Happy New Year! Special Announcement! In 2018 Smash Gyms will continue on our mission to inspire and support health and fitness in Silicon Valley. Our amazing community is growing yet again, for our 5th Bay Area Location! #SmashMountainView coming in 2018! Stay tuned for more details.
This amazing growth is only made possible by our dedicated owners, instructors and members. Our gyms are locally owned and operated by passionate experts who are teaming up to share our arts and disciplines with our communities. Thank you for all the support and stay tuned for more details!
We have so many amazing people at Smash, so it always feels strange singling out any particular individual. I often have the feeling that I can never repay all those who have helped, so I feel that the least I can do is share with everyone the history and behind-the-scenes workings of some of these great people. One of these people is Jacob Palomino.
Ever since I met Jacob, he made it clear that his top goal has been to share the skills and knowledge he has acquired. The wrestling program at Smash Gym San Jose has become one of the top programs in the area because Jacob and his assistant coaches go way beyond the call of duty.
For example, yesterday, Jacob conducted a free clinic for all local high school wrestlers. After the free two hour practice, he grabbed the 14-year old son of one of our Brazilian Jiu-jitsu coaches who has just begun his first year wrestling in high school. Jacob spent 20-30mins showing him details on the front headlock. Then he played with my 3 year old son, along with his son, and taught them how to get into a wrestling stance and sprawl for another 20 mins after everyone else left.
Free Wrestling Clinic at Smash San Jose
This is not uncommon behavior for Jacob. He is probably the hardest working coach I have ever met, and that’s saying a lot because I know a lot of amazing coaches. A typical day for Jacob may consist of teaching two classes and coach up to 5-6 private lessons. During wrestling season, he brings local high school kids to the 6am strength and conditioning class at Smash San Jose. He is often working at Smash San Jose until 9pm.
As many of you know, Jacob comes from one of the greatest wrestling families in the state of California. When Jacob, his older brother Jason, and his cousin Ricky were in high school their legendary uncles, Anthony and Rick Palomino committed themselves as coaching staff for Independence High School. They created one of the most legendary high school team’s in California history. Under the Palominos, Independence won the California team state title, produced future NCAA champions, and Olympians such as Eric Guerrero. Their technique, work ethic, and heart were incredible to watch in action.
Jacob Palomino as a freshman at Independence
In 1998, Jacob was the youngest of his generation in the Palomino family and made history by becoming the first freshman to become a state champion in California EVER. Typically a 14-15 year old competing against 18-19 year olds would not stand a chance. He proved it was possible and, amazingly, became a 4-time state finalist and 3-time champion.
As if this wasn’t incredible enough, those that were close to him knew his story was even more inspirational than you could possibly imagine. About a month before the State Championships, Jacob’s young and healthy mother suddenly passed away. Jacob was devastated. Most people thought his season was over. Just weeks after this tragedy Jacob stepped into the toughest high school wrestling tournament in the country and did the impossible by becoming the first freshman to win a California State Championship. You can imagine the inspiration that his friends and family drew from that victory. Jacob’s story inspired the wrestling community all over California. He dedicated his historic championship to his mother. At 15 years old Jacob Palomino became a legend.
Jacob was also a teenage father, having had twin babies his Junior year in high school. Either one of these things would have easily derailed someone from achieving excellence. Jacob, through incredible determination somehow continued to march forward and made a history as one of the greatest high school wrestlers ever.
First Freshman State Champ – Jacob Palomino
If you’re not aware of what a California State Championship really means I’ll do my best to explain this amazing accomplishment. There is only one kid at each weight that becomes a state champion in all of California. This year in California there’s about 2 million kids in high school in over 2,500 schools. It’s a dog fight every step of the way to move up in qualifying tournaments to and then get to state. Only one kid at each weight in his whole school gets to wrestle varsity. High schools are split into a league tournament of about 20 schools, top 2-3 winners at each weight in each league go to our section tournament, where about 120 schools compete against each other. The top 3 athletes that place at sections in each weight get the honor of going to State. The California State Tournament is truly a tournament of champions.
