Life on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation can be challenging. This is Badlands Country, wind-swept, snow-covered, once called the poorest place in America. Wolves still howl here, bison roam, and eagles soar over the land of Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and Chief Big Foot — all warriors of distinction.
There are other youthful contemporary warriors of Oglala Sioux descent who call this place home. “They are true modern day warriors who go off to battle,” says Josh Steele, father to 9-year-old Jaden and 11-year-old Eric Two Lance — ranked the country’s #1 and #2 grapplers last year.
The boys are early masters of martial arts who train in MMA, wrestling, judo, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “We’ve already traveled to many states, places like Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Illinois, and New Jersey, to fight the best kids in the country and they’ve always come away champions. Just recently, the boys entered higher age group competition, wrestling kids with several years more experience, and still came home with 2nd and 3rd place wins. And this was in Oklahoma, hard core wrestling country where they take wrestling as seriously as they take football in Texas,” says their dad.
The whole family takes their love of sport seriously as wife Vanessa and daughters, 3-year-old Kimimila, and 5-year-old SiouxRenee, are all veterans of jiu-jitsu competition. While Josh Steele played baseball, basketball, and football in his Little Wound High School days, an adult tournament injury took him away from active participation in martial arts combat sports and turned his focus to his boys careers.
“When MMA first started, I found a school for kids to learn martial arts and encouraged them to give it a try to stay fit and focused and self-disciplined. I wanted them to discover all the positive attributes involved. They fell in love with jui-jitsu right away. Jaden is like a sponge, really dominant for his age, and Eric has beaten a lot of tough competitors.
“Now they’re well-known across the country for all they’ve already accomplished in North American Grappling Association competition (and being featured more than once in Gladiator magazine), but I want my sons to be examples to others, to inspire other native youth to live a healthier lifestyle and never give up on their dreams — in the end, hard work always pays off.”
Jaden, nicknamed ‘Biggie’ despite his current 4’5” stature, and Eric, now 4’10” tall, knew that hard work was a prerequisite for success when they began training a month before their 6th and 8th birthdays. They regularly practice three different martial arts depending on the week’s competition schedule — jiu-jitsu twice a week, wrestling twice, and a judo session — some 5-6 hours each week except summertime wrestling camps when they dedicate 18-20 hours of mat time a week. “I have to make them take a day off every now and then,” says dad.
This is a serious sports-centered home with mats in place in the family room for impromptu practice under Josh’s mentorship. “I help coach the boys in jiu-jitsu and wrestling and they have some friends from the martial arts schools that come over to train with them at our house,” Steele says.
Sitting in a living room festooned with championship belts, medals, and sword awards, reminders of past event successes, both boys look forward to future opportunities for more accolades and dreams of things like the Olympics and possible world championships.
“I want to go to college, hopefully on a wrestling scholarship, and compete at that level,” says Eric. Jaden, who likes the art of jiu-jitsu best because it allows a smaller person to successfully defend against a larger challenger, is currently content to continue bringing home top honors in his division.
Dad, meanwhile, smiles with pride at the progress both boys have made in three short years and the prospects the future might bring in this business of grappling and ground fighting. “They love everything they do in their training and practice and that dedication is paying off. They’re physically fit for their age because of all the mat time they’ve put in and they’re continually developing skills, speed, and smarts to advance further.”
As the Two Lance Brothers Facebook page advises: “Encourage children to stay active and find an activity they love.”