History and Lineage
Wow! I can’t believe it’s been almost four years on the mats! It’s been a great ride so far and I love this Jiu-Jitsu game! I started training back in June 2009. I guess, in reality, I was introduced to Jiu-Jitsu in 2003 without even realizing it. I joined the Marine Corps and subsequently was forced (yes, forced) to learn the basics of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP). One of the most basic techniques taught in the MCMAP syllabus is the Rear Naked Choke and Rear Naked Choke with Figure-4 Variation. Progressing my way through and eventually earning my Black Belt in MCMAP I learned many more techniques which were borrowed from Jiu-Jitsu, such as the Guillotine and Armbar.
The ground and standing aspects of MCMAP are so similar to what is taught in modern Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) that the transition was an obvious one. Lucky for me, when I felt it was time to make that move, the Camp Smith Mixed Martial Arts Club had already been formed. It was a place where the different branches of the armed forces could come together and train! We had Army Combatives Instructors, Marine Corps MCMAP Instructors and Trainers, Air Force, Navy, and even some Coast Guardians! We all got together and trained in one of the best, friendliest, and most cooperative environments I had ever seen. It was definitely a little rough and tumble with all of us being the amateurs that we were but it put grit in our hearts and callouses on our souls! It was also where I had my first real introduction to Brazilian and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
Major Kelly Grissom was a Purple Belt in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii (he’s now a Black Belt). He was the first person to come in and really organize our little club’s training schedule. He showed us how we should be fighting on the ground. We learned how to drill and how to flow. We learned not to reach but to transition. After training under his tutelage, I never really wanted to work my standup anymore. Getting punched in the face became less and less appealing to me. Especially after I received my first knockout and I spent the rest of the day in a nauseous stupor on a cold basement floor telling myself that everything would be fine in the morning.
The military, being what it is, means that about every 2 to 3 years people come and people go. We lost Major Grissom to a set of orders, taking him from Hawaii to Washington DC. However, we gained two phenomenal Blue Belts. One who flew the banner of Gracie Barra, Master Sergeant Ford Jacobs and another who was a Pedro Sauer technical master, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Nugent. Both were exceedingly technical and helped develop my game to what it is today. I still have tricks that I use from both of them. My love for Jiu-Jitsu was growing and I was beginning to research it as much as possible. I was incorporating Gracie University techniques into my sparring sessions. I was beginning to learn technique over brawn. Finesse over physicality.
MSgt Jacobs eventually talked me into a Gracie Barra to try some training out at their newest location in Honolulu. It was completely different than anything I had ever experienced in the way of training. It was led by Professor Rafael ”BARATA” Freitas who is now a successful MMA fighter. It was clean and organized. No one was trying to rip my head off in a death clutch. The sparring was planned and well communicated to help everyone build in their skill sets. It was what training Jiu-Jitsu was supposed to be!
Over the next few months I found myself training more and more at Gracie Barra and less and less at our MMA club. Again, the natural transition had developed and I became less worried with training my standup and more with avoiding the strike and taking the fight to the ground. The military being what it is meant it was time for me to move on. I found myself with orders to Pensacola, Florida.
I continued my training with Brown Belt Pat Vito at Gracie Pensacola, a Team Hopkins and Pedro Sauer affiliate. I knew from my sparring with LtCol Nugent that the Pedro Sauer affiliates were a legitimate resource for training. After only a few weeks there those impressions were confirmed.
I began to seriously invest myself into my training. I studied videos, read articles and books, attended multiple seminars and tried to become not only an average practitioner but a true student of the art.
Unfortunately, we are all human and we all blunder in many ways. Gracie Pensacola, due to an internal collapse of the relationship between the co-owners, was closed for almost a month. This led to furthering my online studies in the art. I purchased in-home roll out Zebra mats and beginning to follow the Gracie University curriculum, opposed to just studying their techniques and trying to apply them to a system that I was learning. I eventually earned my Blue Belt from the Gracie University.
I made a good run at it in my garage with around six training partners who were military. The military, being what it is, yet again, transferred my training partners to different locations. I ultimately closed down the garage and went back to Gracie Pensacola after the dust had settled from the war between the owners. I found myself training under a new owner and instructor, Tony Baker, a Purple Belt under Team Hopkins. It was solid, technical training with a firm belief that when all things being equal, fitness will assist in being the deciding factor. Technical and physical training became prominent. My game was coming together and becoming “tight”.
Again, the military being what it is, I found myself with orders to Whidbey Island, Washington. The training is limited in Whidbey, not like it was in Hawaii or Florida where you could throw a rock and hit a Jiu-Jitsu dojo or MMA gym. There is one MMA gym here. Luckily, it’s led by Benn Pyne, a Brown Belt under Gracie Barra Seattle. Their program is proficient and proves itself well by competing often and winning just as often.
I currently train at Chimera MMA and lead their Kids BJJ class.
I’ve also decided to re-open the Garage. I’ve taken the steps to list myself as a Gracie Garage and I’m proud to help share Gracie Jiu-Jitsu with the world. Brazilian and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has made me a stronger person, both physically and mentally. I also like to think that it has made me a better person. What more can you ask for?