2011 was an amazing year for all the programs at Smash. I’d like to take a moment and point out the amazing growth of our BJJ program in particular.
The Smash Gyms Jiu-jitsu program is headed by Michael Jen. Michael had been teaching a small group of loyal students out of his garage for nearly 10 years. Most of his students grappled recreationally for exercise, fun and self-defense. He did have one student that liked to compete in Sport BJJ. Seo Perales was only the second person ever to be promoted to Black Belt by Michael. Seo took 3rd and 5th in the World Championships and won his division in the US Open twice. Michael’s students were all complimented on their solid fundamentals when training at other schools and Seo’s success was impressive but still Michael was largely unknown in the younger Sport Jiu-Jitsu world. Michael was one of the first 50 American BJJ Blackbelts but only the “old school” guys knew who he was since he had been not publicly teaching for ten years.
The Smash Gyms Jiu jitsu program officially started in January 2011. We were excited and happy to share the system of BJJ that we had spent 10 years in Michael’s garage helping to design. The system went through many iterations where techniques were changed, thrown out, and replaced. We were confident that we now had a system of teaching BJJ that would help the average person turn into a very good grappler in a short amount of time. We also knew it would help a talented person turn into a monster even faster.
Many of Michael’s top students came and helped lead the new program at Smash. Seo moved to the Bay Area for a few months to help get the program started. Mario Rios a brown belt, was in almost every class teaching the system of jiu-jitsu to beginners. Louie Noble and Andrew Yao purples and all of our blue belts were happy to help everyone. Before opening Smash we were fortunate to have relationships with talented people and training partners with a variety of skill-sets and backgrounds. They all came to help. My younger brother Eli who was a D1 College wrestler came in and combined his wrestling with our BJJ and made some noise. Pretty soon we had state champions like Jacob Palomino, all-american wrestlers and Judokas like Patrick Kong and pro-fighters like Sam Spengler all join the team to train, learn and pass on their existing skills to the students at Smash.
With such a great group of talented and giving instructors our brand new Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu program literally shocked the Sport BJJ world in 2011. The very first team tournament the Smash competitors attended they brought home 3 Gold Medals. Sam, Seo, and Patrick dominated their divisions at BJJ by the Bay. After a few months the influx of new and motivated faces found Smash to be a place where they could learn and excel. Guys like David, Sam Jung, Rogelio, Joe, Harry and Ruben joined and helped rally the team. A couple months later was BJJ by the Sea and we brought home 7 medals. 4 gold and 3 silver. Exceptional growth but it did not stop there. In July Smash brought a team to the San Jose Open and won it. The Smash Gyms competitors brought home 8 Gold medals, 2 silver, 2 bronze and the Team Trophy. It was phenomenal feeling to have such remarkable success as a new gym in the Bay Area, which is known worldwide to be a BJJ Mecca of top schools. How would we do at a national level tournament though? We found out at the US Open 2011. Smash Gyms had 6 people place in the top 3 at this nationally recognized tournament. This is unheard of for a brand new school.
We are incredibly proud of each and every person on our team. Even more fulfilling than tournament wins is watching someone go from “the nail” to “the hammer” during a practice. 2011 was amazing because of everyone that stepped on the mat and tried to help each other get better. There are too many people to thank in this post but I can honestly say I’ve learned from every single one of the students at Smash. Thanks to everyone that has helped us with the struggle to improve ourselves both on and off the mat. With everyone’s help 2012 will be even more amazing.