Faces of Gracie Barra Princeton

Hi All. I thought I would do an ongoing series highlighting folks I have come to know through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This journey has been about deep connections physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally. So telling the story of someone like my friend Kyle is a window into why this is a great experience.

Kyle with Prof. Almeida

When I asked Kyle why he started this was his response,

“Age-39. Why I started?- There are SEVERAL reasons why, but if I had to be honest and pick one, it would be for the adversity it brings. I learned something about myself during wrestling in high school, it was that I needed the physical and mental exertion it provided in order to release built up frustrations and aggression that I had deep down inside me. I was always happier and more easy going when I was wrestling. Knowing this about myself and dreaming about being a “jiu jitsu guy” for years led me to the day I met Coach Turtle. What have I benefited? Again, too many things to choose from. Besides the outlet it provides for me, the physical and mental conditioning, confidence in myself, patience and understanding with others, I would say the two biggest for me would be, the friendship and commradery I have now with like minded, goal oriented, quality positive people and the opportunity for my son and I to share this journey ”

Kyle is an original member who goes all the way back to the Schafer’s days. He was one of the first guys I met after signing up. I have always appreciated Kyle for his tenacity and all in mentality with BJJ. He and I have rolled frequently and I have shared stories of him in my blog before. He is tall and thin and wiry. He has a wrestling background and it shows! If I had to give him a style it would be focused strength and self aware. He reminds me of Joao Miyao with his long strength and kinetic fast twitch style. He is a hand full. And I admit that I will often go into my Panda Jitsu smash mode just to be in safe positions with him! Kyle is also the first training partner I had doing No-Gi training. He subbed me 6 times in my first 6 minute roll. Thanks for the lessons.

Kyle is also a dad to two amazing boys and married to a a great woman. I don’t know his wife too well, but she supports her boys doing BJJ, so I know she has to be great!! His son is a leader in class and I love it when he is there. He is insightful and looks to help others learn and keep the standards of the mats!

When asked how BJJ has changed or informed him in life, here is Kyle’s insight-

“I’m different now because I’m happy. I am learning how to be happy and content with who I am and what I have instead of wishing and wanting all the time. I guess I have gained perspective. I lose that easily and jiu jitsu helps keep me centered.”

If that doesn’t get you off the couch and sign up at GB Princeton or North Princeton, you need to read it again!!

Kyle is one of the guys who has made GB Princeton feel like home to me. He is humble and hard working. I think about the blessing that BJJ is because I am not sure how I would have ever met Kyle without the community that GB Princeton has become.

Come on out to Gracie Barra Princeton and get to know someone great! Work hard alongside of someone and you will find yourself trusting them and respecting them. See you on the mats.

Mollie Tibbetts, Violence and Women’s Equality- Be Safe Friends.

My wife’s alarm went off at 5:45 am this morning. I didn’t fall asleep until 11:45 last night, which is pretty late for me these days. I was pissed when I heard it because I knew it meant the treadmill that resides 3 feet from our bed and the house shaking rhythm of her tempo run were next.

I usually catch myself from getting angry at these early morning runs, mostly because I love my wife and think she is amazing. Her discipline to train for marathons, as a working professional and present mom is inspiring. When I had my exercise/competition epiphany a year ago and started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, her resolve and her running exploits were key.

Lately I have been doubly glad to hear the treadmill. After reading about Mollie Tibbetts in the news over the past month, the reality of Kristin’s safety has been a topic that runs through my mind. After reading the account of this young woman who just went for a run and ended up brutally murdered I asked Kristin if she ever feels vulnerable. She disclosed that she thinks about her terrain and the trails or routes she runs every time, with safety on her mind.

Here are some of my thoughts. I am very grateful for our friend Rob who does long runs with Kristin almost every week. He is the same Rob who helped me finish my last half marathon. Yes, he is our running guardian angel. Kristin ran 150 miles last month and every one she ran with Rob I felt safe and she did too. That is a gift!! And two. Kristin needs to take some women’s self defense at Gracie Barra Princeton.

This has been something she has warmed up to over this past year as I describe the empowerment of BJJ and learning techniques that mitigate size or speed in self defense situations. There is no magic potion or spell that will make sure you are safe all the time. But I have seen first hand how important and how possible it is to gain the understanding and the skills that come through training this martial art.

I have said that before my two daughters go to college I want them to have at least two years of BJJ training. Why? 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. More than that experience some sort of physical abuse. There is a power inequality in our culture and it is exploited regularly. The statistics are frightening and they are real. I am not sharing this to be alarmist. I just want our world to be a better place. In my sphere, I have a wife, two daughters, a mom, two sisters and countless other women that I care about. And now I have Mollie Tibbetts. Nameless and unknown to me a few months ago, but now I mourn for her and grieve with her loved ones.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not magic and it will not keep someone from ever experiencing violence. But, it does level the playing field and offers a vision of equality that humanity has not naturally achieved on its own. It allows for the possibility of a smaller, physically weaker person to at least establish a boundary and gain the distance that could save their life or protect their dignity.

This is a game changer. Think about every encounter a woman enters where culture and stigma have defined the narrative that she is less than. Every date. Every relationship. Every job interview. Every hotel room. Every board room. Every parking lot at night. Every alleyway. Every running trail.

I think BJJ empowers. I also think it transforms people. I want every male I know to join in this too. Because it exposes ego and the unique weaknesses that we all carry around with us. These broken deficits in our lives that can be healed or can be filled with negative expressions of masculine strength or violence.

In a world where women can walk into situations knowing that they are strong, have practiced effective and practical techniques and are supported by others, I envision statistics changing. 75 cents on the dollar changes. 1 in 6 changes. And the needle on our culture of violence changes.

I remember a lecture from my seminary days. Prof. Patrick Miller gave his final lesson in my Old Testament class at Princeton Theological Seminary. He described the scripture in Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden with 3 encumbrances that would haunt humanity. 1-pain in childbirth. 2- Labor in the fields to provide for themselves food. 3-inequality between the male and the female. He gave great insight and background. How human ingenuity had partnered to overcome or mitigate the first two curses and were continuing toward addressing them. But the 3rd remained present. With the wisdom he had gathered near the end of his teaching career and as an expert in his field he shared this: the 3rd curse was untouched because it was about power and as humans we are so poor at sharing our power and living as equals. That the last encumbrance would be the easiest and require the least technology or innovation to overcome. But it remains. It remains because it takes choice and partnership and humility and a vision filled with belief in each other. It takes self control and self awareness. I think there is a window of opportunity that we have right now to lean into this inequality. To give it’s end to ourselves as a gift. #metoo? Not anymore!! #endviolence

Get out there and take a BJJ class!! Find a school or a gym where women are welcomed with equality. Call Michael Leonardi at Gracie Barra Princeton. (609)429-0142 or Gracie Barra Princeton

He will get you the info you need.

Gracie Barra Expansion

There is a new BJJ gym opening up in my area. I’m really excited to see the sport grow and be offered to more folks. Grace Barra North Princeton is set to open October 1, 2018!

There are some great deals as they look to build a base in the North Princeton, Kingston, Skillman area. Check it out.

Coach Wojtek is taking in the role of Head Instructor. We will miss him at GB Princeton for sure, but he will provide a rock solid base for great Jiu Jitsu instruction at the new school.

Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions.