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Community Highlights: Meet Marco Sanchez II of Straight Blast Gym SoCal

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marco Sanchez II.

Hi Marco, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles (Highland Park to be specific). Growing up in that part of LA was hard, especially because I found myself getting into fights through middle school and high school. When I was in the tenth grade, my teacher and mentor, Mike, told me that if I was going to be fighting this much, I should learn how to fight. I did Muay Thai for a few months before a friend invited me to try Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and after that first class, I was hooked. I trained on and off at Villa Park in Pasadena for about a year before Mike introduced me to Jon Boone and KenpoFit in 2009. I began training six days a week, doing American Kenpo Karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Boxing.

I trained at KenpoFit for a few years and became an instructor. In 2014 I received my black belt in Kenpo Karate, and the business moved from a small space on Allen Ave to a much larger space on Lake Ave. The gym was renamed JitsuFit to better align with our classes and interests. In 2017 we acquired the neighboring unit and doubled the size of our location. In this time, I had devoted most of my training to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and self-defense, turning our Kenpo program into a full Mixed Martial Arts program. In 2018, we joined the Straight Blast Gym International team and became Straight Blast Gym Southern California (SBG SoCal).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jon decided to close down JitsuFit. I wasn’t ready to see the gym we worked so hard to build close, so I founded Speakeasy Jiu Jitsu LLC and took over operations for SBG SoCal in 2020. I worked with the local police department to establish one of the first official police programs focused on ground control and de-escalation using Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the country. I received my black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 2021 under Matt Thornton and Matt Parks, which I count as one of my greatest achievements.

While I’m primarily committed to growing SBG SoCal, I’m currently working with other experts on the Straight Blast Gym team to further develop the police program and have started efforts to replicate this program across the country.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has not been easy, especially for a gym in the pandemic. I founded Speakeasy Jiu Jitsu LLC and took over operations for Straight Blast Gym SoCal in July 2020, just a few short months into the COVID-19 lockdowns. We were not allowed to have students in the gym, so we were forced to adapt our business model. We created a Google classroom where we would post pre-recorded classes for our students. They would follow our workouts, complete assignments, and film themselves doing the exercises and techniques for us to review. To continue engaging with our students, we transitioned to live Zoom classes, which was a huge investment in energy as we did each class alongside our students. In the fall of 2020, we were allowed to have outdoor classes in person, so we moved our operations to the parking lot. Many parents felt safe having their children join our outdoor classes since we all wore masks and were socially distanced. We saw our first new sign ups in months and slowly saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, we were allowed to move back indoors and adapted our operations to the ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions. While we continually adapted our business in light of the pandemic, we were also running a full police program, training officers and recruits. Today, the gym is now more vibrant than it was in 2019, thanks to the efforts of the SBG SoCal team. Our coaches and amazing student body allowed us to stay afloat and stuck with us through the worst of the pandemic.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Straight Blast Gym Southern California (SBG SoCal) is one of the largest gyms in Pasadena focused on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts. Our gym is equipped with over 2,500 square feet of mat space and kicking bags. We also offer Yoga classes and have a weight training and fitness area for those interested in augmenting their martial arts training.

We teach people of all walks of life and are committed to creating an inclusive and inviting training environment for all of our students. We strive to make all of our classes informative and fun, especially for our kid’s programs. We believe that everyone has the potential and ability to be truly great martial artists, no matter their age or physical ability. Whether someone is seeking a spot on the podium, aiming to stay safe or get fit, or searching for a new activity, we are eager to help our students reach their goals.

In addition to owning and operating SBG SoCal, I also create content for my Youtube channel Speakeasy Jiu Jitsu and the podcast Iron Grips, which I co-host with Jonathan Bond of Hybrid Gym LA. I also travel to other Straight Blast Gyms to teach self-defense and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu seminars.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
The gym and fitness industry took a huge hit with the COVID-19 pandemic, so I see only growth in this industry as people return to in person experiences.

As for trends, the past ten years in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu have been primarily focused on the competitive aspect of the martial art. We are starting to see a shift back to the self-defense side of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as more people want to learn how to keep themselves safe.

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Image Credits:

SBG SoCal Team

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