The Professor of River Plaza
My school, Barrick Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is at 320 N. Chicago Ave in River Plaza, and we’ve been out there for seven years now. We are Goshen’s first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school. I’ve been teaching jiu jitsu for about 15 years, and I can’t tell you how many times a student came up to me after a class and said to me, ‘Thank you. I had a really, really rough day and this helped me out so much.’
And you wouldn’t really think it would make someone feel better like that. You know, jiu jitsu isn’t an easy thing – the training is hard. And when you’re sparring, there’s another person across from you who’s going to try to grab you and take you down or put you in a hold. If you can learn to stay calm and face someone coming at you on the mat, that goes a long way to helping you face your own fears and challenges. Really, jiu jitsu is all about thinking and staying smart while you’re under pressure, and people who train here learn that.
I’m a 1989 Goshen High School graduate and a third-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I started studying jiu jitsu around the time mixed martial arts started getting popular. Jiu jitsu was so different from anything I’d ever seen before. At first when I started out learning I had to travel around the country to find instructors to train with. But over time we started seeing people with rank pop up locally.
Photography provided by Barrick Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
We have a really diverse group of students. We’ve got a great group of kids and we’ve got factory workers and doctors and lawyers and just about every type of person you could think of. We have a number of women, too – and women really gain a lot of confidence here. Especially when they learn that they can hold their own against the men – it really clicks for them once they see that anyone, with enough work in the gym, can have the skill and knowledge to escape a vulnerable position against a stronger opponent.
Thanks to Goshen College we’ve also been lucky to have a mix of people from all over the world. In terms of ages, students range from five-years-old to 74. My 74-year-old student actually just became the 2nd black belt I’ve ever handed out…We give anyone who comes in and wants to try it out a week’s worth of free classes and a uniform to borrow so they can try it all out first and get the whole experience before spending any money. We also mix things up by offering boxing and cardio-kickboxing.
I’ve seen in my time that some schools have internal bad blood, or infighting and rivalries. It’s not like that here. Having fun is a huge deal. That’s my priority. It has to be fun, we have to all get along, and there has to be a lot of trust. When there’s fun and trust in a gym, that’s when you start seeing a really good group dynamic and that’s also usually when you start to see that people are actually making each other better…
I prioritize the fun approach because it’s how I was taught by my own teacher, Professor Ricardo “Rey” Diogo – who learned from Professor Carlson Gracie. We don’t use the term ‘Master.’ There’s really no mastering of this art, you’re always learning and evolving. And it can take nine or 10 years or more to reach black belt, so we find Professor to be a more appropriate term. We have mutual respect here for everyone, which means we don’t fight with each other and after each class we bow and line up and shake hands. I like it that way because it’s how I learned things should be, but even if I hadn’t learned that way – it’s just my style.
One thing that really helps people is the fact that when you’re sparring, you’re using 100% of your mind and body – you’re just totally focused on your awareness and your movement and your sparring partner. In those moments, anything else at all that you have going on in your mind – it just goes away. So it really helps people to clear their mind of all the internal noise and problems. It’s always a good feeling after doing any type of exercise, but this clarity that you have when doing jiu jitsu is something that I think is really beneficial for people.
Written by Jake Sandock
Original publish date May 2023