Jay Figurski The Eagle of Advanced Martial Arts
When you’re part of a good training environment, those people you train with become like family.
They become fixtures in the gym and in your life, Jay Figurski was one of those fixtures.
I’m writing this because I don’t know what else to do. I’m very sad, and in shock quite honestly. I had hoped, one day I would be writing about Jason Figurski when he would go pro, but the chaos that exists in the world would not let us see that day, unfortunately.
I woke up to the news that Jay passed away over the weekend. Jay, or “Fig” as we called him because there are a lot of guys named Jay at my jiu-jitsu academy. Fig was ambitious when it came to his training, he wanted to do it all. MMA, grappling competitions, you name it. There are a few studs in my gym and he was definitely one of them from the day he walked in.
He had just gotten his brown belt. A rank I felt he deserved long before he was awarded it. A lot of people changed when the pandemic hit but for Fig, he stopped being hard on himself when it came to training. I remember, after we were forced to move to a new location he and I had a conversation about how good he had gotten, I was telling him this as he never tooted his own horn. He told me he felt like he was in a race against himself before the pandemic and I guess, with all the soul searching we all did when things changed, being able to come back to training changed his perception. He said, “ I don’t care about winning anymore, I just want to have fun with it.”
Oddly enough, that change in attitude is what started making him better. I don’t know how many times I rolled with Fig. It was a lot, but after that conversation, he started submitting me and a lot of other people ranked above him. To the untrained eye, he looked like he was going for the kill every time, but he was just having fun. Even though he got me the last time we rolled, it was fun for both of us.
I remember when I saw him after he had gotten his brown belt. We sat by the door, looking onto the mats and I told him how happy I was about his promotion. He had lost a friend just the week before and he was having a rough time dealing with it. He talked to me about it, and felt good that knowing just before his friend passed on, he was glad to have spent time with him and have that last time be in a positive light and share some laughs.
I’m glad I got to know you too Fig. You were always in a positive light. I’m glad I got to train with you, drink with you and laugh with you. Fig was a fan of my impressions so I’ll try and keep that energy up for you Fig. Everyone gets a funny nickname when they spend a lot of time in Jiu-Jitsu. He’ll always be “Fig” to us but we’ve called him a monster because of his athleticism, and “The Polish Hammer” because of how hard he would train. He had a tattoo of an eagle on his chest, I knew it was because of his wrestling history but the kid’s attitude was something that would make you soar after talking to him.
He had an amateur MMA record of 1–2 and competed in grappling competitions and coached wrestling. He was definitely about that life and just life in general. You would be hard-pressed to find him in a bad mood. Fig always had calm energy about him that was positive.
When I left work, I felt compelled to get to the gym and train. I was not surprised to see it packed, with all his training partners there. We grappled through the night, with our emotions and shared all the great stories of the years he put in on and off the mats with us. One thing’s for sure, he would have been there training too, probably for his second session of the day.
I’m going to miss you Fig.
A memorial fund was set up for him, if you’d like to donate, you can do so here.