer science to exploratory studies to material science engineering. 

Club member John Shepard, a material science engineering student in the class of 2024, has been wrestling since he was 12 years old and started grappling this year with the Grappling Club. He explained that grappling has helped him fill a void that he felt was created when he had to give up wrestling after high school.

“This club is really important to me because wrestling was one of my passions growing up, and it’s something that I had to let go when I came to college. But, because of the Grappling Club, I feel like I am in a similar environment where I get to have just as much fun and do it with people that are similar-minded.”

Two club members first bump following a sparring session

Matilda Flodin, a computer electrical engineering student in the class of 2025, serves as the club’s treasurer. As a grappler with five years of experience, Matilda has had the opportunity to take on a leadership role within the club. 

“I think it’s great to meet like-minded people who want to participate in the same sport. It’s also really nice to see wrestlers getting into it and learning different grappling techniques.“

Club members cited many different reasons for joining. Some say they want to continue to work on their grappling skills so that they can eventually compete, while others see it as a good way to improve their self-defense and overall physical health. 

“I’m a huge fan of mixed martial arts. I’ve always thought that being able to learn how to fight and defend yourself is a good habit to have,” said exploratory studies student Holden Cypher. “Personally, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t take advantage of an opportunity like that.”

The Grappling Club meets weekly on Tuesdays in the Wellness and Recreation Center. They are currently accepting new members and encourage students to come out, regardless of their grappling experience level. 

“To students who may be interested in joining, but may have no grappling experience or are hesitant or nervous for whatever reason, don’t be,” Lee said. “I believe there are many students that could have great potential in this sport, but may not have the opportunity to try it. Come in and try it, and you’ll likely learn a lot of skills and techniques that are both fun and helpful for your self-defense.”