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The New Fight Club

People are increasingly taking to the mats to practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a combat sport used by mixed martial arts fighters. But the training benefits also reach well outside the match zone.

Michele Chiappetta
February 1, 2017

Mixed martial arts are so in right now that it’s probably no wonder your children are asking about training in the sport. Maybe you’re thinking about it too. Whether you’re watching MMA celebrities like Anderson “The Spider” Silva and Jon “Bones” Jones duke it out on the sport’s bar screen or watching from your couch in the comfort of your own home, this sport keeps viewers on the edge of their seats anticipating thrills, devastating athletic moves, and even some blood. It’s no wonder many people are itching to try out some of those moves for themselves.

One of the martial arts in the MMA pantheon that people gravitate to in fascination is a seemingly simple yet potent fighting form known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Christian Derr, owner and chief trainer at Clinch Martial Arts Academy in Owasso, provides classes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to many Green Country area residents. It’s a sport that is growing in popularity here.

“Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art very similar to wrestling,” says Derr, “but instead of trying to pin your opponent’s shoulders to the mat, we are trying to make our opponent give up or submit. There are not a lot of fancy moves but a focus on doing very basic techniques against a fully resisting opponent. It doesn’t rely on strength or power but on technique and leverage. rough the use of proper leverage and technique, a smaller, weaker person can defeat a larger, stronger person.”

This ability to help a person of any size successfully engage in combat makes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu appealing to many people who might otherwise be turned o by fighting techniques that emphasize height, weight or upper body strength. It’s something that the whole family can do, as the Shepherd family of Owasso — dad, Johnathon; mom, Jessica; and son, Justin — can tell you.

The Shepherds’ journey into the sport was not a straight-line path. Johnathon grew up wrestling in school and encouraged his son Justin to wrestle too, but Justin never took to it. “He hadn’t had much success when competing and lacked confidence,” says Jessica. When Justin decided he wanted to quit, his parents cast about for another option. “We wanted to keep him involved in sports, as health and fitness are priorities in our family,” Jessica says. “He had tried soccer, football and basketball and didn’t fall in love with any of them.”

That’s when a family friend who trained at Clinch suggested Justin try a class there. “The atmosphere at Clinch was so positive,” says Jessica. “The children were learning discipline, accountability, self-defense and respect all while having fun. Justin was excited, so we signed him up. He has been training for just over four years now.”

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu offers a lot of benefits both inside and outside the match zone. “You are getting in great shape,” Derr explains. “It is very stress-relieving. You are learning self-defense. It is a lot of fun. But if you stick with it, it becomes a strategic, creative method of solving problems — a method that you can use in all other parts of your life.”

The Shepherds have all seen those advantages in their own lives. “Jiu- Jitsu is really fun and challenging,” says Justin. “The biggest change and benefit [I’ve seen] has been gaining confidence and learning to deal with and overcome adversity.”

The Shepherds’ (Johnathon, Justin and Jessica) journey into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was not a straight-line path.

“I love that it’s a constant learning process,” says Jessica. “I never
go to a class where I don’t learn something new or realize a new detail to something I learned previously.” And it’s helped her to grow personally. “Training has affected how I approach situations, handle stress and problem solve,” she says. “Jiu-Jitsu is very humbling, and that has a way of carrying over into everyday life. “

Johnathan agrees. “As an impatient person by nature, I rarely take the opportunity to use patience,” he says. “In Jiu-Jitsu, if you are not patient and don’t use the techniques you are taught, then you will inevitability be humbled by those who are more experienced than you. Since I am new to BJJ, these humbling opportunities are very frequent.” He’s seen the results of that newfound patience in both his personal life and his professional career, he says.

The Shepherds train three to four times a week, working hard to balance their time at Clinch with other obligations like work and Justin’s school schedule. “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an important part of our life,” they say, “so we do our best to shuffle our schedules around to make time for training. We are spending time together doing something we all enjoy. We are there as a support system for each other and can encourage each other because we truly understand the struggles.”

For those who want to get started in the sport or test it out to see if it’s right for them, Derr says the doors at Clinch are open wide. “Just come try a class,” he says. The classes are affordable, and you can start with just shorts and a T-shirt until you’re ready to invest in a gi (the uniform of all martial arts sports).

“It can be intimidating starting anything new, especially a martial art,” Derr says. “But once you start, you will understand that it is really a special community where people are just trying to improve themselves. It’s almost addicting because of how fun and interesting it is.”

The Shepherds agree. “They say when you decide to train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you gain a family, and I believe that to be true,” says Jessica. “I love our Clinch family, and making the decision to train has been one of the best decisions Johnathon, Justin and I have ever made.”

Clinch Martial Arts Academy
7768 N. Owasso Expy. | Owasso

April 2020 Cover