Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Club rolls into another semester



The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club has been rolling since 2011 when Leo Rodriguez (back right) wanted to keep training and practicing while in Grinnell.

Conrad Dahm, Staff Writer

If you were to look inside the dance studio in the Russell K. Osgood Pool and Natatorium on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday night, you would see a club hard at work training. The members of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club can be found practicing their techniques, learning new takedowns and building a tight-knit community.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a grappling-based martial art practiced around the world. “The nice thing about Jiu-Jitsu is we don’t practice striking. It’s a grappling art,” said Professor Leo Rodriguez, physics, one of the club’s coaches. This grappling makes BJJ different from sports like boxing, where more striking is involved, as it focuses more on grabbing and controlling an opponent’s body.

Rodriguez started the club back in 2011 and has been coaching ever since. “I’ve been training Jiu Jitsu [for] half my life, over 20 years now,” said Rodriguez. At the time he started the club, there was no existing club or academy for BJJ in Grinnell. This lack of a club or academy inspired Rodriguez to establish the class.

“I started to run this class so I could keep training, and progressing and then teach what I know to other beginners here,” Rodriguez said.

Sergio Martelo Estevez `23, club president, joined the club during his first year at Grinnell after previously having an interest in martial arts growing up. He learned about the club and lessons while taking a class with Professor Peter-Michael Osera, computer science, the other coach for BJJ at Grinnell. “He mentioned it, so that piqued my interest,” said Estevez.

Estevez is proud of what the club has developed into since his first year, and he enjoys the sense of community it provides. “We have a really tight-knit group,” Estevez said.

The club has two main goals according to Rodriguez. “I think what’s important to us here is safety and camaraderie,” he said. “One of the reasons we built a strong community is because I emphasize that everybody should be responsible for your training partner,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said that the club is meant to bring BJJ to the Grinnell community and provide a safe and accepting place for people to learn and practice the sport.

Safety precautions are taught as part of the class to ensure that each participant understands how Jiu Jitsu works and how to ensure their training partners’ safety, so even complete novices can join. According to both Rodriguez and Estevez, people from all skill sets attend, ranging from beginners to Black Belts in Jiu-Jitsu.

“Very few people came here with experience beforehand, and we all fall in love with it,” said Estevez.

The club starts with the fundamentals, which involve basic safety techniques and simple moves. Each participant will build the foundation to eventually learn more complex moves. The club has optional rolling, which entails putting everything together and doing the moves safely with a partner in a sparring format.

Rodriguez also emphasized that BJJ at Grinnell is accepting of all people from all backgrounds. “The group is very diverse, and it includes people from the faculty, staff, students and people from the community. We have people around the neighboring areas come,” Rodriguez said.

The club meets Mondays and Fridays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and Wednesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and is open to all skill levels and backgrounds.