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Jiu-Jitsu is a Japanese term meaning “the gentle art” which was coined sometime in the 17th century. At the time, the term referred to a variety of martial arts disciplines; however, the art, as it’s known today, is credited to Japanese Samurai who developed it as a defense against armored opponents. Since armor was difficult to penetrate with weapons, practitioners learned that the most effective way to neutralize an enemy was to use pins, joint locks and throws.
In modern times, it is practiced for fitness, strength and self-defense; and it is also a staple of American military and law enforcement’s training regimens. One of the most popular styles is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This particular discipline dates back to 1914 Rio de Janeiro where Jiu-Jitsu Master, Mitsuyo Maeda, met and trained Carlos Gracie Sr.
Gracie and his family used Jiu-Jitsu to gain the upper edge during regular street fights in their neighborhood. The Gracie Family spent years developing their very own style of Jiu-Jitsu, making them a household name in Brazil and eventually spreading it across the world. One of the brothers, Rorian Gracie actually went on to join an investing partnership that formed what is now the Ultimate Fighting Championships. The UFC was originally developed to specifically market Jiu-Jitsu.
In a few weeks, Los Alamos residents will be able to learn more about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as Los Alamos Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or “The LAB” opens its doors to the public. Owners Thomas Pless and Robert Romero have spent the past few weeks renovating the space, once leased by Dunn’s Quilts, into a modern, sleek martial arts studio.
Both Pless and Romero have an extensive background in the discipline. Pless has nearly 25 years of experience in various disciplines including Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido and Jiu-Jitsu; and refers to himself as a “martial arts nerd.” He began learning martial arts as a result of being bullied in school. He says that after just a week’s worth of lessons, he knew he wanted to own his own studio and teach someday. He taught for 10 years before opening Santa Fe Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in 2007. He holds multiple achievements in the sport including a Pan American Gold Medal and a professional MMA record of 4-0; but he is most proud of his coaching achievements. He and Romero have helped their team collect 12 World Jiu-Jitsu Gold Medals and five MMA World Title Belts.
Romero got his start in Jiu-Jitsu when he was a commander with the Santa Fe Police Department SWAT Team. During his tenure, he was introduced to the original owner of the Santa Fe Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Professor Alberto Crane, who offered to give classes to Romero’s team. Crane invited Romero to try some classes where he instantly fell in love with the sport. He felt that with his years of experience in training military and law enforcement personnel and his passion for teaching, becoming a Jiu-Jitsu instructor was the logical next step. He has been training in the discipline for nearly 10 years now and recently received his black belt. Not only has he been a two-time world champion and bronze medalist in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Competition, he is also a professional mixed martial arts referee and a judge for the state.
Pless and Romero have been teaching in Santa Fe together for a while and noticed that they already had quite a few students who were commuting from Los Alamos just to attend lessons at their school. Romero is also involved in a kids Jiu-Jitsu program for the Pueblo of Pojoaque. Romero says that the actual concept of a Los Alamos studio began when started the program in Pojoaque, but the financial situation was not favorable for such a venture at the time. After he received his black belt, Romero began resurrecting the idea with Pless in hopes of making the studio a reality.
The studio should be opening in just a couple of weeks, after they resolve a few last minute building permit issues.
Romero and Pless will be offering classes for both kids and adults, focusing on “Jiu-Jitsu for everyone.”
The classes for kids include a Bully Proof Program that will be useful for both kids and parents; and the adult programs are executed so that a student can progress quickly, regardless of experience or ability. They are looking forward to being a positive part of the community.
The studio will be located at 3801 Arkansas Ave., Suite A. They can be reached by phone at 231-9093, or go to Facebook @ facebook.com/losalamosbjj for more information.
-April M. Brown