The Mecca of Jiu Jitsu
By David Figueroa-Martinez
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, through the hard work of the Gracie family and their connection to the UFC has spread all over the world. While Brazil is undoubtedly its birthplace, but can it still be considered the Mecca of Jiu-Jitsu. The Mundials, for example, are no longer hosted there. Now the questions is, where’s the Mecca currently?
While some might say that it’s the Los Angeles area or even the SoCal region as a whole, lumping San Diego in with LA -since many view it as it’s “sister city”. I argue that it’s unquestionably San Diego that stands apart on its own merits and this is why.
Climate of BJJ
The climate is amazing here. I’m not just talking about the fact that the rainy season isn’t all that heavy. So much so that many of us have no clue how to drive when it drizzles. The minute the window wipers streak across our windshields we end up skidding across every lane of traffic in pure panic. The beautiful weather makes the beaches and surf available year round which I’ve been told is much like Brazil.
Most importantly, the social climate here is welcoming and inviting. While every big city is going to have its issues, the fact that very few people you come across here are actually from San Diego. People seem to identify with those that move here. Whether you moved here for work, military, or family, there’s an understanding and an acceptance of different cultures. While the language, dialect, and accent might be different, the commonality that runs most of us is starting life in a new city and or country.
San Diego, Mecca of food?
We love food in San Diego. Love, love, love it. You can find every type of food in San Diego which in general makes the city an easier location to immigrate too than others. As a kid, I spent a large portion of my childhood as an Army brat to two Puerto Rican parents and I remember how excited we would get when we could finally buy our usual spices or go out to eat at a Puerto Rican restaurant. It makes your existence easier when aspects of home are available to you, and San Diego is full of that.
Surprisingly enough, there are more Brazilian restaurants in San Diego than there are Puerto Rican or Cuban restaurants combined.
San Diego Jiu Jitsu Schools
When I started training Jiu-Jitsu, I really had no idea how blessed I was by living in San Diego. I joined my first school based on its location to work and the fact that it had a connection to the Jiu-Jitsu Recreation class that I was taking at UC San Diego. When I left my original school I had no clue where I was going to end up and was genuinely worried about the move.
A friend of mine was pretty nonchalant about the whole thing which at the time I didn’t really understand. I remember him saying something to the effect of, “you can throw a rock in any direction here and you’ll find a quality Jiu-Jitsu school. So stop worrying about it.”
Doing a quick search of “Bjj San Diego” will give you access to about 15-20 schools. Saulo/Xande Ribeiro, Richie/Geo Martinez, Clark Gracie, Rodrigo Medeiros, Fabio Santos, Baret Yoshida, Jeff Glover, Dean Lister, Royler Gracie, Andre Galvao, and Eduardo Telles all have schools here. Let me repeat myself. They ALL have schools here. Some of which are just within minutes of one another.
Mind you, I’m not even counting the countless MMA gyms like Victory MMA, Blackhouse Team Noguera, The Arena, San Diego Combat Academy, City Boxing, UFC Gym(s), and Undisputed which each have internal Jiu-Jitsu programs.
A variety of wants and needs are covered across the spectrum in San Diego. It doesn’t matter if you’re only looking for a hobby or world class competition training, Gi or NoGi, it’s all covered and readily available for anyone who is willing to look.
While the competition scene may not be what Los Angeles has considering the IBJJF’s stranglehold on the city for so many years, it is growing. IBJJF for example, is holding its first San Diego Open this month which reached competition capacity on its last day of registration last week. The fact that they reached capacity ahead of its deadline shows that there’s a real hunger here for more high-level competitions.
Currently, San Diego has some local tournaments that we support regularly like Grappling X and SubCon which provide some awesome competition experience at an affordable price. They’re usually run smoothly and often offer competitors a guarantee of two matches.
The NABJJF, Jiu-Jitsu World League, NAGA, and Tap Cancer Out all make routine stops in San Diego throughout the year which greatly add to the competition scene, and FUJI BJJ will be comng later this summer.
When it comes to Jiu-Jitsu events, Five Grappling is our most prominent show. The event has hosted the likes of Bill Cooper, Sean Roberts, Edwin Najmi, Mackenzie Dern, and Leandro Lo at several of their events in San Diego. One of their partners, Studio 540, has also been hosting special events at their studio. Whether it be fee seminars, guest instructors, or the forthcoming Royal Invitational which will be hosting the future stars of Jiu-Jitsu.
San Diego Open Mat
Gone are the times where martial arts masters would hold their secrets within the academy walls. These days, everyone is studying techniques from one another either through seminars or video clips on YouTube. There is no secret technique that trumps them all anymore. The world as a whole has shrunk and with the information so readily available it has created a kind of partnership within the Jiu-Jitsu community in San Diego.
From Friday to Sunday you can find Free Open Mat sessions that are open to nonmembers all across San Diego. Victory MMA, Gracie Humaita La Mesa, Gracie Barra Sorrento Valley, Honu Bjj, Alliance San Diego, Barum Bjj, Gracie South Bay, Apex, Atos HQ, and 99 Bjj, just to name a few are completely welcoming to outside students. The only thing they ask is that you sign a waiver and bring a positive attitude with you.
“No Flags. No Politics. Just Train.” –Shawn Fowler (Honu Bjj)
While I haven’t been to all of these, I’ve loved the atmosphere of the ones I’ve taken part in. During one of my visits to Honu Bjj I spoke a blue belt that was visiting from out of state. He told me how much he loved the Open Mat opportunity because it wasn’t something that exists where he was from. Me, being that I’m so used to it now, I thought it was odd for schools to shield their students from one another.
While all of this may just be me being partial to the place I’ve called home for the past twenty-five years of my life. I challenge anyone to visit San Diego and not fall in love with the Jiu-Jitsu scene here. It’s an amazing environment that comes second to none.
If you feel different please let me know. Let me know what you think!