Jiu-Jitsu school opens in downtown Okeechobee

OKEECHOBEE — Okee Jiu-Jitsu, a new Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) martial arts school in Okeechobee, had a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 1 followed by an official grand opening and barbecue on June 2.

Okee Jiu-Jitsu teacher Master Johnny Cardona and Okeechobee Mayor Dowling Watford along with other guests cut a ribbon in front of the new martial arts school on June 1. Photo by Richard Marion.

The school, which is located at 211 S.W. Park St. next to Discount Drugs, is offering a one-week free trial to new members to try out the martial art with no need to sign a long-term contract. Master Johnny Cardona is a black belt in BJJ and teaches at the school. He believes anyone can learn and participate in the sport.

“Jiu-Jitsu is supposed to the most gentle of all the martial arts,” Mr. Cardona explained.

“It’s not about punching. It’s about learning where joints are at, and it’s a game where whenever somebody feels something hurting, they tap and must be released. Since there is no impact of punching, injuries to the brain, like in boxing, don’t happen. It’s a great sport for a kid to learn self-defense without risking an injury to the brain.”

BJJ promotes the concept that smaller, weaker people can successfully defend themselves or another person against a bigger, stronger, heavier attacker by using proper technique, leverage and, most notably, taking the fight to the ground, and then applying joint locks and choke-holds to defeat the opponent. It has become a staple in the UFC and other mixed martial arts competitions and is largely credited for bringing widespread attention to the importance of ground fighting.

Okeechobee Mayor Dowling Watford was in attendance on June 1 to help cut the ribbon, and voiced his support of the new school.

“I’ve learned a lot here today about how Jiu-Jitsu is not just about fighting; it’s a spiritual thing as well as a physical thing,” said Watford. “It’s a great sport. We’re happy to have businesses downtown; it brings more people to the area. It’s great to see our storefronts being utilized.”

Okee Jiu-Jitsu’s hours are 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. The school is also offering a children’s BJJ class on June 12 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.. Children between the ages of 5 and 13 are welcome to join the entry-level session for a tryout.

“BJJ will help you understand yourself better,” Mr. Cardona concluded. “It helps with all kinds of issues you may have, whether it’s stress or anxiety or anything. It’s a great anxiety reliever.”

Master Johnny Cardona and Okeechobee Mayor Dowling Watford shake hands shortly after the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Okee Jiu-Jitsu on June 1. Photo by Richard Marion.

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