The University of West Florida is home to a group that loves to kick, punch and throw people on to the ground, and everyone is encouraged to join in.
The action doesn’t take place with nameless hooligans in a dark alleyway, but at the HLS Facility between the members of the UWF Jiu-Jitsu Sport Club.
“You can come to the GF (Group Fitness) class. It doesn’t cost anything at all,” said Charlie Castellucci, head instructor of the jiu-jitsu club and a black belt in jiu-jitsu.
The jiu-jitsu group is a relatively new student organization. The first class was held in January 2011, and classes are held three times a week. The group welcomes anybody, regardless of previous martial arts experience, to discover the hybrid art of “cyberdo jiu-jitsu.”
In contrast to more traditional styles of jiu-jitsu, this martial arts genre includes techniques from a variety of self-defense disciplines. The style is a descendant of the ancient Samurai Bushi-kan, according to the group’s webpage. The organization’s style incorporates karate and taekwondo strikes, judo throws and basic tumbling techniques.
After the main class, students can continue to practice what they have learned during club time. The class is a formal function in which attendees perform techniques assigned by the instructor, while club time provides students extra opportunities to practice skills they want to improve on. Club members pay $5 dues each semester.
“You learn the basics, basically safety, how not to injure yourself doing all the crazy shenanigans that we get into from time to time,” said James Steele, club president and brown belt in jiu-jitsu.
Jiu-jitsu students begin as white belts, eventually graduating to yellow belt as they learn basic maneuvers and body mechanics. As students progress, they learn the importance of using an attacker’s body against him or herself and blend more techniques in striking and grappling drills, Steele said.
As students improve and earn higher ranks, they are allowed to teach the material to the class under the sensei’s supervision, he said.
Regardless of rank, the martial artists are encouraged to participate in demonstrations at the university. The jiu-jitsu group has performed at Festival on the Green in previous years and will participate in the event this year. In addition, the club has partnered with UWF sororities to host self-defense clinics.
While members of the club are also allowed to participate in area martial arts competitions, the main focus of the art is to learn self-defense skills that can be used in threatening situations, Castellucci said. Students practice ground-grappling scenarios and intense drills involving defense against knives.
Anyone interested in the club can attend classes and club time every Tuesday and Thursday in the Blue Room Studio at the HLS Facility. On Saturdays, class and club meetings are held in the Teaching Gym. Weekday practices are held from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday sessions run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.