Right before we were going to open Smash Sunnyvale I ran into Jacob at CCS. I mentioned that I was going to open a gym soon. Always humble, he said, “if there’s anything you need let me know, Not sure what I can do, but seriously I want to help so just please let me know.” I tried to keep an acceptable level of excitement and I told him I’d give him a call.
He began teaching a wrestling class Monday night and would not accept any money. For a year, no matter how often I asked, he would always brush it aside. Finally, I started putting money in his shoes while he was still on the mat. Even then I would have to reason with him that it would be good to at least let us pay for his gas. After all, he was driving over 25 minutes to get to Smash Sunnyvale.
Jacob and his youngest son Ezra
That first year Jacob rarely participated in jiujitsu. Although, he had never attended one jiujitsu class, sometimes jiujitsu students would ask him to roll during his wrestling classes. He never said no. Late one evening near the end of Smash’s first year, about two weeks before the BJJ US Open, I got a text from Jacob. He asked me if I thought he could win it. I would never bet against Jacob, so I said yes. We did a few private lessons around a game plan for the US Open and of course, he won his division.
When Filip, Mario, Eli and I partnered to open Smash San Jose, Jacob was working full time at a local cemetery. Jacob began teaching some classes at Smash San Jose, getting requests for private lessons, and word started getting around to local high school coaches and wrestlers. Soon enough, they were asking him for help. His schedule quickly filled with private lessons. He began to realize that it might be possible to teach wrestling full time. Jacob told everyone that was now committed to becoming the best instructor possible. His passion and dedication to servicing student athletes in the community showed. People began to say Jacob might even be a better coach than he was a wrestler. Their support provided him with the opportunity to finally quit his other job and start teaching wrestling full time.
Coach Jacob and one of his students
Jacob has developed a very close following of supportive parents and students. They are loyal and thankful for all that he does for the kids in the community that seek out his guidance. Jacob has significantly influenced the local wrestling scene. Entire junior highs and high schools have better teams because of his efforts. A lot of local hardworking coaches are very thankful for the help he’s given them.
Having Jacob at Smash full-time is a blessing to everyone. He is always inspirational, honest, and hardworking. Because we were so thankful for his contributions Filip, Mario, Eli and I decided to make Jacob our partner and co-owner of Smash San Jose.
Jacob is one of my personal heroes. He’s one of the most giving people I’ve ever met. Very few people inspire others to be better in so many different aspects. Jacob motivates everyone around him to be a better leaders, parents, athletes, and coaches. I hoped by sharing his story you can find as much inspiration from it as I do.
Our innovative social fitness classes at Smash Gyms have taught us that the various arts and disciplines we teach are not so different. People may have a preference in form, but in substance, everyone enjoys these classes for the same reasons.
In each class, students learn skills from an expert instructor, while seeing measurable progress, creating relationships, and improving their health and mind.
When in any of these social fitness classes, you are totallypresent. This mindfulness is especially therapeutic and addictive. When weightlifters are performing, their mental state is remarkably similar to the kickboxer, jiu-jitsu practitioner, or the parkour student. Being extremely focused in this messy and cluttered world of relentless input is an amazing feeling.
Progress is always incredible to see and experience. In every class, regular participants can been seen transforming from clumsy beginners to knowledgeable practitioners. Bodies and minds are improved through regular training as students learn, not only from the instructors, but from each other and themselves. Members often comment how they are surprised by what they have been able to accomplish. They become fit and confident as a result of humbling themselves and entrusting the guidance of the instructors. These arts and disciplines easily turn into lifelong pursuits as the journey to improve is infinite. What one knows will always be less than what one doesn’t know.
Through this process of learning and personal development, incredible social bonds are made. Lifelong friendships, and even marriages, develop within the communities. Training partners and instructors become lifelong mentors, protégés, and family.
