Raising the Barra
Costa Mesa is an active place. Maybe it’s the inviting weather, the health-conscious culture or the spirit of engagement that moves us – but whatever the reason, Costa Mesans love to get in gear (and stay there).
Physical exercise boasts its own benefits, but the most transformative of these activities tend to meld presence-of-mind with exertion-of-body to create an experience transcendent of sweat alone.
So we went in search of some local methods for hacking physical functionality, while mastering the mind-body connection, and what we found was Scott Carr and the conscientious Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu coaches / competitors at Gracie Barra Costa Mesa.
Head Instructor Scott Carr, Coach Josh Ramirez, Coach Louie Villarreal and Coach Patrick Cahill
photographer: brandy young
Gracie Barra is a school of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu including practitioners all over the world – with the Costa Mesa location at 1304 Logan Avenue being one of a network of studios. The unusual name, “Gracie Barra,” comes from blending “Gracie” – the family name of the founders who are like royalty in BJJ and MMA circles – with the Portuguese word “Barra” (pronounced: BA-ha) which honors the neighborhood of Barra da Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro, where the school began in 1986.
The overarching philosophy can be best understood through the symbolic meaning of its iconic “Gracie Triangle” which has many implications. The first is that the three sides represent Mind, Body, Spirit and, much like jiu-jitsu masters themselves, the triangle lands on a stable base no matter which way you toss it. And, of course, the “triangle choke” is a fundamental BJJ move.
But the Gracie way also finds its foundation in the pillars of Efficiency (maximum output with minimum input), Patience (because acting impulsively, without focus, wastes energy), and Control (you cannot control your opponent without controlling yourself through daily, personal discipline). It’s a lifestyle Gracie Barra students strive to embody both on – and off – the mat.
“Jiu-Jitsu is different from other martial arts because we’re basically the only one that goes straight to the ground,” explained Carr, Head Instructor and Owner of Gracie Barra Costa Mesa. “Karate and Kenpo are all about striking, whereas jiu-jitsu practitioners are grapplers. Our form of martial arts is a combination of submission wrestling, judo and ground fighting that’s far more realistic and functional for everyday use. 90% of fights go to the ground, so we teach you what to do once you get there.”
Ground Game: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Starts Where Most Fights End… The Floor
photographer: brandy young
Carr first tried jiu-jitsu on a lark, but quickly became hooked.
“I met the original owner of this studio on a job site doing construction,” said Carr. “He started telling me all about it so I went to a class with him that same night. And I’ll never forget it: there was this little Brazilian guy – no taller than my shoulder – and he very quickly threw me on my head, choked me and arm-barred me before I knew what was happening. I was so impressed that a guy like that could take me down so easily. In that moment, I knew I would be back for more and really, since day one, I’ve never looked back.”
“Jiu-jitsu is like a great equalizer, because with leverage and technique size becomes irrelevant,” agreed Coach Josh Ramirez. “It’s not so much the size of your body, but what you can do with it that matters. It’s all the same when the fight goes to the ground.
“In fact, I started out doing boxing, but that’s all about standing up. So the first time I came to a jiu-jitsu school and saw what they could do at the ground level – down where so many other fighters feel at a disadvantage – well, I fell in love immediately and I’m in love with it still.”
Other adult classes, like Muay Thai and Judo, round out the calendar (and training opportunities). You can check their online schedule for any additions or changes that might happen throughout the year.
Because Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – and the more street-wise Gracie Barra Method, in particular – addresses the real-world problem of a small, weaker person defending against a larger, stronger assailant, it especially appeals to parents who like the idea of their kids being bully-proofed from a schoolyard fight. A large part of Gracie Barra Costa Mesa’s schedule is devoted to their youngest practitioners.
“BJJ is great for all kinds of kids,” said Carr. “My three daughters all trained, or are still training, in it. I like knowing they can handle themselves out in the world.
“It’s a good fit for naturally athletic kids, and also those who struggle to find their athleticism. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a nice hybrid because you get the feeling of team sports – and training along with lots of kids – coupled with the responsibility of an individual sport where it ultimately breaks down to ‘You versus Me.’ I tell the kids all the time that when it gets right down to it, jiu-jitsu is all about you. You will get out of it what you put into it – especially when you’re doing competitions.”
Competing or not, Gracie Barra Costa Mesa is all about the pursuit of personal excellence
photographer: brandy young
And even though lots of Gracie Barra regulars go on to compete in larger meets like those hosted by IBJJF and the like, not everyone wants to (or does).
“I personally love teaching, I love training and I definitely love competing,” said Carr. “But not all our students are into that – and still, they get so much out of the journey anyway. I make sure to stress that point to our kids, too. If they want to compete, that’s awesome. But if you’re just here to get a good sweat, learn self-defense, improve self-esteem – well all that good stuff goes with the territory.”
“We actually have a brown belt who has never competed, not even once,” added Pat Cahill, another coach at the gym. “We’ve probably asked him a hundred times – because he would do extremely well if he ever did compete – but he always declines. You have to respect the guy for being consistent, even if it kind of breaks our hearts.”
Go To The Mat: Gracie Barra Costa Mesa Welcomes Local Newbies With A Family-Friendly Vibe
photographer: brandy young
With so many masterful jiu-jitsu practitioners working the mat at Gracie Barra Costa Mesa, is it still a good environment for the martial-arts newbie?
“Absolutely! Although you need to prepare yourself that you’re going to be terrible on your first try,” said Coach Ramirez. “But like all new things, you have nowhere to go but up. Once you realize it’s not so bad, and these moves can be learned over time, you will be really excited at when your body is eventually able to do. My advice is to stick with it for a while and see where it takes you.”
“The hardest part is walking through the door and lining up against the wall on that first day,” agreed Carr. “But people are really welcoming, here. They’ll come up and introduce themselves. We have great camaraderie and a family vibe that will put you at ease, real quick.
“Look, don’t be scared. It’s not like we’re looking to beat the crap out of each other. 95% of our guys have to go to work in the morning – so we respect each other on and off the mat. But if you’re looking to lose weight, get in shape and relieve stress, nothing works like jiu-jitsu. We get a lot of white-collar people coming on here to relieve the stress of the day – leave it on the mat, sweat it out – and get to a place where nobody’s bothering them. It’s great for that.”
While their affinity for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is infinitely clear, we had to ask: What do the coaches at Gracie Barra think about their city of record?
“Hands down, I love living in Costa Mesa,” said Carr. “My family’s been in Costa Mesa a long time and practically my whole family lives here. My mom went to Estancia and my dad went to Costa Mesa High School, so there’s a little bit of a rivalry there. But seriously, it’s a great town.
“I live over in Mesa Verde, right next to the river trail. I’m always riding bikes with my wife and kids down the river jetty to the beach. Costa Mesa is such a family-friendly place. There’s so much to do here. The Fairgrounds alone have tons of stuff happening there, all the time.”
“Costa Mesa is paradise,” agreed Cahill. “We’re only an hour or so from the mountains. The beach is right there. Everything you could want to do is less than two hours away. All the Brazilians love coming here to visit us, and for good reason. It really is paradise.” ♥
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