Marketplace: Gracie Jiu Jitsu now taught in Park City
February 23, 2010
Mike Diaz enjoyed martial arts as a kid growing up in the Salt Lake Valley. Like many, he became entranced by the Ultimate Fighting Championships on television. The art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tends to dominate in Mixed Martial Arts competitions, so that’s what Diaz wanted to learn next.
Lucky for him, one of the greatest instructors in the world, Pedro Sauer, had a studio in Utah.
The sport has its roots in Japan, but a traveling fighter at the turn of the century made a stop in Brazil and accepted students from the Gracie family there. The Gracie family is largely credited with the creation of a new form of martial arts, distinct from Judo, known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Pedro Sauer was trained by the Gracies in Brazil and later established studios in the United States. Today there are Jiu Jitsu studios spread across the country, but not all can claim a heritage through the Gracies. As an affiliate of Pedro Sauer, Mike Diaz’s new Park City Jiu Jitsu can.
Having only begun in America 20 to 25 years ago, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is definitely the fastest-growing martial art, and may also be the country’s fastest growing sport, Diaz said.
Although Diaz trains children as young as eight years old, Jiu Jitsu is not a kid activity. regulation, there are no black belts under the age of 18. Unlike other martial arts in which anyone of any age can earn enough points to ascend, Jiu Jitsu requires real demonstration of knowledge and skill at an adult’s strength level.
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Because the art focuses on neutralizing the benefits of size and strength, practitioners can spar at real speed with full force without hurting one another. That gives them an edge over any other martial arts expert, Diaz explained, because proficiency is earned in real fights.
That doesn’t mean the fighting is soft matches at the highest levels are often won by overextending a joint or choking an opponent until they "tap out." It does mean Jiu Jitsu is an intense activity that conditions the body while giving the mind confidence, Diaz said.
Because it’s safe, but difficult, Jiu Jitsu is a perfect children’s sport and older adult work out. Classes are held for both types of learners.
"I want the general public," he said. "It’s really easy to come in and get started."
How Jiu Jitsu differs from other fighting styles is obvious at first glance. It takes place on the ground in close contact. That allows a fighter to use the ground for leverage against a bigger opponent, and it makes it difficult for the opponent to benefit from their size.
That’s why it’s also a perfect self-defense discipline for women, he added. A Muay Thai boxing instructor is scheduled to teach twice a week at the studio, and the women’s class will study both.
Diaz said it was really something to see his 16-year-old daughter defeat older boys in sparring.
"All I need is for people to just commit," he said. "I’ve seen people I didn’t think had what it takes, but they stuck with it and became proficient."
Ramona Stark helps Diaz at the studio and plans to open a coffee and nutrition bar inside soon. She said her daughters didn’t want to try it at first, but soon saw the power and potential of it and can now beat boys.
Both Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai build core strength that’s useful for skiing and snowboarding, she added.
Because the sport must be seen to be understood, Stark said anyone is welcome to attend the first week free to try it out.
Park City Jiu Jitsu
2750 South Rasmusen Road, Suite 104
Currently adult classes are taught Monday through Friday at 7 p.m., and Saturdays at 11 a.m. Self defense for women, and classes for children are also offered.