Jiu-jitsu, Crossfit, Yoga, Kickboxing, Parkour, Judo, MMA, etc…like it or not, we aren’t so different.
Drew is a Jiujitsu Brown Belt and teaches on Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm in Smash Sunnyvale. He’s been training jiu-jitsu for over 16 years and also an experienced self-defense and weapons practitioner. He’s very technical and detailed in his instruction. Come train with Drew!
“I started training as a college student in 2001 at a no-gi/MMA place in Massachusetts. About a year after that, I was training for the summer at Ricardo Almeida’s school and got my blue belt.
When I was at grad school in Pittsburgh, at the time there was no formal grappling or BJJ school near where I lived, so I taught at our grappling club at the school gym.
When I got a job in the Bay Area in 2006, I started with Michael Jen, and got purple and brown belts from him. This was when I started training regularly with the gi; it had been about 90% no gi before this; so I’m no stranger to a neck crank or heel hook.
I started teaching at Smash assisting with the self defense program. I’ve taken several courses on self defense with weapons like guns and knives in the mix and I think jiujitsu is very applicable in this context. I later started teaching the fundamentals jiujitsu class, and then the regular class.
What I like about jiujitsu is the creative puzzle / problem solving aspect; as a beginner, you just go to class and learn what the instructor shows, but when you become more advanced, you start figuring out your own unique style. There are a lot of techniques in jiujitsu, and an infinite number of ways to put them together. Once you understand the core principles, you can make your own solutions to any given problem, so that’s what I try to focus on in my classes.” -Drew Yao
Occasionally, some parents will mention to me that their child no longer wants to train martial arts and ask my opinion on whether or not they should allow their child to do so. This is what I tell them….
The first thing I point out is that we know that a good education is important. Imagine if we allowed our children to quit school as soon they did not want to go anymore. If we allowed this, I think we would have barely any children in school. As adults and parents, we understand the future benefits of a good education that a child cannot comprehend. Similarly, we have our kids do martial arts because we also know there are so many benefits to their lives that our children may not fully be able to foresee or comprehend at the moment. As a result, just as how I would not allow my child to quit school, I would not allow them to quit martial arts. In my opinion, as a parent, one of my goals is to prepare my children for life and I believe that martial arts is an essential part of that.
The second thing I mention is that, in general, children do what is pleasant for them and avoid what is unpleasant for them. If we, as parents, allow our children to quit doing something as soon as it becomes unpleasant, unentertaining, or difficult, our children would never accomplish anything significant in their lives. Many have heard the saying that you learn many valuable life lessons from playing sports. I disagree with this statement. I prefer to say, “You learn many valuable life lessons in the process of trying to get a good at a sport.” Anyone can be mediocre. Mediocrity can be achieved without trying very hard. Valuable life lessons are not learned from putting half effort and not striving to be the best you can be. Valuable life lessons are not learned from quitting when things get unpleasant, unentertaining, or difficult. In life, any accomplishment that is meaningful or significant is always accompanied by difficulty and hardship.
The last thing I point out is that we have many adults in our BJJ program who are starting their training in their 30’s and 40’s. Whenever they see our children training or competing, I always hear them say, “I wish I started when I was their age.” Heck, I started BJJ when I was 17 and I wish I started at an even younger age. When I ask these adult BJJ students, “If you could go back in time and start training BJJ when you were in elementary school, would you do it? And if you did it, would you tell your parents to never let you quit no matter what?” The answer is always the same. They all say, “Absolutely.”
Smash is proud to be a part of The Social Fitness Network! The Social Fitness Network (SFN) is an amazing Community of Fitness Studios and Gyms in the Bay Area. Members of SFN Partner Gyms instantly have access to hundreds of classes at some of the Bay Area’s top gyms.
Click here for more information! If you sign up online, choose a home gym and get all the other gyms Free!
Coach Miranda ‘Killa’ Cayabyab earned the moniker early on in her competitive career by the tenacity in which she approached her training and the intensity she brought to the ring. Now retired from Professional Muay Thai, she has put her focus on raising her children and developing her talents as a Coach. But let me start at the beginning to give you a better understanding of why she is so awesome.
