Obtaining a black belt in Gracie Jiu Jitsu takes years of mastery. Good thing Mel Locke appreciates the art.
After a 14-year odyssey of learning, training and fighting, the 43-year-old from Camas earned his black belt from the Pedro Sauer Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Association.
“I completed the first book. Now, I’m on the second book. They call it a chapter, but I think it’s longer than a chapter,” Locke said. “It’s a commitment of time and enjoying the journey. What kept me going was the discovery of new techniques, sharing Jiu Jitsu with others and the camaraderie with my teammates. It’s a passion we all share.”
Locke tested for his black belt during a three-day training camp at the Universal Complete Training Center, in Camas. Students from all across the country participated in the event. They watched Locke demonstrate 75 different Gracie Jiu Jitsu attacks, holds and counters from the standing and grounded position.
“You have to be able to memorize a lot of techniques,” Locke said. “Some of my longest running partners were there to watch me test. We did lots of things wrong in the beginning, and we learned through continuing our education. It was good to have them there because I couldn’t have done this without them.”
Locke also competed in the caged octagon 10 times. He won seven of those fights and retired as the Full-Contact Fighting Federation’s Light Heavyweight Champion.
“With every challenge, I learned more about the style,” he said. “In competing, you realize where the holes in your game are.”
Locke and his friend, Frank Coones, co-own a thriving training center in downtown. They offer a variety of classes for adults and youths each day of the week. Trainees can learn about Jiu Jitsu, Moo Yea-Doo, boxing, MMA, stick and knife fighting, or take one of the universal conditioning courses, without having to sign a contract.
“We want to have an eclectic program where people can explore all the styles, classes and teachers we have to offer, and find what fits their needs,” Locke said. “Come on in and find your niche.”
Jonny Schultz has been training at the academy since 2007. He got hooked on the kickboxing courses, but bridged out to Jiu Jitsu. Schultz commutes to his job in Portland by bus. Once he gets back to the transer station in Vancouver, he drives to Camas in time for two or three evening classes a week.
“It’s been like a journey,” said the 35-year-old from Vancouver. “You’re kind of lost at first. But once you start having those ‘ah ha’ moments, that’s when it starts to get fun.
“Mel puts in the time and has a lot of patience,” Schultz added. “You never hear him raise his voice or yell at a student. If there’s something you don’t understand, he takes the extra time after class to go through it with you until you get it.”
Schultz switches up his workouts by taking a different course from time to time. He tried the traditional method of lifting weights at a gym, but he finds this universal training to be more challenging and rewarding.
“It’s a different type of workout. I can’t discribe it to you. It’s just something you have to come in and experience,” he said. “I’m not just lifting a bunch of weights to get stronger. I’m using my body weight, getting good cardio and learning self defense at the same time.”
And feeling a part of a family.
“You build great relationships with the people here, and that makes you want to come back,” Schultz said. “Everyone is working towards a goal in here. It may not be the same goal, but we all have a goal.”