GB Santa Barbara celebrates year with technique-packed seminar

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Last weekend, Rodrigo Clark, of Gracie Barra Santa Barbara, threw his students a party to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his school in the beautiful town of Santa Barbara. Clark’s school, situated on the very popular and populated State Street, was standing room only, as he kicked off the day with an exciting seminar, led by some very prominent guests.

Photos: Deb Blyth

Over seventy-five people packed into the fashionable school to take part in the day. GB black belts Kayron Gracie, son of Carlos Gracie Jr, and Marco “Piu Piu” Joca, were there for the seminar, along with brown belt Ronis Gracie, who took to the mats first to lead the students in an action-packed day.

Ronis Gracie started off the day by teaching the basic fundamentals of an armbar and a triangle that have helped him win some tournaments along the way. Marco “Piu Piu” Joca taught some advanced techniques that the students were excited to try to master. Finally, Kayron Gracie taught a really tricky collar choke, and an open guard sweep that had all the students buzzing.

Clark, who is very involved in the Santa Barbara business community, wanted to do something more than just throw a party for his students. He wanted to give back to the community of which he has become such a big part. In his speech to his students, he informed them that his father died of cancer many years ago, and it has been his desire ever since to give to a cause that supports cancer victims and their families, so he chose The Breast Cancer Resource Center to do just that. Clark then asked a volunteer from the Breast Cancer Resource Center to speak to the full class about the successful journey of the resource center and how their donations really benefit those in need.

Clark said, “The way I try to give something back to you guys on the mats every day, I also wanted to give something back to the community.” So, Clark asked Joca, who runs Gracie Barra Wear, to team up with him for a good cause. Joca did, and donated one-of-a-kind GBSB one-year anniversary Breast Cancer Awareness shirts to sell to the students. All the proceeds went to the Breast Cancer Resource Center in Santa Barbara.

When asked to speak to the group about his involvement in the seminar and his donation of the shirts, Joca graciously said, “When Professor Rodrigo called me to come to the one year anniversary for the school, I was already excited. I heard great things back in Irvine; not only about the school itself, but also about the group of people who train here and the great job Professor Rodrigo’s doing. The donation to the Breast Cancer Foundation was extra motivation for me because my mom is a breast cancer survivor back in Brazil. I’m sure she’d be happy to see us not only sharing the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lifestyle, but also helping others who need it.”

Joca went on to say, “It’s amazing how twenty years ago, I was in the line as a little kid and today I see the similar environment, the similar feeling, and the similar way that people are treating each other and working hard on the growth of our sport and the growth of our Gracie Barra family, the same way we did twenty years ago back in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We can’t be happier than that. Congratulations, Rodrigo and to all of you for the great job you’re doing and for carrying our flag.”

After the clapping and cheers died down, Clark pulled out a signed Gracie Barra gi to the class. Some of the prominent signatures on this gi included Master Carlos Gracie Jr, Marcio Feitosa, Flavio Almeida, Marco Joca, Kayron Gracie, and Fabiana Borges. The students were excited as he started to auction it off to the class. The bidding started low to get the students warmed up, but it quickly jumped into the hundreds as the students yelled out their bids. A very excited Matthew Weddington picked it up for a cool $300. Between the shirts and the gi, by the end of the day, Clark raised over $1000 for the Breast Cancer Resource Center.

Following the excitement of the seminar, Clark asked some of the children on the mats to spar with each other. It was very uplifting and encouraging as two kids at a time would be placed in front of the adults lined up against the wall, and compete, eliciting cheers from the group, which had the kids smiling from ear to ear.

At the end of this unique and very special day, Clark had a surprise for his students: a belt and stripe ceremony. As he walked onto the mats with a bag full of belts, anticipation mounted. One by one, he called his students up and gave them new stripes and belts. The pride held by each student in the room was palpable.

Clark believes in giving back and building a better future for the businesses of Santa Barbara. From his cross-marketing campaigns to his donations to the local Breast Cancer Resource Center, to the contributions he makes to his students’ lives, it is clear that Clark has become a pillar of the Santa Barbara community and in the hearts of many.

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