A Brazilian-style martial arts studio has found a home in Felton.
San Lorenzo Valley natives Alex Ross, 30, and Austin Twohig, 31, have opened Santa Cruz Mountain Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the Felton Faire shopping center.
“What we do is human chess for the most part,” said Ross, a brown belt who has practiced Brazilian jujitsu since 2003.
Brazilian jujitsu, a martial art that Ross said is most similar to wrestling, is about building strength and moving the body into a strategically advantageous position to convince an opponent to give up. Opponents surrender by “tapping out” when they are beaten.
The discipline is Ross’s passion and his full-time pursuit.
He began training with Chris Smith in Scotts Valley in 2003. He earned his blue belt in a year and a half, but he wanted to learn more.
For three years, Ross traveled between California and Brazil to work with world champions at Liga Jiu Jitsu, a training facility near Sao Paulo.
He said training with Brazilians where the sport originated required extreme dedication.
“If I trained there, I had to be there every day, at every class,” Ross said. “No complaints.”
He trained under Sergio Lisboa, a fifth-degree black belt who studied under Brazilian jujitsu legend Osvaldo Alves.
At the end of the three years, Ross was the first American to be promoted from his gym.
“That was a big deal because you need support (to be promoted),” Ross said.
Ross returned to the States and began teaching in 2008, opening a successful studio in Arcata. His was the only jujitsu studio in town, however, and he wanted to continue his own training.
He left the business and joined Alliance Jiu Jitsu, a five-time world championship-winning gym, where he trained under first-degree black belt Mitch Coats, a student of Alexandre “Gigi” Paiva.
In 2009, Ross was certified as an Alliance instructor and earned his brown belt.
Ross finished third at the Jiu Jitsu U.S. Open in the super heavyweight brown belt division in 2011 and then won the division in 2012.
Now, he has turned his efforts to teaching in his the new Felton studio.
“My passion is teaching,” Ross said. “I’m never going to be a great champion, but I’ll be a great instructor.”
Ross said he already has a slate of classes for beginners and more experienced jujitsu practitioners, and he hopes to attract passionate learners.
“We offer a place for every kind of student to come and train,” Ross said. “We don’t just want tough guys or don’t just want champions. I don’t want toughness to be a requirement to be part of the gym.”
Twohig, who attended San Lorenzo Valley High School with Ross, has practiced Brazilian jujitsu for five years and will run the business side of the studio while Ross teaches. Twohig also runs a wine tours business in the county.
“It’s nice to be able to do this in Felton,” Twohig said. “I remember in high school there were not a whole lot of positive things for kids to do here. This is a positive thing. Every time I leave an evening class, I feel amazing.”
The duo is offering a special monthly rate for the first 20 adults and 20 children who join the gym, Twohig said.
WHAT: Santa Cruz Mountain Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
WHERE: 6241 Graham Hill Road in Felton
INFO: 335-8004 or www.scmbjj.com
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