How BJJ saved this Pinoy grappler’s life

This Pinoy grappler is proof that Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) saves lives.

It was May 2015, and 38-year-old Allen Tianco drove himself to the nearest hospital due to a massive headache. There he was, a 270lbs man sitting in the ER with a BP of 244/ 190. After some tests, the doctor was brutally honest: Tianco could have a heart attack at any moment. It was then that Tianco knew it was time to make a change.

Tianco wasn’t always in such a poor physical state. In fact, he started out a very active guy. He got into BJJ in 2000 under Myles Vives and was able to train with his idols like BJ Penn, Carlson Gracie Sr., Carlson Gracie Jr., and John Ouano. He was even an MMA judge for now defunct MMA promotion, Fearless Fighting Championships. Unfortunately, in his own words: “life happened.” He stopped training BJJ and wouldn’t get back on the mat for over a decade.

Slowly but surely, Tianco’s focus on his work in Dubai and his neglect for training took a toll on his body. He was the heaviest he had ever been at 270lbs, and he would struggle to bend over to cut his toenails or tie his shoelaces. Fortunately, that fateful visit to the doctor in May 2015 sent him back to a passion that would later change his body and his life.

That year, he donned the gi and got back on the mat at Team Nogueira Dubai.

His return to BJJ was met with shortness of breath and lot of adversity, but he kept at it. “I love BJJ for the honesty and reality that it offers,” he says. “The mats don’t lie: You got to put in the work to show results. BJJ opens your eyes to what you are now and what you can be if you remain true to yourself. There is no bullshit in BJJ; it is the most honest form of self realization that there is. It trains your mind, body and soul. When I do BJJ, I am in my place of Zen every time I roll, despite getting smashed.”

Before long, he was training 6 days a week under Prof. Rafael Haubert, shedding fat, and doing his body a favor. After just 7 months of BJJ, he lost nearly 80lbs, and not even a potential heart attack could tap him out.

He’s now off his cholesterol and hypertension maintenance meds, and his BP and cholesterol levels are back to normal. From wearing XXXL shirts, he’s down to a medium. And yes: cutting his toenails and tying his shoelaces are no big deal.

Tianco, 39, owes all these positive changes to himself and to Jiu-jitsu, and he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Up next, he plans to make a safe cut down from 194lbs to 165lbs by year’s end, and then compete in the Abu Dhabi World Championships in 2018.

The Filipino BJJ blue belter is a testament to how you can save your own life through initiative, hard work, and some help from the “gentle art.” His words of advice to help you do the same: “Believe to achieve. When you lose your motivation to keep doing what you’re doing, always remember: You didn’t come this far just to come this far. Don’t quit because of slow progress; slow progress is still progress. Enjoy what you do and the results will easily follow.”

Photos via Allen Tianco

Follow Allen’s journey via Instagram: @allentiancobjj

Gab Pangalangan

Gab Pangalangan is a former collegiate national Judo champ and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of You can find his other works in the Philippines' leading magazines and websites.
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