When Thaddeus McCormick II, 18, started studying Jiu Jitsu about four years ago, he couldn’t stand to be touched and didn’t like germs. But he pursued the sport anyway, starting to train at Port Huron Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy, sometimes twice a day. He plans to test for his purple belt this fall, an intermediate adult rank.

McCormick has autism, and said he wants to let people know that the sport he loves has an open door, and how it has helped raise his confidence and his ability to socialize.

“Jiu Jitsu is for everybody,” McCormick said. “Jiu Jitsu changes people, I think (for) them it makes them a better person, it humbles them.”

After he got started, McCormick eventually got his mother, father and younger brother into the sport as well.

“He said to me ‘dad, you need Jiu Jitsu’,” said his father, also named Thaddeus McCormick.

His parents said they’ve seen their son grow in confidence, as well as in his communication skills and empathy as he’s progressed through the sport. His mother, Tanya McCormick, said he son has also expanded his social circle and self-worth, helping stop the bullying he was subject to when he was younger.

McCormick competes in tournaments, most recently securing two silver medals at at competition. He also helps train younger students at the academy, demonstrating and explaining techniques.

“It’s hard tor them to get the hang of them, to get the moves,” he said.

Port Huron Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy instructor Paul Elezaj said the McCormick’s success in the sport is a result of his own hard work and dedication.

“It’s like human chess you have to be five moves ahead,” Elazaj said, adding that brute strength along doesn’t equal success. “He always thinks about it, he’s always adding tools to his arsenal.”

In terms of his future, Thaddeus plans to continue training, hopes to make a career out of it and is looking for sponsors.

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