Beverly Hills Magazine Article – November 2005
This article was originally ran in the Beverly Hills Magazine November, 2005 issue.
Self-Defense is an art form as old as man himself. It’s an instinct that bridges race, creed, color and religion. It can be a highly evolved form of art or a brawlers adrenalin filled rampage.
Many people have recently become interested in the NHB (No Holds Barred) style of sport fighting made popular by programs such as the Ultimate Fighting Championships and the PRIDE Fighting Circuit. These programs where designed to test the skill and effectiveness of many martial art forms as applied to real life situations. This is the ART of self-defense in its truest nature.
As ALL these competitors learn, no matter what style you utilize, the effectiveness of true self-defense is measured by your abilities in both standing and ground defense skills. The most famous and respected NHB Champion, Royce Gracie, has been teaching his family’s unique form of Jiu Jitsu in California for over a decade. One of Royce’s schools is located right here in Beverly Hills!
Royce comes to Beverly Hills on a regular basis to educate those that are interested in what many feel is the most effective form of self-defense. With local educator, Sam Marcellini also incorporating Shorin Kung Fu, Chinese Boxing and an Assult Prevention program for Women, this school is fast becoming the premier martial arts training facility in the IE.
INTERVIEW: with SAM MARCELLINI
Q: In your opinion what is missing in today’s Martial Arts Schools or the self-defense programs available to our society?
A: A complete self-defense program should cover any position a person may encounter in a self-defense situation. This program should cover ground fighting. According to the L.A.P.D., 85% of fights end up on the ground. Yet, that is the most neglected aspect of Martial Arts in the United States. Traditional Martial Arts such as Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Kung Fu, even Boxing and Kick-Boxing do not teach you how to handle an attacker on the ground properly. This is very important for people who are interested in developing true self-defense, especially women. Ground fighting is absolutely necessary.
Q: Is this the only thing that is missing in today’s Martial Art schools?
A: I think there is a big problem with today’s Martial Arts industry. While the traditional martial artists put a lot of focus on discipline, respect, loyalty, and integrity, which is great, but they are lacking the true self-defense ability because of certain weaknesses in their styles. As mentioned earlier, they do not train ground fighting properly. Other types of Martial Arts that may seem more like a sport and more hands on, can be effective, but lack the spirituality and respect element. There are people who train in boxing, kick-boxing, wrestling, or mixed Martial Arts, but unfortunately are not taught the proper mentality behind it. Many professional fighters today are missing that spiritual and mental aspect of Martial Arts because they were not taught it.
Q: Do you think Jiu-Jitsu or ground fighting is something that the other instructors or schools could easily pick up and incorporate into their programs?
A: One of the unique things about Jiu-Jitsu is its intricate and amazing use of leverage that enables you to defend yourself against a much stronger opponent. Grappling is a very technical art and it takes a long period of training before someone is able to teach it properly. I am the only person in Beverly Hills who is teaching it or at least teaching it properly.
Q: How much time have you spent on learning this art?
A: I have over 25 years of experience in Martial Arts and have dedicated my life to Jiu-Jitsu / Grappling for the last 12 years. I’ve trained with Royce Gracie, his family and I am very confident that I am helping people with true self-defense and teaching them this art properly.
Q: What are some of the mental and spiritual aspects of Martial Arts and how could that educate you in everyday life?
A: I believe that Martial Arts is a form of education. It teaches you to go beyond your fears and limiting thoughts. A true martial artist will learn more everyday that he/she spends on the mat, about life and about themself.
Studying Martial Arts teaches people how to stay cool and not panic under pressure. It teaches them how to focus and that the great achievements in life are done with hard work, persistence, patience and a free mind. They learn that the mission is more important than the outcome. Not only does Martial Arts keep people healthy and gives them a sound mind, Martial Arts give people a true sense of confidence.
This is one of the most valuable things that they will carry for the rest of their life. A true martial artist should be a very respectful person with loyalty and integrity. I think that if you have a fighter who does not have these, they may be a good technician but they are not a true Martial Artist. A true martial artist is a man among men.
Q: Why do you think Jiu-Jitsu is becoming such a popular form of self-defense?
A: Well, it works. Also, Jiu-Jitsu is not so hard on your body as far as absorbing strikes and things like that. It’s not very violent, so you have the option of not hurting someone and subduing them. That’s very good because if you really hurt someone in a self-defense situation there may be problems with the law or you may have people who will retaliate.
Q: How does real self-defense or an effective program relate to the benefits and spirituality gained from Martial Arts?
A: The more effective your training is, the more real your confidence will be and the more real all these benefits will be. Therefore, you will have a real chance to implement your Martial Arts education and training into your life. Martial Arts will help you become successful in whatever it is you are doing. Sometimes the schools give people a false sense of security. Students begin to feel like they are confident and know what they are doing, but unfortunately if they encounter a situation where they find out that they are not as good as they were told or thought they were, then their confidence gets shattered.
Of course that could be very harmful, physically and emotionally. I think it is very important for the students to have the real training because everything else that goes along with it is going to be real and real things are not so easily broken or taken away from you.
Q: Besides Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I see you offer Shorin Kung-Fu and Chinese boxing, can you tell us a little more about them?
A: The Shorin Kung-Fu program is also a unique program. Shorin Kung-Fu is a combination of Kung-Fu, Karate, Jiu-Jitsu and Chinese Boxing. The founder of this art is Grandmaster Gene Brigham who spent decades in Asia mastering these arts. I am his highest ranking student. As a certified instructor in Shorin-Kung Fu and with his blessings, I try to make the art better and enhance it to the best of my knowledge. As an experienced fighter in the mixed Martial Arts world and my involvement with a reality based combat, I enhanced the art more by adding kick boxing and Thai boxing techniques.
