By DAVID LOPEZ
Special to the NEWS
The first man to bring Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to the Rio Grande Valley is Johnny Garcia. Born and raised in Brownsville and now a resident of the San Benito community, Garcia has opened up shop on Highway 77. Garcia Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been up and running for six months, but the journey has been a long way coming for Garcia who began this journey nearly 22 years ago.
Garcia knew nothing about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu until 1997 when he and his friends illegally streamed a UFC fight at work. Garcia remembers seeing a skinny fighter who could take guys 150 pounds heavier than him by using defense techniques Johnny had never seen before, and he was determined to master those same skills. He found what he was seeking in Knoxville, Tennessee where he found the only school for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu within his radar. He trained for two years, earned his blue belt in Brooks, Kentucky, and soon with his job was transferred back to Brownsville at the turn of the century. Returning to the Rio Grande Valley eager to share his new knowledge, Garcia’s idea manifested itself as a business out of his garage.
“There were several guys that called me up wanting to train, so they were coming around from my neighborhood, and before you knew it I had a clan of people. So I made the move to open up a place in Brownsville because the guys could no longer fit in my garage,” said Johnny Garcia.
Garcia continued his training under Royce Gracie, a famed Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter who popularized the sport along with his brothers. Garcia was sent out to Japan in 2001 running the Gracie Academy. Through this association he was able to travel to Thailand, China, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Holland. Garcia currently has a BJJ association school in Scopje, Macedonia, where the BJJ scene is in its infancy.
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