On January 12, 2010 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the nation of Haiti. An estimated three million people were affected by the week, and as of now over 200,000 people have been identified as dead with another 300,000 injured who have been treated. In addition to the human catastrophe, the infrastructure of the country of Haiti itself has been badly damaged. International Rescue and Relief has been swift, but there is still much to be done.
Sometime soon after hearing the news and seeing the heartbreaking images, my friend Sergio Silva sent me a text and saying "Bro, we've got to do something." I was in, of course, but what exactly could we do. After some discussion, we decided one major event, a seminar might be the best way to raise funds. I volunteered my Academy, Heroes Martial Arts for the job and with a little help from Swain Mats, I figured I would be able to provide the space for such an event.
Sergio and I talked to many of our friends in the Jiu Jitsu community, who all thought it was a good idea and were quick to offer their help. Now more than being a worthy cause, this was really a rallying point for the BJJ community to come together as martial artists and people.
With well over 100 students and around 20 black belts on the mat, the seminar turned out to be an amazing experience. Many of the black belts, and these black belt represented some of the "OG's" (Original Grapplers) of the northern California scene remarked how an event like this would have literally been impossible before.
"10 years ago we would have been outside snarling at each other", laughed Garth Taylor, "but what was that about? Who do you have more in common with than your fellow Jiu Jitsu enthusiasts?" The big man has a point, that wasn't all that obvious to all not so long ago. Seeing Garth on the mat teaching alongside long time rival, fellow "OG" (and my personal hero) Kurt Osiander was definitely remarkable.
"We all fly different flags, " Ricardo Barros explained to me, "but in the end, we're all part of the same family."
It was an extra special day for Denny Prokopos, who celebrated his 22nd birthday by showing off some of his techniques at the seminar. "I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate," he said "than by sharing the art I love with friends."
The event started early and ran long but no one seemed to be mind. Anyone who was there was quick to describe the atmosphere as remarkable as students representing all different academies worked together and learned some great techniques. The always eloquent Stan Kendricks, who had the closing remarks at the end of the day (by which point maybe 20 people remained) summed it up by saying we were gathered together for a worthy cause, but this was important day for Jiu Jitsu as we demonstrated our capacity as martial artists and good human beings.
Thanks to the following who demonstrated technique.
Mike Prudencio (One World Guerilla Jiu Jitsu)
Chris Smith (Tiger Martial Arts)
Kurt Osiander (Ralph Gracie)
Ricardo Barros (Ricardo Barros BJJ)
Garth Taylor (Kaijin MMA)
Denny Prokopos (10th Planet SF)
Sergio Silva (Team Silva)
Arman Barros (Roberto Traven)
Stan Kendricks (Triune BJJ)
Dave Clahan (Ralph Gracie)
Odilion "OJ" Domingues (Triune)
in addition the following black belts also showed their support and were in attendance: Justin "Machine" Holder (Ralph Gracie) Yuji Nakada (Ralph Gracie) Mike Roberts (Claudio Franca) and Alan "Gumby" Marques (Heroes Martial Arts). Judo luminaries Brad Burgo (Team Silva) and the legendary Mike Swain (SJSU) also made appearances.
Thanks to the following sponsors who came through with times and gear:
Swain Mats, a Division of Dollamur
Hip-Hop Chess Federation
T.E.A.M. Clinic Sports Medicine
In the end the seminar raised $4221 for Haiti Relief, which will be donated to Relief efforts through the Red Cross and Unicef.
By all measures, the seminar was a tremendous success. I've traveled around the world and have many opportunities to learn and share Jiu Jitsu, but the event was a unique experience. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to be part of this.
If you have a facebook account you can see many more photos and news from the event by joining our facebook page;