Fight the good fight: Mormon bishop doubles as martial artist

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Don’t let his age fool you. He might be a grandfather and an LDS bishop, but he’s as tough as they come.

On any given day, Steve Black can be found at the Pit Elevated in Orem pursuing his passion of Brazilian Jujitsu. At 62 years of age, Black has the skills to submit just about anyone.  Even guys less than half his age, who thought they could take him, have had to “tap out,” Jujitsu’s way of crying uncle.

Steve Black pins another fighter to the mat. Black, an LDS bishop, has earned a brown belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. Photo by Samantha Williams.
Steve Black pins another fighter to the mat. Black, an LDS bishop, has earned a brown belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. Photo by Samantha Williams.

And on Sundays, Black’s alter ego can be found in a chapel presiding over the Provo Young Single Adult 262nd Ward as bishop.

Black, a Brazilian Jujitsu brown belt, looks like he could have been a model for an Arnold Frieberg painting. Standing broad-shouldered at 6’3″ and weighing 230 pounds of lean muscle, he reminds some of Captain Moroni.

As big as Black is, though, he has the disposition of a gentle giant outside of the ring.

“I enjoy the learning martial arts, but I don’t enjoy the violence,” Black said.

Black grew up in Indiana during the 1960s. He got involved in his middle school’s judo club and was soon introduced to the importance of martial arts.

“I remember there was a school bully when I was in the eighth grade. He would pick on everyone. There was this one time during free period that he grabbed me by the lapels of my jacket and went to attack me,” Black said. “I remembered my judo training and threw him on the ground, and it was the last time he bullied anyone.”

Whatever Black pursues he devotes his whole self to it. That goes for both Brazilian Jujitsu and the gospel.

“He is always passionate about everything he does,” said his wife, Karen Black.

Anytime Steve Black is in the gym training, people behave around him. The bad language, dirty jokes and foul behavior stop when people train with him.

“Steve … has helped me both on and off the mats,” said MMA fighter and Black’s friend Jesse O’Rullian. “He is a really great guy.”

Black, for the most part, does not have to say anything — the other fighters just know.

“You don’t have to preach the gospel all the time, and I don’t do that at the gym. I just live the gospel, and through my example people just know,” Black said.

Through his example and service, Black has helped a few guys at the gym become active in church again.

“He will help a lot of the guys,” Karen Black said. “We get calls all the time from different guys from the gym, and Bishop Black will always help them.”

Steve Black always had an interest in martial arts. He served his mission in Singapore during the height of Bruce Lee’s popularity. However, from high school all the way through his late 30s, he never trained formally.

Black would take his sons to a Taekwondo school, and eventually the instructor asked him to join them. Steve Black did and, at age 40, earned his second degree black belt.

Black met his Brazilian Jujitsu instructor, Pedro Sauer, while helping Sauer find real estate so he could set up his jujitsu schools. Sauer, a smaller man, invited Black to come and try out his classes. During the classes Sauer went on to submit the much larger Steve Black five times in less than five minutes.

“I was amazed that this guy smaller than me could just do whatever he wanted to me,” Black said. “It was a humbling experience.”

Determined to improve at Brazilian Jujitsu, Black began learning everything he could from Sauer.

“I kept coming back to learn, and after eight years of training I have finally got my brown belt, and in a year or so I hope to get my black belt,” Black said.

Despite all of Black’s success, martial arts takes a toll at 62, even for the most skilled of fighters. He and his family know there are risks.

“I’m impressed with Steve,” Karen Black said. “But I just do not want him to get hurt. We are at the age where we have to conserve what health we have left.”

Steve Black credits the gospel as one of the biggest helps in becoming a skilled fighter at the age when many men give up on taking care of their bodies.

“There are so many things the gospel has helped me with in this sport. If it weren’t for the Word of Wisdom I don’t know if I could still be doing this at 62,” he said. “Humility is another thing. I see big, strong guys come in and get submitted by little guys and they never come back. If you let pride get in the way you stop learning.”

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