I started training Jiu-Jitsu in Tulsa in 1994 shortly after the first UFC. Having an amateur wrestling and Japanese-based Martial Arts (Aikido and Aiki-Jutsu) background, Jiu-Jitsu was a perfect fit for me. At that time, Jiu-Jitsu training opportunities were very limited. Warrior Way Martial Arts, taught by Calvin Metz, was one location. Apollos also offered some training demonstrated by Dr. Patrick Sharp and Greg Douglas. Dr. Sharp began training at Warrior Way and Greg trained with a few other guys around. A few years later, Mikey Burnett traveled to California and trained with Ken Shamrocks’ guys at the Lion’s Den. Mikey came back to Tulsa and opened the Lion’s Den. As you can see, this only provided a few places to train Jiu-Jitsu. As the popularity of the UFC grew (especially right after the TUF 1 finale on free TV, which was HUGE at the time), more schools began to emerge. Many were unsuccessful, however, some are still running today. Piet Wilhelm opened Triton Fight Center in the early 2000s as an MMA gym, Mikey’s gym became Absolute Combat Alliance (and today’s 918 Factory) and a few others. Apollos expanded their MMA and Jiu-Jitsu programs by hiring myself, Mikey Burnett, Dr. Sharp and a few others. At this time, it was highly discouraged to cross-train at other gyms. Negative attention on message boards was directed towards individuals who did attempt to cross-train, but for the most part everyone left everyone else alone. Most people were friendly and cordial face-to-face, but the barriers and walls were always there.
In the mid 2000s (Sorry I do not know the exact year – would guess 2004 or 2005) Piet Wilhelm attained the first Brazilian Affiliation in Tulsa – Renato Tavares. This allowed his students to get true ranking in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Others followed suit – Noguiera, a brief Lovato Affiliate, Apollos became a Carlos Machado Affiliate and Christian Derr with a Jean Jacques Machado Affiliation in Owasso. This was when the BJJ craze really took place in Tulsa. Doors slowly started opening for cross-training. Triton produced Piet as one of the first BJJ Black Belts in Tulsa, and others from his Affiliation. As students progressed in skill and rank, so did the branches of the tree. You started to see additional Triton and Clinch Affiliates in town and the outlying areas. This created even more cross-training. In mid-teens of the 2000s, more people in the area earned black belts from other Affiliations such as the Gracies and myself, along with the other Apollos instructors, earning their black belt directly from Carlos Machado along with his brothers Roger and John. With various affiliations, students quickly realized the benefit of training with multiple gyms, taking advantage of the opportunity to absorb more information. To accommodate this new trend, most gyms in town have open mats at various times during the week.
This has caused a huge cultural shift in the BJJ community in Tulsa. With people from different schools and affiliations training together, a system of support has developed. Each gym supports and encourages the others. Our goal, as martial artists, is improvement and self-growth. This scenario has created an opportunity for much more improvement and growth. Recently competitors from multiple gyms and affiliations from the area traveled to the IBJJF Masters World Championship in Las Vegas. Tulsa BJJ produced numerous World Champions - all pushing, supporting and encouraging each other.
Jedi Jiu-Jitsu encourages taking the opportunity to cross-train. We do request that you give your instructors the courtesy of making them aware you are cross-training. When going to other gyms, we encourage our students to pay a mat fee regardless of the gym’s policy. If they refuse to accept money, ask them to please donate the funds to their cleaning supplies or charity or needy students. We are all small businesses struggling to keep the doors open and provide students a solid service.
I shared the history of Tulsa BJJ to explain why Jedi Jiu-Jitsu offers Friday Night Open Mat/Happy Hour. Every Friday at 6:30, we welcome anyone from any affiliation to come get some mat time in. You may drill, roll, workout, ask questions, share, etc. We only ask that egos are left off the mats. This is THE best way to start your weekend. You get rid of the work week stress and get your weekend started on a positive note with endorphins flowing. (And we occasionally have a frosty beverage at the end to also clear the stress and start your weekend right!) Thank you for stopping by and I hope to see you soon.