Global jiu jitsu community gains a hold in the Wasatch Back
Gracie Barra Park City opens Jan. 9
Ignacio Rosenberg and Randi Strong believe jiu jitsu is for everyone, and they are looking forward to introducing the Brazilian form of martial art to Summit County.
The couple will do that with the grand opening of Gracie Barra Park City at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 9, in a newly constructed gym in Pinebrook. The free event will feature food, an open mat and an 11 a.m. class.
Gracie Barra is an international Brazillian jiu jitsu association, founded in 1986 by Carlos Gracie Jr., that includes more than 800 schools on six different continents.
The association’s philosophy promotes a holistic perspective to the martial art, including physical and mental wellness, Rosenberg said.
“It’s very inclusive, and we thought we could establish a more upscale academy for Park City,” he said. “I love the idea of opening in a town that deeply shares the same core values of Gracie Barra — fitness and community.”
The grand opening and ongoing classes will also help Rosenberg and Strong clear up a few popular misconceptions surrounding jiu jitsu, they said.
“People think the only thing you do is learn how to fight, but it’s more mental than anything else,” said Rosenberg, who is also a production designer for live corporate shows and touring music acts. “Jiu jitsu teaches confidence, and if you show and walk with an air of confidence, people won’t mess with you as much.”
Strong, an established professional dancer and choreographer, who has worked on TV programs such as “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars” as well as with musical artists Christina Aguilera and Ariana Grande, said she, too, enjoys the cerebral aspect of the sport.
“I’m a person who believes in continued learning to optimize life, and there is always something to learn when it comes to jiu jitsu,” she said. “This is something I picked as my continuing education. There’s nothing better than a cerebral challenge on top of physical activity.”
Gracie Barra Park City’s curriculum is for students as young as 3 and older, Rosenberg said.
“One of the oldest practitioners I knew just passed away at age 95,” he said.
The beginning youth classes are based around anti-bullying themes.
“We want the kids to learn techniques, but we also want to teach them how to not get into fights,” he said. “They will use these skills to get out of tricky situations, and how to persevere and take a breath in the face of adversity.”
The adult classes start with a program called GB1, which is basically jiu jitsu for beginners, Rosenberg said.
“This course teaches the fundamentals and principles as well as the skills you need to grow personally in a jiu jitsu lifestyle,” he said.
Other offerings include GB2 and GB3, which continue the training, Rosenberg said.
“The basis of these programs is self defense and the sport of jiu jitsu, but if people want to start competing, we’ll start a competition program,” he said. “It is about a 10-year stretch to get a black belt.”
When someone attains a black belt at Gracie Barra, the tables turn in a positive way, Rosenberg said.
“In most martial arts when you get your black belt, it’s your time to be served and everyone becomes your sparring and punching dummy,” he said. “In jiu jitsu, when you get your black belt, you become a professor. So it becomes your time to serve as a teacher and helper.”
When the classes start, they will follow strict COVID-19 protocols, Strong said.
“We have the standard rules that call for face masks, social distancing and ask anyone who feels sick to stay away,” she said.
In addition, all Gracie Barra schools have established a guide that will help the gym maneuver through the pandemic, Rosenberg said.
“It includes spacing out schedules to prevent the congregation of large groups, sanitizing the mats with a special, anti-bacterial cleaning product between each class,” he said.
In addition, Rosenberg and Strong will program solo training classes and will also recommend a “buddy system,” where family members or roommates can work together, Rosenberg said.
“People can also bring in their own training dummy,” he said. “We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to safely train people.”
All classes and programming will be overseen by head professor Ancelmo Sobrinho, who hails from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sobrinho has won several regional, national and international jiu jitsu titles, and moved to Utah in 2018.
“We got in contact with Ancelmo while he was working at a different jiu jitsu gym in Salt Lake,” Strong said.
The gym closed when the coronavirus pandemic hit, and Sobrinho made plans to leave Utah, she said.
“We called him a week before he was going to leave, and asked him if he would be interested in a professor job in Park City,” Strong said. “Lo and behold, we found he was delivering pizza for Dominos in Park City, and there was this instant connection. We were ecstatic when he said yes and took the contract with us.”
With Sobrinho on board and the newly constructed gym in Pinebrook, Rosenberg and Strong are looking forward to introducing Park City to the Gracie Barra community.
“Once you’re on the mats, everyone is the same,” Rosenberg said. “We will be able to make close friends with people who have completely different ideas about life, because we share this sport.”
“At the end of the day, it’s just about your connection with people,” Strong said. “We have been given this opportunity to serve Park City’s community, and I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
When: 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 9
Where: 8178 Gorgoza Pines Road, Suite G
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