Sergio Hernandez has known the new Alliance Port Huron Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy gym nearly as long as he knew the old one, as he joined this past December.
Consider him a fan of the new digs in downtown Port Huron.
“I love it; I love the new place,” said Hernandez, a 2003 Anchor Bay graduate and St. Clair resident. “It has that old style feel to it, that nice gritty feel to it. I like it a lot.
“Plus, it’s in the middle of town, which definitely helps out, because people are kind of curious as to what’s going on here, and it helps business out. If it helps business that helps it stay open and helps everybody that’s dedicated to it. The more publicity the better.”
Alliance moved to 924 Military St. — across the street from the Times Herald – from the Port Huron Tae Kwon Do building on Lapeer where it was sharing time and space. The grand opening of the new facility was April 1.
“We were expanding and wanted our own schedule, stuff like that,” said Paul Elezaj, head instructor at Alliance Port Huron. “Our program was expanding, so we just kind of need our own space. Naturally as everything grows, more hours, time everything like that.
“(The new space) is perfect for us, for our needs. It’s a very simple style, and we don’t need much equipment, we just need mat space.”
Part of the growth is natural, Elezaj said, and the rise in popularity of mixed martial arts fighting hasn’t hurt, either.
“More people know, word spreads,” he said. “The martial art is getting more and more popular, especially with the media with MMA and stuff like that, you see jiu jitsu in the fights.”
Getting people to come in the door and take a class is the tough part. Classes are held Monday through Thursday, as well as Saturday, and are held for kids and adults. The adult classes are offered for beginners and experts. People also can set up an introduction class by appointment.
But once someone joins the group, they normally stick around, like Hernandez, who started training in jiu jitsu while in Texas.
“Extremely impressive,” Hernandez said of the academy. “There’s no egos here. As I said before, and even my instructors told me when I started, your best friends, your best training partners and even your foes, you’re going to meet on the mats. There will be no egos here, and if there is, they’ll keep it in check. Either they’ll keep it in check at the door or they just don’t come back. Because a lot of people can’t handle being tapped by smaller guys like me.
“But everybody here is great. Everybody helps you out regardless of your belt rank. It’s not about how many times can you tap this guy out; it’s about getting better off each other.”