IBJJF World Champion Devhonte Johnson: “Keep Moving Forward Even If You Have to Crawl”
I’ve met enough successful people to know that to reach that upper echelon, you have to simplify your life. You have to be willing to remove every crumb of distraction. And you gotta have a burning passion.
When I met Devhonte, I knew he had both.
Devhonte “Bones” Johnson is a Jiu Jitsu grappler and recent world champion who began his career in December 2011. He’s known for being “oddly strong,” and lightening fast. Knowing Bones, I can tell you he sacrificed blood, sweat and years to obtain it.
Currently he’s the head instructor at Unity Jiu-Jitsu — a school in New Jersey “dedicated to enriching the lives of our students through world class, integrative Jiu Jitsu programs and instruction.”
As a fellow grappler, I’ve aways admired Bone’s work ethic, character, and approach to training. In the world of martial arts, it’s rare to find a champion on and off the mat.
“A lot of people live, but they’re really not living,” he said in a YouTube interview. “There’s life to my days.”
In a world of hero worship and me-too copycats parading social media, it’s always a relief to find someone original, dedicated and willing to define life on their own terms.
I asked Devhonte for a quick interview on his drive, passion, training, and the kids whom he coaches. He agreed to share his wisdom on what it takes to be a champion, both mentally and physically. Simple and true, his bits of wisdom can go a long way for anyone striving to be their own personal best.
TPC #1: What initially got you into Jiu Jitsu?
Devhonte: I started doing Jiu Jitsu when I broke my hand in high school. I needed something to do once my cast came off that didn’t require any shock to it. My friend advised me that Jiu Jitsu would make my grip stronger, so I tried a class and never looked back.
TPC #2: Why did you choose Jiu Jitsu over wrestling or other martial arts?
Devhonte: Jiu Jitsu separates itself from other martial arts because you can spar 100% and not injure your training partner at the end of the session. I feel Jiu Jitsu is the only art that allows you to fully apply technique under “close-to-real-life” strain without seriously hurting a person.
TPC #3: What’s more important for you — the physical game or the mental game?
Devhonte: Both. They go hand and hand. But I believe without a strong mind, the body is useless.
TPC #4: What does a typical training day look like for you?
Devhonte: Wake up 7am, train 10am, then again at 12pm. Teach from 5-8, then train again. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I lift after night class. On Saturdays I lift as well.
TPC #5: What do your eating habits look like?
Devhonte: 4 meals per day. No snacking. Lots of fruits, veggies, chicken, and beef. I love rice too. Honestly, can’t get enough brown rice. I hate sweets, soda and processed foods. Whey Advanced is my go to for recovery and muscle building.
TPC #6: As an athlete, how do you decide which protein and supplements to use in your heath regimen?
I just try and stay with the cleanest supplements honestly – no sugar, artificial flavors or additives. I learned about synthetic vitamins while volunteering for a law firm who took numerous complaints from injured victims and have avoided them ever since. With TPC products, I can definitely feel the difference in my training and recovery, which is why I love The People’s Chemist products.
TPC #7: What do you tell parents who are interested in having their kids train BJJ?
Devhonte: I tell them it’s great for kids primarily because of the values it installs. Children learn mental toughness, build confidence, and learn the process of hard work and creating a goal and seeing it through — which is a crucial component to being successful in anything in life. Also I believe it teaches restraint, discipline, and most importantly RESPECT for others and yourself.
TPC #8: In your experience as a Jiu Jitsu coach, what qualities do your successful students have?
Devhonte: My most successful students are stubborn and extremely determined. Even though they’re kids, they have laser-like focus when setting goals. Often times, they hate to deviate from their comfort zones until shown why it’s necessary to do so. This is what makes them stubborn. But that stubbornness is what makes them great, because they don’t quit in the face of adversity.
TPC #9: In your opinion, what are the real differences between a champion and a loser?
Devhonte: The champion understands the game isn’t over until he wins.
TPC #10: Can motivation be taught?
Devhonte: No I don’t believe it can be taught. But I do believe you can spark it in others. You can’t teach someone to want to be great or driven — but you can find something in them to ignite the flames.
TPC #11: What’s a common mistake you see students making? (either physically or mentally)?
Devhonte: Being too hard on themselves. Too often people judge themselves against the highlights of another person’s trials. Just take things as they come for what they are and never stop believing in yourself. No one is perfect and we are all capable of greatness.
TPC #13: What’s been one of your proudest moments in your career so far? (And why?)
Devhonte: I have a tie as far as that’s concerned. My greatest achievement as a competitor is winning the IBJJF World Championships this year. But as an instructor, the most joyful feeling is seeing my students achieve their goals. Whether it be learning a particular position or winning a particular tournament, every time I see them accomplish something that makes them happy I’m very proud to be a part of their journey.
TPC #14: What does your pre-match routine look like? How do you prepare yourself right before a competitive match?
Devhonte: I meditate, then talk to myself constantly while speaking positive thoughts and never allowing the slightest hint of negativity to enter my thought process.
TPC #15: What are the benefits of “a martial arts lifestyle”?
Devhonte: Peace, happiness, and simplicity. I live such a simple life but it’s meaningful and full because of all the relationships I’ve formed along the way, and what it’s taught me about myself.
TPC #16: What’s one thing you wish EVERY martial arts student understood?
Devhonte: That nothing comes easy and in order to move forward you must endure — endure as much as you have to — until you’ve reach what it is you’ve set out to achieve. Right next to your deepest low points are your highest and most meaningful triumphs. So keep moving forward even if you have to crawl.
My name is Shane “The People’s Chemist” Ellison. I hold a master’s degree in organic chemistry and am the author of Over-The-Counter Natural Cures Expanded Edition (SourceBooks). I’ve been quoted by USA Today, Shape, Woman’s World, US News and World Report, as well as Women’s Health and appeared on Fox and NBC as a medicine and health expert. Start protecting yourself and loved ones with my FREE report, 3 Worst Meds.