The Chinese boxing also included in this program is a very unique style. Chinese boxing is basically Thai boxing with take downs. A lot of the Chinese boxing competitors, now train in Thai boxing and wrestling. You are not only learning how to punch and kick, you are learning how to become aware if someone were to grab or throw you, and vice versa. I find this to be a very affective striking art. At my facility, I don’t like to have the beginning students do full contact kick boxing or Thai boxing because I feel if that is done prematurely. The students may get carried away and take some unnecessary punishment. I believe in teaching the average people and making sure that their safety is a priority.
We teach them all the techniques that Thai boxers and kick boxers use. We have them do light sparing and point sparing, but until they are very advanced, or getting ready for a professional fight, I don’t let my students use much contact. In Boxing and Kick-Boxing you may suffer repetitive small concussions and it could end up being very harmful to your brain (your strongest weapon). I do not believe that is really necessary, especially if you know a lot more than just punching and kicking.
Q: Are the styles taught at your academy, including the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, something that everyone can learn?
A: Absolutely, I can’t put enough emphasis on how unique the jiu-jitsu that we do is, because it doesn’t really require strength or certain physical ability to pull it off. You don’t need to be an athlete or a certain size it works for everybody.
All the techniques are based on leverage and timing and it is very affective, yet there is no strength involved with what we’re doing. You’re able to subdue people that are bigger and stronger than you. I’m not just saying this, if you watch the first and second Ultimate Fighting Championship my teacher Royce Gracie is the smallest guy but he beats everyone without hurting them.
Q: You have a lot of rewards for academic achievements for children and teenagers, can you tell me a little about that and how it relates to Martial Arts?
A: Kids who get straight A’s are rewarded and I consider that as a positive thing and it helps them for their promotion. I believe that someone who is a true martial artist should be focused in everything they do and it shows in all their activities and involvements. Actually, many of my experienced students do very well in school because they are more focused and disciplined.
Q: You’ve had other successful businesses, why do you choose to teach Martial Arts?
A: I love what I do, but I mainly teach Martial Arts because I know it affects people in a positive way. I do not just teach people how to fight, although, I love to see students who are really effective in defending themselves and are confident. That makes me really happy. But I mainly teach Martial Arts because people that get involved with it have better lives. Teenagers and kids who get involved with it have an activity to focus on. It’s something that, not only builds character, but keeps the body healthy, strong and your mind sound.
Q: How important is it, for people interested in Martial Arts training, to do research and make sure they are joining the right place?
A: It’s very important that you learn it at the right place because it has to have the balance of the spirituality as well as the effectiveness of it. If you have one and not have the other you are not really benefiting from what Martial Arts has to offer.
Q: How has your experience with Royce Gracie and the Gracie family been?
A: I started training with the Gracie family back in the beginning of 1994 and it’s been something that I’ve been doing on a consistent basis since then. They really welcomed me and after awhile they really treated me like family. That is the kind of school that I want to have as well. That’s the way I like to look at my students. That’s the kind of environment I’d like everyone to see or feel when they walk into the school. That is why we put so much emphasis on safety and solid, effective training.
Q: Besides all the spiritual benefits and education you get through Martial Arts, what can your students do with their training?
A: The sky is the limit with people who stick with it. This is a place where the average person or a handicap person can walk in and become very effective in self-defense. People that do decide to do this professionally are at the right place. This is a facility that is fully capable of taking them to the highest levels that the Martial Arts world has to offer.
Q: What do you expect from your students?
A: I expect my students to be respectful and have good character. When my students do get to compete at the world class levels, I would definitely like to see them be respectful and demonstrate the attitude of a true Martial Artist. It’s very important to me that the students that learn from me don’t use it in an abusive fashion. What’s taught in my school is for self defense and competition only. It should never be used to bully someone or in any wrong way. If I feel like a student is using it in a wrong way or is not being respectful to other people or the school I will terminate their training at once. I’m not going to put up with that. Besides, I want what I’m showing them to benefit them. Usually, if they use it in the wrong way it will bring them down and/or cause trouble for them. I don’t want to see that happen either.
Q: What about the students that you may encounter that may be lacking respect or are troubled in certain ways?
A:I do run into troubled teens and adults sometimes. However, if I do run into troubled teens or adults that need our help, we definitely do try to give them attention and hope that learning the art will change them and make them respectful members of the society.
One of the main reasons why I teach Martial Arts is to affect these people in a good way. When I ask them not to use the art in an abusive way, I really mean it. I expect them to have enough respect for me, in return of what I’m giving to them, that they’d listen to that.
I did not dedicate my life to teaching people to go around hurting people. That is not my mission here that’s not what I’m here for.
Q: Your students seem to really appreciate and respect your efforts, why do you think that is?
A: Those who train with me at my facility are learning world class Martial Arts. They are learning the best techniques in the world. They are becoming truly confident people and what they’re getting has a lot more value than what they’re paying for.
I have sought after the best martial artist in the world and I’ve commuted to them for over a decade on a consistent basis. I’ve invested a lot into what I’m teaching. The Gracie family, Royce Gracie and Grandmaster Brigham are very special people in my life. What I’m sharing with them is a very personal thing to me.
First of all, I’d like to thank God, secondly, my teachers, Royce Gracie, Grandmaster Helio Gracie, and Grandmaster Brigham.
Also, special thanks to Rorion Gracie for bringing Jiu-Jitsu to the U.S. and Rener, Ryron, Rodrigo Gracie, Rico Chiaparelli, Rob Kaman for training me.