Gracie Cincinnati: Ohio's Best Kept Secret (Part Two)
As stated in part one of this series(Can be viewed here), jiu jitsu black belt Justin Christopher is Jim Kelly’s right hand man. Kelly, a black belt under Pedro Sauer, is a jiu jitsu veteran training with many well-known and respected jiu jitsu masters. Christopher has been with him for a long time, and says it was never a difficult decision to make.
“I came specifically to train with him. He’s an amazing guy”, Justin said. “I was living in Australia at the time, but I’m originally from the states. I met Jim in 1998 at the Machado Nationals jiu jitsu tournament. We realized we were both from Cincinnati and I moved back to training with him then. Then after 9-11 he went back in to the military, and I was kind of at a loss for what I was going to do. I had family in Australia so I moved there after college. I trained with Dominance MMA in Melbourne and got my purple belt through them. Jim called and said he wanted to open a school in Utah and asked me come out there and the rest is history. In St. George business wasn’t really conducive to what we were trying to do so we moved back to Cincinnati”.
Moving back to Cincinnati was just the beginning. Changing the way people looked at jiu jitsu was the next step. Overcoming the MMA emphasis of the jiu jitsu in the area was another obstacle.
“I think that the environment is changing”, Jim Kelly said. “You had the heavy influence of Jorge Gurgel there’s no doubt. He pioneered grappling in this area. The next closest thing was probably the Reed Academy, but they’re JKD. Grappling wasn’t really their strong suit. Everything else falls in to the McDojo sort of thing. That was the environment when we moved here. I think how people look at jiu jitsu hasn’t changed a lot because of fighting, and MMA in local promotions. The idea of what Gracie Jiu Jitsu is might be unknown to a certain extent. Everything is closely linked to MMA and the UFC. Rich Franklin is the famous guy around here. He’s the best mouthpiece for the UFC. He’s a great guy, articulate, and an intelligent professional. He represents the good side of MMA and its strengths. We’re trying to re-educate people what Gracie Jiu Jitsu is, and how it pretty much started the UFC. There is a lot of work yet to be done”.
Jiu jitsu isn’t an all day thing for Gracie Cincinnati, but it does own at least 1/4 of every day.
“We train mid-day and afternoon”, Kelly said. “We have 6 hours a day of training Monday through Friday. Saturday we have open mat and of course Cross Fit. We have a lot of private lessons. Things are picking up quickly”.
Some of the schools Americans may be familiar with run things slightly differently than Kelly’s Academy. Despite the state of the art facility there is an air of old school in the building.
“I was given what Helio Gracie established”, Stated Jim. “It was handed to me on this paper by Pedro Sauer. How to promote, and how belts are made. Stripes and things like that. It’s how to prepare guys in the truest form as I learned it from Rickson and the Gracie brothers, and Pedro Sauer. The method of self defense, and I believe that it can be used to win a fight”.
One of the heaviest influences for Jim was Rickson Gracie. Most MMA fans know who he is and his skill level in jiu jitsu. According to Kelly that’s all there is to it.
“Rickson said he never fought MMA”, he stated. “He used Gracie Jiu Jitsu to prove its effectiveness was still valid. We provide this sort of thing that will work in reality. We have guys that come through here in the military and other organizations. They learn techniques and methods to take back and use in real life”.
A modern influence for Jim, and someone he looks up to is Rickson’s son, Kron. Kron Gracie has taken up the mantle of the family’s jiu jitsu and continues to build its legacy.
“Kron is an amazing person and incredibly skilled in jiu jitsu. He’s out in Los Angeles helping to run his father’s association and teaching”, Kelly said. “He is definitely someone I look up to in the jiu jitsu world”.