Year Started: 1986
I started Jiu-Jitsu (GJJ going forward) way back before there was any Gracie Academy. ALL GJJ was being taught out of Grand Master (“Professor” at the time) Rorion Gracie’s garage in Southern CA. Back then, to get his family art known, Rorion would seek out other martial arts and try to pit himself against them which at the time, was not something commonly done in California.
At El Camino College in Redondo Beach, CA there was a wrestling coach that accepted a challenge style vs style, from Rorion. I had some friends who were wrestlers and wanted to be there to challenge “these Brazilians.” I was always interested in the martial arts and had trained in boxing, Muay Thai, Kali, Escrima, as well as kickboxing, so seeing my friends take part in this was something that interested me.
At the event, there were three men dressed in martial arts uniforms, and the wrestling coach and his team members on the mats. The brother with the mustache asked if anyone was interested in a challenge match, so one of my friends stepped up. He chose the shortest of the three brothers and promptly got “rolled up.”
My other friend, who was a better wrestler than the first friend, followed suit and chose “the short brother” and got destroyed, as well.
My buddies then told me to give it a shot. I said, “You are both way better than I am, and you guys got smashed. Why would I take a stab at it?”
Instead, I went and approached the brother with the mustache to ask him if I could try some lessons with him.
His name was Rorion Gracie. The other “tall” brother was Royce Gracie.
The “short” brother was Rickson Gracie.
In retrospect, I thought it hilarious that my friends thought the shortest brother would be the “easiest” brother to beat!
Little did they know...😆
My first lesson at Rorion’s house, was with Rorion teaching, and with a 19yr old Royce as my partner.
Back then in the early years and unlike today, ALL GJJ was taught in weekly 30-minute 1-on-1 sessions.
(Honestly, in my opinion, the best way to train.)
During my lesson with Rorion, in which I was encouraged to hit Royce with all I had on multiple occasions to no avail, I realized that GJJ was the martial art I had been searching for all these years.
When it was time to set up my next lesson, we set on the same day and time, next week. I asked, “Are there other time slots available?”
Rorion asked, “Sure thing. When else would you like to come?”
“What do you have?”
I took any and all time slots they had available. I was THAT determined to learn and train GJJ.
As a 23yr old at the time, I had no real priorities other than to learn and to train. So, I pretty much just spent all my extra money taking lessons.
And THAT, is how I got started on this journey of my lifetime that has made me the man I am today, 35 years later.
Year Started 1989
I started Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in 1989 in Hawaii under Grand Master Relson Gracie (“Professor,” at the time) and am known as one of Relson’s Hawaii “garage guys.”
“Garage Guys” are the people who started training when Relson was still teaching private sessions out of his garage. As you probably know, Master Dave Kama is also a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu “garage guy". Dave began his training in GM Rorion’s garage in Torrance, CA.
Growing up in Hawaii, where there is a LOT of Asian influences (over half the population in Hawaii at the time, were of some kind of Asian descent) in “island life,” doing martial arts was something most people did to a certain degree growing up.
I was no exception.
As a kid, I did some training in judo (got to yellow belt) and as a high schooler, I did wrestling as well as some Okinawan Kempo Karate.
I was always a little guy and didn’t want to feel intimidated by others. I always had a little chip on my shoulder, and I never had self-esteem issues, despite being a little guy (for better or worse).
While in college, I was looking to resume my martial arts training, but didn’t know what to try. A buddy of mine at the gym told me, “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.” I say, “What the heck is “Gracie” Jiu-Jitsu?”
“Go to Sinclair Library at UH and borrow the video.” I watched the video and I was hooked.
Seeing Helio, Rorion, Relson, Rolls, and finally, RIckson decimate their opponents with what was obviously (to me) a “formula-driven” system of fighting resonated with me and I HAD to get started in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu!
Every Friday, friends and I would frequent a nightclub called Bobby McGee’s. Now that I’ve watched Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Action, I was now familiar with the art and lo and behold, I saw a man sitting at the bar wearing a t-shirt with “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” silk screened on the back of it.
I approached the guy, tapped him on the shoulder and asked him, “Do you do this (I pointed to the back of his shirt)?” He said, “Yes, I’m Relson.” He gave me his number, asked me to call him on Monday, and he’ll give me details on classes.
I started that Monday in his group class (which was at the University of Hawaii Studio 1 in the athletic complex), and I was hooked! Shortly after that, I also became a regular at his garage for weekly private sessions, as well.
32 years later, here I am!