In 2004 Miranda found herself in an unhealthy place. Out of shape and overweight, she had lost her confidence. She decided to make a change and found herself in my Cardio Kickboxing Class! Though it was difficult, she loved the it! Miranda dedicated herself to getting back in shape and that’s where it all began!
A year and 40lbs later Miranda decided to take on new challenge, Muay Thai. She overcame her fears and began to love challenge of stepping into the ring. Killa quickly established herself as a legit competitor with a fierce heart within the fight community. Miranda won 3 National Titles as an amateur.
During her amateur career, she took some time off to give birth to her second child Aurora Hope. For most, having a full-time job, 2 children, and training full time as a competitive fighter would be too much. Miranda not only was able successful with all those responsibilities but during this time she also decided to get a Certified CrossFit Trainer. Always looking for new challenges she then decided that she wanted to take her Muay Thai career further and turn professional.
In November, 2013 Miranda made her Professional Muay Thai debut for Lion Fight Promotions. What most don’t know is that she had completely blown out her ACL & PCL just 3 weeks before. Miranda refused to pull out of the Fight. Her determination and skills were on full display that night. Despite her injuries she won a unanimous decision victory. Her family, friends. and team were very proud.
Now she is entering the next stage of her Fitness and Martial Arts journey. Already coaching Fitness Classes for Smash Gyms Milpitas, she will start teaching Muay Thai Fundamentals on Thursdays. Her passion and knowledge for the Art of 8 Limbs will be a great addition to Smash Gyms. We cannot wait for you to try her class!
Check out Smash Gym’s Head BJJ instructor, Michael Jen, in the latest episode of the United BJJ podcast. He talks about many interesting topics that he hasn’t discussed before in other interviews! Enjoy!
Smash Gyms started in late 2010 and, six years later, we’ve become the largest gyms of it’s kind in Northern California. With three gyms, and more on the way, as well as a community of over 1000 people, we’ve become a huge success. This is how and why we did it.
I started Smash Gyms Sunnyvale along with some friends and my BJJ instructor, Michael Jen. It all began with my friends and I being involved in online marketing and having great success providing lead generation for martial arts gyms. At the same time, my instructor was teaching a small group of students out of his garage. Michael had closed his BJJ school 10 years earlier because of increasing rent and a dislike for running a small business. It was a short jump to figure out that, with our marketing and his world-class instruction, we might make a good team. I also happened to be a jiu-jitsu fanatic and wanted any excuse to be around the mat more.
My initial goal was to see if we could build up a business and create high quality jobs for expert instructors. I soon realized that I was walking down a path from which I could not turn around. We worked hard to create something great. I was at the gym every day from morning to evening. It became a family gym. My wife, Debbie, would come straight from her 9 to 5 job at Morgan Stanley to come help clean, sign people up, and take classes. Even my mom was there every night. Instructors’ wives and their kids also attended classes and helped a the gym wherever they could. A year later, my brother, Eli, came home from college and began working full time for Smash. This was soon followed by Debbie leaving her successful job to work full time at the gym.
At some point, I realized that there was nothing else I would rather be doing. Members thanked me for changing their lives by creating a community for great people. I’ve had Instructors hug me, in appreciation, for providing a career opportunity that finally allowed them to buy a new car or get a place of their own to live. I was in front of people who were bettering themselves and genuinely happy to be at my business. It gave me a sense of fulfillment and gratitude that I knew I could never find selling things online or in any other profession.
I also couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of obligation to everyone who helped Smash grow. So many people helped and contributed. I felt I couldn’t let them down. I felt that my hard work was a display of gratitude to all those that helped me. I worked harder than I ever worked in my life and became consumed with making Smash the best I could.
It was a community effort and we quickly became one of the largest gyms in the Bay Area. My friends, Filip Novachkov and Mario Rios, opened the doors to Smash Gyms San Jose in 2014 and it quickly became a huge success. They doubled the size of the community with their location.
