AROUND THE BLOK. VOL. 17 - Paris Stanford
For this month’s Around the Blok, we have Paris Stanford. This is a unique ATB as Paris is a professional MMA fighter. Our features extend beyond the traditional classifications of art and what it means to be creative. We are all artist of our lives and creativity is the tool we use to develop the best possible experience we can have. A huge thank you to Paris for taking time out of his schedule to sit with us and to Fight Ready for allowing us to occupy their facility for this feature!
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Paris R. Stanford III.
I was born in Yuma, AZ, on Christmas Eve 1982. As far back as I can remember, I always recall having a deep appreciation of solitude, using my vivid imagination, and strangely, I’ve always felt drawn towards martial arts. There’s something about disciple and order that has always resonated with me. I grew up a sensitive kid that never liked confrontation. But, like some of the characters in my favorite kung fu flicks, confrontation always seemed to come my way. In fact, most people that knew me from childhood are shocked at what I now do for a living.
My father was a U.S. Marine from New York and my mother, whom he met at an embassy in the U.K., was originally born in Jamaica. Not long after meeting, they would move to Arizona. I was one of a handful of black kids in my neighborhood and at my school. For me, this meant growing up not looking like your peers, which at times lead to being picked on or treated poorly. Not just by my peers, but also authoritative figures, and other adults I was supposed to entrust to teach and protect me. My upbringing, in many ways, showed me how important it is to be able to stand up tall and fight for yourself.
I learned that to survive, you must be strong not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. This eventually set me on a journey that would lead me to become a professor of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Fight Ready MMA and fitness and a professional MMA fighter.
“I learned that to survive, you must be strong not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.”
Why do you do what you do?
I enjoy teaching people new things and pushing them past their current belief system. In doing so, I find that there is a mysterious being that is locked within us all, waiting to reveal itself. One can develop themselves exponentially from the experience of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts alone. Teaching gives me a great sense of purpose and meaning in my life.
What benefit does art provide to society?
Our society has become one in which the average person is more stressed out and frustrated than ever. We all need an outlet, somewhere to vent and purge ourselves of all the daily negative energy that society can offer us. To speak exclusively on BJJ for a moment, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu consists of a great community of people that are focused on challenging themselves to become better. Community is something that is lacking, and I feel it is essential to have. Before sparring with someone, (or rolling as we call it in BJJ) it is challenging to tell, beyond the color of the belt, of course, the skill level of the person across from you. This serves as a constant and great reminder to never judge a book by its cover. In BJJ, you’ll find yourself on the mats with people from all walks of life. People that you otherwise may never fraternize with. It doesn’t matter about your social class or how much money you have. On the mats, we are all equal.
What’s your advice to others chasing their dreams?
Don’t expect it to be easy. In fact, try not to expect anything. Expectations that aren’t met can seem as if they’re a landmine, placed subtly on the pathway to your dreams. Many unforeseen situations and circumstances are inevitable on the journey. Always keep your head up and move forward. Hope for best, but you must always be prepared for the worst. Don’t ever expect anyone to believe in your dream more than you. It is your dream for a reason. Always remember your “why”!
What is your biggest inspiration and why?
Jesus is my greatest inspiration. I think if Jesus came to this earth, lived as a man, was perfect in his life, and was still crucified, then when would I ever think that everyone is going to always love me? In some regard, we all have a cross to bear. Because of the teachings of Jesus, I have learned not to be so down when difficult and unfavorable situations arise. All things work for the good of those that love the lord. I believe that my steps in life have been ordered by God, so it is important for me to travel in the direction that I feel I’m being pulled. The more that I choose to walk with faith, the less burdened I feel by the perpetually unknown.
When you think of home, what comes to mind?
When I think of home, the first thing that I think of is belonging. We all yearn to be somewhere we are loved and accepted for whoever it is God made us to be. Home is somewhere you can safely rest your mind, body, and spirit. No matter what it is I manage to achieve on this earth, I feel as if there will always be a giant void inside of us all. You can attempt to ignore the feeling and cover it up with any and everything on this planet, but the feeling shall remain. I believe that it is only after this life, when we return to wherever it is that we come from, shall we truly be fulfilled, and truly be home.