A martial arts novice learns to embrace the ground game
I walked into the gym with all the confidence that half a semester of boxing could provide. Which is, really, not that much.
I had never tried Brazilian Jiu Jitsu before and, up till last week, had no idea what it was. With a new gym in Frisco, I figured it was the perfect time to give it a shot.
Owner Douglas Cuomo opened Summit County Jiu Jitsu after several years of training — a purple belt, he first got hooked on the sport in 2008 while attending paramedic school in Fargo, North Dakota.
“I drove by a Jiu Jitsu gym every day on my way to study,” he explained. “I went to a class, I got crushed and said I was gonna figure this out. Within a year, I was doing it full time.”
With a goal of opening his own gym, he began the search for a good location. Once he found the vacant space in Frisco, he moved out in October and began remodeling.
“I found this space over the summer,” he explained. “I was looking for a place with outdoor activities and no Jiu Jitsu.”
Once I heard the gym had officially opened earlier this month, I headed over to try a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fundamentals class. Since it was my first class, I borrowed a Gi — a stiff, cotton uniform — taking a moment to fumble with the knot.
Jiu Jitsu is not like other martial arts. Most of what we practiced involves grappling on the ground, using joint locks or chokeholds to control your opponent.
“It’s very good for self defense,” Cuomo said. “You can go 100 percent without hurting people.”
He described the sport like a game of chess — constantly planning your next move to maintain control in the game. Unlike chess, you win by making you opponent tap out.
On my first try, I completely froze. But after a couple of attempts, I was able to remember the details of each move and worry less about my too-loose pants. By the end of the class, I was much more confident and got to try a chokehold — though, I tapped out almost immediately.
For those less interested in fighting on the ground, the gym also offers kickboxing classes six days per week. Summit High School wresting coach Pete Baker, a professional MMA fighter, will help teach the classes, with four other instructors.
“I think Summit County needs something like that — a real place to do martial arts,” he said. “Besides learning a discipline, you have that in your belt that you know how to defend yourself. It makes you a more confident person, a better person.”
He added that while kickboxing and Jiu Jitsu are opposites in many ways — comparing ground fighting to striking on your feet, strategy is crucial to both.
“They both make you think,” he said. “If your opponent moves to right, you have to answer and counter his movement. You can get totally stumped.
“If you’ve got someone punching you, you can’t think about anything else,” he added with a laugh.
Summit County Jiu Jitsu offers classes seven days a week, with daily, monthly or year-round memberships for each sport. Equipment is available for purchase for classes that require it, or you can bring your own. For a schedule of classes, visit http://www.summitcobjj.com.
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