JT Torres: New York’s Son Rising
Jonathan Torres has accomplished a great deal in the world of Brazilian Jiu jitsu in his 30 years. Born in New York City of Puerto Rican descent, he took the American lightweight division by storm, and currently holds a third-degree black belt. He has competed with distinction at events such as the World Jiujitsu Championship, the Pan-American Championship, European Open Championships, the Brazilian National Jiu jitsu Championship, the Asian Open Championship, and the New York and Miami International Championships. Jonathan is also known as JT and as Spiderman because of the strength of his grip and technique.
Early Days and Career
JT was interested in martial arts from early childhood and achieved a black belt in karate before he entered high school. During his high school years, he focused on traditional sports such as basketball, but found himself cut from the team and at loose ends. His father pressured him to return to martial arts, specifically to karate, but JT instead found that his original school offered a new Brazilian Jiujitsu program. He decided to try it, and showed a natural talent proceeding to earn his blue belt from Royce Gracie just six months after starting.
After establishing himself as an up-and-coming star, JT then began to practice under Louis Vintaloro at Performance BJJ in New Jersey following his parents’ divorce. Within three years he had earned his purple belt and followed that with his brown belt. Competing under the banner of Performance BJJ he twice won the Pan-American Championship. Working to support his dojo fees, he began to take on private students, part-time jobs, and hustle just to get his time in on the map. Once he had that brown belt, decided nothing else would do but to become a world champion Brazilian Jiu jitsu black belt.
As a 16-year-old purple belt, he fought Wilson Reis - an established and experienced black belt - in a close match. This brought him to the attention of Lloyd Irvin who issued an invitation for JT to train at Team Lloyd Irvin in Maryland. At the time, JT decided not to follow up on the offer, but did compete against Reis multiple times afterward. Once he attained his brown belt, he gave Reis a call and was invited to Philadelphia to train with Reis at Jared Weiner’s BJJ United. For two years he commuted back and forth three times a week, driving two hours each way, from his home in New Jersey. In 2009, he took a silver medal at the IPBJJ World Championships and was promoted to black belt at the age of 19.
Shortly after, JT received an offer he could not refuse. He was invited once more to join Maryland-based Team Lloyd Irvin in 2009. He would live rent free, train full-time, and have all of his travel and BJ J related expenses covered by the team. He would be a full-time athlete. The schedule was grueling, training as often as three times a day. In that time, he received medals the World and Pan-American No-Go Championships, the Brazilian Nationals, the World Championships, and the Pan-American Championships. However, in 2013 the dream became endangered.
On a Journey
After some convincing, JT decided to join his friend in San Diego with only a few hundred dollars in his pocket and his girlfriend of eight months, Iolanda Scotto. He landed a sponsorship with Tatami, which gave him more financial stability, but that success didn’t stop him from hustling everywhere he could. He continued racking up the wins but was abruptly sidelined following an injury that required knee surgery in 2015. As he recuperated, he focused on directing competition classes and deepened his relationship with Iolanda - whose support he credits for his successes in California. But San Diego is a long way from New York City, and the friends and family left behind. It was time for a journey back to his roots, to put down roots of his own. Having attained his 2nd degree black belt, JT thought it was time for him to hit out on his own and open school that he’d been dreaming about since his time with Lloyd Irwin.
in 2016 JT Torres announced that he would be leaving San Diego and returning to the East Coast. After three years of training, competing, and coaching at Atos, he felt it was time. In interviews, he has often spoken of his passion for teaching, and he and Iolanda established Essential Jiu Jitsu in Hartsdale, New York to pass on the knowledge JT had learned in his journey to his 2nd degree black belt. Since that move, he has not slacked off in competition - competing nine times in 2019 along and continuing to rack up the wins with only four losses between 2016 and 2019. He is still Spiderman, wrapping his opponents in groups that they simply can’t break. He currently has 84 wins to his name and 28 career losses.
All-time career highlights include the following:
- Two-time first place winner IBJJF Pan-American Championship in 2015 and 2018
- Two-time second place winner IBJFF World Championship No-Gi in 2009 and 2012
- First-place winner ADCC World Championship in 2017
- First-place winner IBJJF New York Open in 2010, Miami Open in 2010, Pan-American Championship No-Gi in 2010.
With his experience, dedication, and commitment to teaching, we are certain that there is much more to come from JT. Additionally, expect great things from his students from having such a dedicated and knowledgeable teacher.