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Meet Jeff Nolasco

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeff Nolasco.

Hi Jeff, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
My love of sharing martial arts started in 2008, with assisting in teaching youth classes at Tinguinha BJJ Academy. I have been able to witness students build their sense of self and confidence through martial arts training, and having a hand in it as an instructor is deeply satisfying. Then in 2013, I got a job as a trainer at UFC gym.

At that time, I was using martial arts training as a means to get people to adopt healthier lifestyles, but ultimately my goal was to get people to fall in love with Jiu Jitsu. By 2016, I was given the opportunity of developing and running a brand new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu program at UFC Gym La Mirada. In that time, there was plenty of growth and learning on how to run a program and be business-minded. By 2020, things were going as well as can be. I had big plans for myself and the team I had built, but as you know in March everything changed. I was let go from what I believed (at the time) was my dream job. Luckily, I had some students reach out who wanted to continue their training, either through video conferencing and/or in person. So with my first unemployment check, I bought some mats and made a small training area in my garage.

As the summer progressed, more and more people decided that the benefits of continuing their training outweighed the risks of getting sick. I mean, we are technically exercising when we are training, but for most people who fall in love with Jiu Jitsu, their BJJ schools become their “third place”. Because it is not just about physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. Today, I have been not-so-secretly operating my martial arts school for several months now. So looking back, 2020 was a year of big things, just not what I had originally planned. In 2020 I became a small business owner and am making my passion and my students the focus of my business.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. Every phase of building my business has been met with some struggles, compounded by all the challenges presented with new routines and safety procedures. In the beginning, the struggle was debating if what I was doing was “legal”. We were told to not gather unless in protest. Then the challenge was how do I get people into my garage with out drawing attention to my house. I wasn’t sure what my neighbor’s feelings were at the time, but it literally looked like an underground fight club getting to my garage. When I was able to move to an actual business location, I was worried about being shut down. Luckily for every obstacle that presented itself, a solution followed soon after.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I have been teaching martial arts since 2009 and I specialize in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. What makes my training facility unique is the sense of camaraderie the students have with each other. I am most proud of each student’s transformation that takes place through martial arts training. Sure there are physical benefits of increasing flexibility, coordination, and learning self-defense, but students of all ages develop a boost in self-confidence while also being humble.

Are there any books, apps, podcasts or blogs that help you do your best?
One book that left a big impression on me is “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink. It showed me how taking responsibility for everything in your life, rather than finding excuses, can be really empowering. BJJ Mental Models is a podcast I follow because it’s a conceptual approach to jiu-jitsu. They discuss not only the philosophy of the martial art but also approaches to business.

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