Countless other instructors and supporters helped us grow. Every time we added a new member or instructor, things became easier. With every individual who joined, we also got their personal and professional network, their ideas, their skill sets, their opportunities. Those that lacked integrity or our “stronger together” philosophy didn’t last long. We began to build a community of inspiring and exceptional people.
As I looked around, I started to notice that no one had done it. What small brick and mortar business had grown, without venture capital funding, to become a large chain? I asked around and virtually no businesses could be named within the last 10-20 years. Where had the family-owned corner store gone? What about the local department or book store?
The freedom and autonomy of being self-employed was not without its challenges. I slowly began learning that things were not easy for small businesses. We were nickel and dimed by everyone. City, county, state, and federal government agencies were clearly not on our side. Permitting and zoning were an arduous hurdle to overcome. We were audited by regulators and paid unreasonable amounts of taxes and fees.
As I noticed these things, the paradigm of small gyms competing against each other began to be a blur. I knew most of them didn’t have the number of members and revenue that Smash generated. Even though members rarely switched gyms, most of these other gyms were barely making it. I started to realize that the gym down the street was not my competitor.
The epiphany was that all our battles were internal. I began to tell people that other small business weren’t obstacles to our success. The real obstacles are growing revenue, profitability, marketing, branding, vision, culture, procedure development and implementation, risk management, government regulation, permitting, legal issues, accounting, recruiting, hiring, training, etc….
As a result, I began talking to other gym owners. I began to tell them that win/lose is great for sports, but the wrong philosophy for business. Business is about creating win/win situations. Business is about creating opportunity for those around you.
This led to my friends, Jane Estioko and Cung Le, and I, sitting down and discussing the idea of working together. Soon they decided to have their community join our community. We realized we were stronger together. We realized that unity and cooperation between community leaders in this business would almost guarantee success and more opportunity for our instructors and more value to our members. We realized that we were obligated as leaders to do everything we could to provide for our people. So we did the unthinkable and joined teams.
We soon began searching for a location for the third Smash Gyms. During that process, we crossed path with Rudi Ott and Tony Gabucan. Even though they both individually ran successful gyms in Milpitas, we all agreed that the best thing for us to do would be to join forces. They closed their locations and we combined communities at a brand new 12,000 square foot facility to form Smash Gyms Milpitas.
We choose to band together to help each other succeed through sharing networks, branding, experiences, knowledge, procedures, best practices, marketing, revenue streams and people. We help each other avoid the mistakes most commonly made by small businesses. We are a community of successful entrepreneurs working together to solve the same problems and find success together. We realize that combining our networks and experience gives us more opportunity than we could ever have on our own.
Martial arts communities must reach a unified realization that we are not competitors. It is continuously getting harder for small businesses to succeed. We are on track to follow the footsteps of virtually every other industry. The little independent gym will become extinct because of a failure of our own creativity and foresight.
We’ve figured out a model in which each location can be independently owned and operated yet be part of a large collaboration with unmatched support. We want to preserve the freedom of small business owners while ensuring their success through connecting these community leaders.
At Smash, I’ve mentored many instructors that have come and gone. I’ve always openly shared my thoughts, ideas, and philosophies with everyone that has been a part of the team. Some have started their own gyms and found quick success with our ideas of collaboration. Gyms that isolate themselves don’t get it. Ego and fear will be the lid of their success. Those that are willing to share success will continue to grow. We are in it to help people, allow them to do what they love, and find success together.
We will be using new platform designed to connect gyms and their members within the next few weeks. Stay Tuned!
If you are a gym owner and would like to find out more about how Smash works feel free to reach out.
Take a listen to Smash Gyms head BJJ instructor Michael Jen’s new interview with the BJJBrick Podcast where he talks about “The Science of Submission” e-book, what training was like when he was a blue belt, tips for someone who wants to compete for the first time, and much more! The interview starts about 18 min. into the podcast. Check it out!