Jamil Hill Talks About Becoming The First Ever African American World Champion

Another edition of IBJJF World’s has come and gone, providing fans of the grappling game with a lot of amazing moments and milestones.  One truly special moment was the crowning of the 5th American World Champion and the very first African American world champion, Shane Jamil Hill-Taylor, also known as Jamil Hill.

I had an opportunity to chat with Jamil about his ascent to the highest status in the gi, his momentous accomplishment and his goals moving forward. The following interview has been edited slightly for clarity.

I started doing jiu-jitsu when I got into the advanced program at LIMA (Lloyd Irvin Martial Arts). Before that I was in the summer camp program there doing mostly striking and self-defense. Two of my friends from school (one of them being brown belt light weight Angelo Claiborne) told me to come to the summer camp there so we could hang out over the summer. I’ve been there ever since. That was 2004.

As with most people who enjoy success in this sport, Jamil’s commitment and training schedule is intense.

I train 6 days a week all year round and it goes to 7 days a week around Pans and Worlds time. There’s no off season in BJJ, so we’re training hard all year round. There’s always a lot of drilling and grappling in all of our training, and the cardio and strength and conditioning is mixed in throughout the week, but I don’t or never have done any lifting. Training for me and my teammates is a lot of technical drilling from every position, and a lot of situational and regular grappling rounds. Also we ask a lot of questions before, during, and after training.

When I’m in school I still train the same amount of days, but I can’t always do two a days if I have a lot of homework or studying to do.  I’m in school for sports management at Howard University. I’m about to go into my last semester of school this fall.

Posted by Kitt Canaria on Sunday, June 3, 2018

American black belt world champions are extremely rare, Jamil is only the fifth ever, but what makes his case extra special is that he is the very first African American black belt World Champion.  I was interested to learn a bit about his thoughts and feelings on this special status.

Honestly it’s crazy just to hear that. Being the first African American world champion in BJJ wasn’t like a thing that was on my mind going into Worlds, but once it was all over, it’s a crazy feeling knowing I’m the first to do anything in this sport. And yes, if I inspire more black athletes or any minority in BJJ to work harder and fight knowing they can reach the highest level in the sport, that’s great!

…if I inspire more black athletes or any minority in BJJ to work harder and fight knowing they can reach the highest level in the sport, that’s great!

Anyone who accomplishes anything in life has to overcome hurdles to do so, I was curious about what motivates Jamil to get out there and what obstacles he has encountered.

When I started competing I got serious with it right away. And I knew I wanted to be a black belt. It wasn’t until I went to watch my first World Championships in 2009 that I actually saw the sport at its highest level, and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a black belt World Champion. As far as obstacles, I can’t really think of any, like, crazy things that stopped me from training or anything like that. Of course I got injured here and there and lost a few tournaments I felt I shouldn’t have, but other than that, my coaches and parents really helped me and supported me with my goals in Jiu-Jitsu.

Many people don’t know this, but on top of being a competitive athlete and a student, Jamil is also a kids’ instructor.  He may even open his own school down the road, but right now, he’s focused on competing.

I teach kids 5 days a week at our academy. So for me teaching and competing can go hand in hand. I’m not sure if I want to open my own school or anything like that, but if so, that’s way in the future. Right now, I just want to win as many titles as I can and help my teammates and our kids team win as much as possible so everyone can reach their goals…

Right now I’m not sure if my competition schedule will change too much.  I’m always open to do a tournament I haven’t done before or go somewhere new if I can, but it’s hard trying to do all the tournaments coming from the east coast. And I like doing no-gi and I’m open to competing no-gi, but I do prefer gi so I always lean towards the gi competitions more.

In closing Jamil had these thoughts and shout outs:

Always a huge thanks for the whole TLI family for getting me here. Thanks to my sponsors Spyder Korea, Bull Terrier, and Arm Bar Soap for supporting me on this journey. And look out because we’re working hard at TLI from kids all the way up to the adults at every belt level. You’ll be seeing me and my teammates soon.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here