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Man back on the mat after being saved by jiu jitsu teammates

<i>WQOW</i><br/>Jim Wallin is pictured with Jesse Reine
Jim Wallin is pictured with Jesse Reine

By Adam Reed

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    RICE LAKE, Wisconsin (WQOW) — An ordinary day at jiu jitsu class for one Rice Lake man turned into a brush with death. Now, his bond with his martial arts family is stronger than ever after he says his teammates, and jiu jitsu itself, saved his life.

The team at Origin Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Rice Lake is used to bringing home some hardware, but at a recent ceremony, they were being recognized for heroics reaching beyond martial arts.

Gym owner and head instructor Jesse Reine recalls the harrowing moment in April he realized his student, Jim Wallin, was suffering cardiac arrest. Reine and four of his students are now being honored for saving his life.

Anthony McIntosh received the highest honor: The American Red Cross Certificate of Merit for using lifesaving skills to administer CPR and direct others to call 911.

In the aftermath, doctors told Wallin he’d never train or compete in jiu jitsu again. But six months later, he’s proving them wrong.

“Want and will. Grit and determination” Wallin said. “I missed one class.”

“To support my brothers and sisters here. It’s not a ‘me’ thing. It’s a ‘we’ and an ‘us’. And if I would have left, would I have been able to change anybody’s life or mind? Would somebody else have left, because Jim is gone,” Wallin said.

For Reine, it’s fulfilling to see his students take the lessons he teaches on the mat, like loyalty and service to others, and apply them in a life-or-death situation.

“The technique transcends the actual physical training. Not to sound too mystical or anything like that, but it does,” Reine said. “It transforms your perspective on anything in life.”

“It’s hard to recognize the unseen. We can see somebody do well. It’s tangible. It’s there. But you don’t see them overcoming their own internal battles and things like that. So, to get an award for something more than the jiu jitsu itself is pretty amazing,” Reine said.

In Wallin’s eyes, there’s no doubt something transcendent happened that night, and he would not still be here without it.

“I was definitely being watched out for. That’s for sure,” he said. “That night, I almost stayed home. And if I would have stayed home, my wife would have woke up that morning and found me on the couch. Bottom line.”

Wallin said he was given a great report from his doctor two months ago and he is working toward returning to competition in April or May.

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