Q&A with Jared Espina

Kaua‘i’s own Jared Espina, a first-degree black belt in Jiu-Jitsu and  owner and head trainer of Team Powerhouse, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Kapa‘a, has a few things to say about the sport he loves. I was lucky enough to sit down and talk with Jared and what a treat it was. After just a couple hours with Jared, picking his brain about his school, background and the sport of Jiu-Jitsu, I walked away feeling like a better man and I didn’t even take a class.

Jared has a beautiful, loving wife in Karlee, a 5-year-old  son, Zane, and a daughter, 2-year-old Jazelle. His family gives him the love and support he needs to go out and be a positive role model to whomever he meets.

The following are a few questions I had for Jared:

Q: What makes your gym different than others?

A: Our team is the only official Gracie School with direct contact with the founders linked to Gracie Barra. We follow the curriculum of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu which not only consists of ground but also defense and take downs. We concentrate on bringing the force in and keeping it in with a focus on one on one grappling. For mixed martial artists (MMA) we provide a very important part of that sport. I highly recommend all MMA fighters experience different camps to help understand all components and how they all work together.

Q: How can a gym simultaneously accommodate hard-core fighters, people who are new to the sport and children?

A: We offer a beginners or fundamentals class, Jiu-Jitsu 101, that everyone must take first. We break the classes down into six separate groups: kids, junior, teens, women, beginners and advanced/intermediate. We also have five instructors: Casildo, who we like to call Chilo; Kalani; Noa, who we call Legend; Keoni, who we call Jomo; and myself, who they call Powerhouse. All the instructors do a tremendous job and allow me to not only be the head instructor but also be a business owner.

Q: What is your definition and description of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu?

A: Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is far reaching and will touch every aspect of your life. Our students become leaders. We nurture your independent thinking, support your fighting spirit and help you achieve your personal BJJ goals. We work together to help you to begin to understand yourself, on and off the mats, in ways you never imagined. In Gracie Jiu-Jitsu we will test your limits and help you to become the best you can be. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu respects that each student has their own goals and we support you in reaching them. We believe the more you train the better you will become and the more completely you will reach your true potential in life. This sport is for anyone who wants to learn how to defend him or herself in combat, learn how to diet, get into shape or just learn a way of life. What most people don’t know is that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu will also allow you to apply those same principles to fighting the daily battles of life, like weight loss, stress, relationship issues, how to stay calm under pressure and self-confidence. You will learn how to think through problems more constructively than before, on and off the mats. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is a family sport and you are a part of an extended family. You will join a team that will support you in your quest for self-improvement. Training the techniques and participating in live training sessions with your partners and coaches will give you an arsenal of weapons at your disposal whenever you should need them. The more you train, the more you will arm yourself with knowledge and skills to fight all your battles in life like a black belt.

Q: What inspired you to open this gym?

A: I started training in martial arts at the age of7 until 11 with my grand uncle, Great Grand Master Ben Largusa in Kali, a Philippines martial art. From that point on, my primary instructor was Bruno Ewale, who took me from a white belt to my black belt I was honored to have Relson Gracie on hand to honor my black belt. My family has always held martial artists in the highest regard, like the family doctor or our priest. I knew Jiu-Jitsu was my life but Jiu-Jitsu brought it all together into my passion. Once I knew my passion, I had my guidance. Now I know without passion there is no clear guidance. Prior to my wife, my only passion was Jiu-Jitsu. Once we found each other, I had two passions which brought confusion to me at first. With my Jiu-Jitsu training and help from my wife, I now know that my two passions are the same as it is all family. My home family is now my Jiu-Jitsu family and vice versa.

Q: Do you have any students that really stand out in your mind that show a lot of promise in this sport?

A: Wow, that is not really a fair question as all my students are special and stand out in my mind. We have Bobby Castle, who is a green belt and is 14 years old. He has won multiple state championships and the kid’s world championship. There is also Maddison Leanio, who is also a green belt at age 13 with multiple state championships and NAGA (North American Grappling Association) champ. But this is a family oriented school, and I, along with all the instructors here, treat all students as equals they are all here to learn, just as I am. My black belt does not make me any better than anyone, it just shows my journey to where I am today. I love the very first-time student probably the most, because we have the opportunity to build and mold this person, not only on the mat but hopefully help this new student in their day-to-day thinking.

Jared has competed in the Jiu-Jitsu world championships and plans on not only participating this year, but winning it and bringing the trophy home here to Kaua‘i. He wakes up every day thankful for his position. He is so thankful to his students, his extended Jiu-Jitsu family and the people that rent the space to him so he can do what he loves. Above all, he is thankful to his wife and kids for all the support they give him. Jared is a walking, talking, human form of positive energy that is contagious.

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