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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on April 16th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 6 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 15, Issue 6

Paragon of Santa Maria makes a name for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu


The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training facility in Santa Maria is growing every week, drawing people into the disciplined and exciting world of martial arts.

Two men are lying on a smooth, yellow mat; their breathing is heavy, their arms and legs are impossibly tangled together, and their skin shines with sweat. They remain locked together, each trying to anticipate the other’s next move. One man is bigger than the other, but in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, size really doesn’t matter.

There are several pairs like this spread across the mat, each engaged in a separate fierce battle of bodies, mind, and endurance. There’s no talking; there’s no music—only the sound of panting and the slap of bodies against the floor.

There are those who refer to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a “gentle” martial art, but if the action on the mats at Paragon is any indication, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is anything but.

Head instructor and fighter at Paragon Lance Glynn said BJJ is a self-defense sport based on the ground.

“It’s for the small guy to beat the big guy,” he said. “It’s more about leverage and technique; strength doesn’t matter.”

The sport combines simple, detailed instruction and great work ethic. There are physical and technical aspects that must be equally respected in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Paragon of Santa Maria is a fast-growing community of dedicated professional and recreational fighters. Glynn, who’s been training in BJJ for 11 years, said the gym opened three years ago and had to relocate to a 5,000-square-foot space to accommodate the rising numbers.

“We have over 190 members, and we are growing every single week,” Glynn said. “Our kids program is growing the quickest.”

Glynn said that program boasts 30-plus kids in each age division; there are 90 kids total. He’s been working with the kids for 10 years. One aspect of the program involves taking the kids to watch and compete in fighting tournaments. Outside of all that, Glynn said there are some definite benefits for the young people training in BJJ.

“It is a huge confidence builder for kids,” Glynn said. “Kids come in here who have been bullied at school and don’t have a lot of friends. Then in a month or two they transform and are super outgoing, and the exercise is good for them.”

Paragon, which bears the symbol of a black panther, has been steadily drawing attention as a center for quality, competitive training on the Central Coast. The gym walls are decorated with several belts and awards from previous competitions. Most recently, four BJJ fighters from Paragon brought home numerous belts from their Five Grappling tournament in Las Vegas; Glynn himself racked up several belts along with Peter and Francis Fabela and Ryan Campbell.

“I fought six matches in that tournament,” Glynn said. “It’s been our best trip so far this year.”

He said that at the bigger tournaments, fighters will have anywhere from six to eight matches with 120-plus competitors in their weight divisions.

“The sport is getting so big, the smaller tournaments have really talented fighters, too,” Glynn shared.

Peter Fabela is another fighter on the Paragon competition team, and he also recently brought home a belt from Vegas. Fabela has been training for almost four years.

“My dad owned a karate studio, so I have been around martial arts my whole life,” he said.

This year, both Fabela and Glynn said the team is trying to compete at least two times a month, but they’re looking for more sponsors to help offset travel costs. According to both fighters, live competition is a factor in success on the mat.

“A big part of the tournaments is mental,” Glynn said. “If you don’t compete a lot, you aren’t as strong mentally.”

Despite the grueling turnaround, the fighter said they travel so much to keep up their mental game.

While there are plenty of people who use BJJ for building confidence or getting in shape, those who compete follow a rigorous training schedule. Glynn, Fabela, and the rest of the competition squad train during all class sessions. When they aren’t at the gym, they’re usually sleeping. Some of the fighters train multiple times a day.

“Here at our school, you have to train hard and be committed,” Glynn said. “You need to be on the mat at least four or five days a week.”

Part of training includes honing technique and building speed and strength. Glynn said Paragon incorporates cardio conditioning and yoga into the training regimen as well; the idea is to create well-rounded fighters.

According to Glynn, some people will develop faster with BJJ than others. The underlying principle is that the moves are repetitive: The more you practice, the faster you become.

“Conditioning is the most challenging part of BJJ; you have to train the right way to be successful and maintain a good pace in matches,” Fabela said, adding that part of training includes battling for five six-minute rounds.

During a fight, Fabela said that your whole focus becomes you and your opponent on the mat. Most of the fight takes place on the ground; fighters have to learn how to play off their backs.

“We all have our own game plans; everyone has certain moves that work better for them than others,” Fabela said. “It’s kind of like a chess match—it all depends on what the other person is going to do, and you need to be three steps ahead of them.”

Fabela and Glynn both said that although BJJ incorporates a variety of wrestling takedowns, it progresses at a much slower pace than wrestling. The beauty of the sport is in how you can adapt different moves to your body type and focus more on its technical aspect.

Both instructors said there are several females who train with Paragon, grappling with each other, as well as with males, for training; the sport is an excellent form of self-defense.

“The learning environment here makes learning easy,” Glynn said. “We try to keep the moves simple and let everyone build their own game strategy.”

Regardless of your goals with BJJ, Glynn said you must have fun with it—the belts will come. If you’re in it only to promote yourself, the fighter said you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

The sport has exploded in popularity in recent years. Glynn said you can go to nearly any city now and find a BJJ training facility; the sport could become even bigger than wrestling or judo.

“All walks of life come in here. It brings people together,” Glynn said. “We don’t want people to come just to learn; we want them to have fun, socialize, and get away for a while.”

Glynn said if someone wants to try BJJ, he or she doesn’t have to be in shape at the start. All that’s required is a willingness to learn and have fun. The rest will follow.m


Staff writer Kristina Sewell is going to give Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a try! Contact her at

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