Metal With A Twist
Sibling rivalries usually bring the best out of one another. For Armand Jasari, bassist of Christian metal band I The Breather, that virtue holds plenty of truth. The Delaware-based musician was working on his boxing techniques back in 2006 when, one day, his older brother entered the gym. Instead of sparring together, however, he was introduced to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu—the hard way.
“I just thought it was another martial art. I never thought it was what it actually was,” the 23-year-old recalls. “We happened to roll one day, jokingly, and he embarrassed me in front of everybody. It pretty much put me in another world. So, I went to a few classes, really loved it, and started off simple—passing guards, escaping, all the stuff you learn as a white belt. It just got me hooked.”
Truth be told, if his music career hadn’t take off, Jasari would probably be finishing the degree requirements of his Bachelor’s of Science in Criminology and working his way to becoming a professional mixed martial artist.
Jasari grew up in Maple Shade, New Jersey, and, despite watching pro wrestling and the early UFC events as an adolescent, he decided to try his hand at boxing. The youngster went to his uncle’s gym when he was 16 years old, training alongside his older brother and hoping to have a couple of fights in the ring.
While learning the sweet science, he also felt the need to improve his self-image. That’s when he supplemented his stand-up game with bodybuilding. “I just wanted to get my weight up, and to be honest with you, the whole thing had to do with just being a skinny kid in middle school,” Jasari says. “Everybody was messing with me. Then freshman year, I started to get into it and gained some muscle. It made me stronger and improved my stamina.”
It might have helped him in his boxing pursuits, but the desire to compete in the ring vanished once his big bro embarrassed him in front of his friends with an arsenal of submission wrestling. He was hooked on BJJ.
When Jasari’s family relocated to Dover, Delaware, he linked up with Team Viper and elevated his jiu-jitsu skills, earning a blue belt. Even when the 6’1”, 190-pounder began working toward his Associate’s Degree at Delaware Technical Community College and pounding away on the bass, he made it a habit to train with his teammates. Like he did with boxing, he wanted to test his skills against other BJJ practitioners. But after Jasari earned his degree in 2009, he enrolled at the University of Delaware and moved to Newark to begin work on his Bachelor’s of Science in Criminology. That forced him to go elsewhere to train.
Though he explored new dojos in Newark to hone his craft, he found it difficult to find a gym up to his liking. Then, his band I The Breather took off, and his plans to compete in tournaments were thrown to the backseat.
“When I moved up here, I couldn’t find many places that were as good as the place in Dover. I tried, but it was hard,” he recalls. “I went to train multiple times at different facilities. I was even interested in doing Grappler’s Quest and NAGA, but I did not get a chance to do that because of the touring.”
Due to I The Breather’s hectic schedule, Jasari had to delay his purple belt test and take time off from obtaining his college degree. Formed in August 2009, the Christian metal quintet made a big impression. Within a matter of 12 months, the energetic troupe (also comprised of vocalist Shawn Spann, drummer Morgan Wright, and guitarists Jered Youngbar and Justin Huffman) built up a decisive following, captivated crowds with their high-energy shows, and inked a deal with Sumerian Records.
Then, this past December, the Christian group released their official debut album These Are My Sins. Throughout the explosive 11-track collection, I The Breather cleverly weaves elements of hardcore with metal, creating an epic styles-clash, while Spann emotionally screams messages about personal struggles and spirituality with conviction. Some of the many highlights include “Longevity,” “Destroyer”and “Forgiven,” the latter of which they’ve shot a music video for.
Like most fans, Jasari believes his band’s raw and pulsating style perfectly complements the attitude of the MMA culture. “Metal generally has the definition of being aggressive and hard hitting. It goes along wonderfully with the nature of the sport,” he says. “The nature of metal music is not calm. It’s not soft. It’s not easy going. It’s not pop music, but it grabs you by the throat and pulls you in.”
Despite being on the road most of the year, Jasari still finds time to train when he can—whether it’s hitting up the local gyms when he’s back home in Delaware or doing some weight lifting and cardio exercises backstage before his band performs. Nonetheless, his passion for MMA continues to grow and he is constantly improving his grappling. In fact, five years after being embarrassed by his big bro in front of all his friends during their initial jiu jitsu session, the bassist finally returned the favor. “I handed his ass over to him in front of his friends. It was a little payback,” Jasari says with a chuckle. “I feel like I’m the top dude now.”
Armand Jasari has finally one-upped his older brother. For now.
Armand Jasari plays hard, breathes hard, and trains hard. It’s probably no surprise that three of his favorite fighters are some of the hardest working mixed martial artists in the sport.
• Cain Velasquez: “He’s a solid striker and is really good at grappling. Despite being a brown belt, he can still hold his own against guys higher up on the BJJ level.”
• Wanderlei Silva: “He’s a big influence of mine. Throughout the years, I’ve looked up to him as a fighter, and I follow him throughout every fight.”
• Georges St-Pierre: “He is an incredible athlete and has cleaned out the whole 170-pound division. His style is unmatched.”