Fourteen years ago, Carl Ragasa imagined a jiu jitsu school on the island changing lives and giving youth a chance to be somebody.
And with some of his students now teachers in his Ka-Mole Jiu Jitsu program, Ragasa is proud to say that it’s come full circle.
“We train hard and I’ve trained over 200 students and only a few have survived,” Ragasa said.
Ka-Mole, which in Hawaiian, means the main root or foundation, began taking form as a school, with Ragasa teaming up with Bruno Ewald.
“We trained together about a year, but I wanted to take ’em further, so I went to Brazil and learned so many great things,” Ragasa said.
After returning from Brazil, Ragasa studied what he learned and started Ka-Mole Jiu Jitsu at his home in Wailua.
“We started out with 20 students and we also trained at Kalaheo and Hanapepe,” Ragasa said.
The Kaua’i County Lifeguard eventually handed off some of his knowledge to current teachers and former students, Kyle Sukehira, Ka’eo and Kaleo Lopez. Eben Kaneshiro, who trains with Ka-Mole when he’s on Kaua’i, is also one of Ragasa’s best students.
Both lifeguards and brothers as well, Kaleo and Ka’eo enjoy mixed martial arts and giving back to younger students, which keeps the school moving along.
“We’ve learned so much from this. It teaches us to be humble and respectful. It’s not all about fighting. It’s more than that and the best thing we’ve learned is to be disciplined,” Ka’eo said.
Meanwhile, Sukehira, a Hawaiian Airlines employee, utilized his skills during a hijack attempt at Lihu’e Airport a few years ago.
“The guy tried to use a box cutter, but we pinned him down,” Sukehira said.
Also, Ka’eo’s heroics were highlighted in an attempt to save helicopter crash victims, in which he dove down below the water to rescue passengers during his work as a Kaua’i County Lifeguard.
But it wasn’t always easy for Ragasa’s top students.
At Sukehira’s first day, Ragasa mentioned he told Sukehira that he’d never make it.
However, the next day, Sukehira showed up with his head shaved and ready to go.
“It just goes to show you that not anyone can make it, but it’s definitely worth a try. It’s tough work and these guys work their butts off,” Ragasa said.
Ka-Mole Jiu Jitsu trains three nights a week at Kaua’i Gym in Kapa’a. The group ranges from high school students to men in their late 20s.
On May 20, Ka-Mole will be participating in the Third Annual Maui Open.
“We destroyed everyone in the first tournament up there. We won everything by submission,” Ragasa said.
According to Ragasa, Ka-Mole is the most feared mixed- martial- arts schools in the state.
“We’ve been winning everything lately and that’s just a testament to the hard work and discipline these men possess,” Ragasa said.
Families of the participants remain in full support of their athletes and like any other sport, mixed martial arts does have risks.
“If you’re not ready to go in and fight, we won’t let you in. There’s been others who thought they were ready and we didn’t allow them to fight, so they left us, but we’re not going to put our guys in the ring if they’re not ready,” Ragasa said.
Most importantly, Ka-Mole has taught its participants, the value of camaraderie.
“It’s such a sense of family between all of us. There’s lots of Aloha. We don’t promote violence at all,” Kaleo said.
Luis Soltren, the stand-up teacher (boxing and kicking) for Ka-Mole, noted the sport is technical and involves so many variables.
“There’s so many things to learn and it’s more than just boxing. It’s certainly not one dimensional,” Soltren said.
Justin Wilkins teaches Muay Thai fighting to the group.
- Duane Shimogawa Jr., sports editor, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 257) or firstname.lastname@example.org.