Stepping into the new Gracie Barra jiu jitsu club in Penticton it’s easy to see why they chose the slogan “organized like a team, fighting like a family.”
Sarah Draht, kickboxing /jiu jitsu instructor and co-owner of the Penticton club, is wrapping up one of the first ever classes they have held in Penticton. She pushes the students with positive words and a few laughs.
“You ladies are going to be my senior students here,” she jokes to the first-time kickboxers.
As the students run through kicks, punches, push ups and stretches, you can feel Draht’s upbeat energy fill the room. With seven years of competition experience, including three Pan Am medals, Draht wants her students to excel but she keeps the atmosphere light. She lets them know she can see them in just a few short weeks and months becoming healthier, stronger and throwing combos of kicks and punches that they don’t even know yet.
“It is awesome,” said Jes Ackerman who was looking for a good workout when she heard about kickboxing. “I thought it was wasn’t hard but it was challenging and I liked that because it made me push myself. I think it really helps that the staff is so supportive and upbeat to keep you moving forward.”
This is the third Gracie Barra gym in the Okanagan. Draht and co-owner/head instructor Jorden Reichenbach said it was all part of their original expansion plan to start in Kelowna, then West Kelowna and move south through the Valley sharing one of the largest and most traditional Brazilian jiu jitsu organizations in the world.
“We had a game plan and in three and half, four years here we are. It’s actually starting to blow up in Kelowna and West Kelowna which we opened about a year and a half ago,” said Reichenbach.
Headquarters for the Gracie Barra franchise is in Los Angeles. There are over 300 schools worldwide so they are always getting new programs, events and curriculums. The popularity keeps growing.
“This is definitely an art that you can do for a while. You aren’t getting kicked or punched in the face. It is very easy on the body,” said Reichenbach.
Reichenbach said jiu jitsu nurtures independent thinking, tests limits, grows confidence and helps people deal with stress and weight loss issues. He said at Gracie Barra you become part of an extended family as the team supports one another to reach their goals. And, it is for all ages. Last week, the Penticton club had a 75-year-old man trying his first class. There is a tiny champions program for kids three to four years old, all the way up to male and female adult programs.
This Sunday the Penticton club is hosting a women’s self-defence seminar from 3 to 5 p.m. with Draht and Rodrigo Carvalho, who is a world champion and taught in the army and police force in Brazil. The cost is $20, or free to members of Gracie Barra, and to book a spot call 250-307-6667.
Self defence is the primary reason Shantel Hordos got involved with Gracie Barra. She instantly fell in love with the confidence the kickboxing and jiu jitsu classes gave her and she worked her way up to becoming an instructor. But, it started with a potentially dangerous situation. Hordos said she was working as a server in a restaurant when a customer became irate, even though the issue was out of her control.
“I was in the parking lot and I kind of saw him out of the corner of my eye as I was leaving. It was one of those moments where your hair raises on the back of your neck,” recalls Hordos.
The man got into a vehicle that was following Hordos. Too scared to go home where she lived by herself, Hordos said she knew the area quite well and lost the vehicle on her way there. It was the breaking point for her and that is when she found Gracie Barra and a newfound confidence.
“It helped not only in that I knew I was prepared to deal with something because I had the muscle memory from doing different combinations in kickboxing and I was in better shape and reaction time. I feel more confident walking alone at night than I did before,” said Hordos. “I also think for any woman who takes any sort of fitness you start losing weight feeling better about yourself and that confidence reflects in all points in your life.”
Gracie Barra is located at 153 Estabrook Ave. and can be reached at 250-826-4251 or at www.gbkelowna.ca.