By Emily G. Peters
Brazilian jiu-jitsu (known as BJJ) is one of the fastest-growing martial arts in the world. With Japanese roots, the sport flourished in Brazil under the Gracie family, who transformed jiu-jitsu into the grappling phenomenon known today. But you don’t need to travel far to get a taste—simply head to School Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Arcadia to discover BJJ for yourself.
“I think the popularity of BJJ increased initially from interest in the Ultimate Fighting Championship—but I’ve noticed a lot of my new students don’t follow the UFC. I think people are getting smarter and noticing what works and what doesn’t in a combat situation,” said Ben Zhuang, owner, head coach and sports nutritionist at School Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Himself a Paragon black belt in jiu-jitsu and a brown belt in judo, Zhuang opened the gym to counter the cult-like pursuit of conquest he was noticing at other gyms.
“I wanted a place where there would be no cliques or big egos,” he said. “I wanted a supportive team environment that’s more about learning than winning in the training room.”
School Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu teaches BJJ literally from the ground up, offering courses to kids and adults via a roster of impressive instructors. Kickboxing and judo are also available for adults—and whether you’re simply looking to get in shape or prepare for competition, you’ll find a supportive community at School BJJ.
“I started out wanting to train in some martial art as self-defense. I did a free trial of BJJ and wound up liking it more than I expected because of the people there—they were so welcoming,” said Danny Hy, a School BJJ student since July 2018. Of especial importance to Hy is learning to grapple properly to avoid injury.
“When I train with other newbies, sometimes we’re not confident or sure what the exact move is. The instructors are great at demonstrating before having us try moves ourselves—they’ll remind us to go slow while they help students one-on-one. Safety is a top priority.”
The grappling aspect is one of BJJ’s most fascinating elements. Here the biggest and baddest don’t necessarily have the upper hand; instead, students can use their opponent’s weight against them. Size matters, but technique is king—making the sport attractive to those who don’t rely merely on brute strength for self-defense.
“Whereas most traditional martial arts focus on training against an unresisting opponent, BJJ prioritizes live training against a resisting opponent,” said Zhuang on BJJ’s practical appeal. “Plus, with grappling you can spar at a relatively high intensity and not inflict much injury on your training partner—something you can’t do with other striking arts.”
Strength, speed, skill—all are obtainable at School BJJ. Yet in mastering and teaching BJJ, Zhuang finds something deeper than mere physical fitness.
“Jiu-Jitsu has taught me more about life than anything I’ve ever done. It’s taught me how to problem-solve, to handle aggression, how I perform under pressure,” he said. “Jiu-Jitsu reveals your character. If you have a big ego, it will be revealed. If you make excuses, it will be revealed. It is a great tool for self-reflection.”
School Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is located at 310 S. First Ave. in Arcadia. For more information, contact Ben and the School Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu team at schoolbjjarcadia.com| (626) 461-5237 | firstname.lastname@example.org and follow along on Instagram @schoolbjjarcadia and Facebook @schoolbjjarcadia1.