Like most red-blooded American males, I was first introduced to the martial art known as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu back in 1993. A young, scrawny Brazilian by the name of Royce Gracie demonstrated the effectiveness of submission fighting by dispatching of much larger, scarier opponents with apparent ease in the inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship, shocking the combat sports world in the process.
The Karate Kid was out. Grappling was in.
I knew I had to learn this new fighting style post haste. Unfortunately, there were precious few qualified Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructors in the United States at the time, and virtually none here in the Valley.
When I went away to college the following year, I jumped at the first opportunity to join a dojo that taught “that Gracie Jiu Jitsu stuff.” It was a joke, the instructor a third-rate Master Ken (see below) who delivered pizza on the side. I was young and naive, but it didn’t take all that long for common sense to assert itself. I quit within six months after receiving the same number of belt promotions. Just think, if I had stuck it out for another couple of months, I likely would have received my black belt and replica samurai sword.
When I returned home from college in 1997, I decided to give jiu jitsu another go. There were basically two options at this point: a legit gym run by a legit instructor in central Phoenix, and a marginal gym run by a somewhat shady instructor in South Scottsdale.
You would think I had learned my lesson and went with the legit school, right?
I spent a little over a year learning … well, very little. The training was very much oriented towards a Hulk Smash mentality rather than technical proficiency. I competed a handful of times, acquitted myself somewhat well on raw athleticism alone, but ultimately quit to focus on my fledgling Real Estate career after a spate of injuries interrupted my training.
Flash forward a decade and a half. Time had morphed that twenty-something year old kid into a married father of three. Proud of the career I had carved out and blessed by the family that surrounded me, there was no denying, however, that something was still missing.
I needed to be challenged. I needed to compete. I needed to reconnect with something that made me feel like … me.
I needed jiu jitsu.
This time, however, I was going to do it right. I was not just going to pick the nearest location. I was not going to train at a McDojo that gave away belts with their happy meals. I was most definitely not going to learn from an instructor who was only marginally more qualified to teach jiu jitsu than my 8th grade PE teacher.
With impeccable credentials, an excellent facility, and a stable full of high level practitioners / competitors, Gustavo’s academy was as good as it got.
Nervous but determined, I scheduled a trial class and donned a gi (kimono) for the first time in nearly 15 years. That was two years ago this past fall. Between that day and now, the tremendous instruction and good-spirited competition with skilled training partners has resulted in the kind of training that I have dreamed of experiencing since 1993. My skills on the mat have improved by leaps and bounds, and even more importantly, I have been able to demonstrate the value of hard work and dedication to my children. I get to show them rather than merely tell them.
In fact, my experience at GD Jiu Jitsu has been so positive that my wife and boys have taken classes as well. You see, jiu jitsu is not just for the fellas. Designed to give smaller, weaker persons a fighting chance against bigger, stronger opponents, the argument can be made that jiu jitsu is even more beneficial to women and children than it is to the super athletes in our midst. This is readily apparent in the family-friendly environment of Gustavo’s gym. You couldn’t ask for a more positive atmosphere.
Whether you train to compete, stay in shape, learn to defend yourself, blow off steam, or to simply challenge yourself, you will find no better venue for the pursuit of your goals than GD Jiu Jitsu.
A certified mental coach in addition to his decorated jiu jitsu pedigree (4th degree black belt and multiple time world champion under famed Nova Uniao co-founder Andres Pederneiras), Gustavo’s program is invaluable for those who need help coping with high-stress situations, both on and off the mat. The successes and failures one experiences along the way provide the impetus for personal growth that permeates all aspects of one’s life.
Looking for a change? Want to try something new? I highly encourage you to give jiu jitsu a shot. You are capable of far more than you know. It’s time you proved it to yourself.
Digging through my old archives for additional community information I could use to populate this site, I came across this video I shot aboard the Standard Pacific Railroad at the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in McCormick Ranch (Scottsdale). Hard to believe it’s already been two and a half years since I shot this, as I barely recognize the cast in comparison to their 2010 doppelgangers. Time flies when you’re chasing your children around the house with a fire extinguisher full of holy water. Looking for something to do with the munchkins this weekend? There are worse ways to spend an afternoon. Enjoy.
No plans for the upcoming weekend other than consciously staving off spontaneous combustion from the privacy of your own air conditioned home? You might want to check out the “Winter In July” event taking place this Saturday (7/17) morning at the Phoenix Zoo. Between the hours of 7 – 11 AM, the zoo will do its darnedest to make you forget that it’s hotter than molten lava sunscreen by importing 25 tons of man-made snow for kids (and the young at heart) to play in, and an additional 35 tons for the animals. Observe special feedings around various cold concoctions for the big cats (follow the link below for specific times). Watch the elephant get a hose-down courtesy of the Tolleson Fire Department. Witness with morbid fascination as marmots are cryogenically frozen and sold at the concession stand as otter pops (I kid, I kid. Don’t call PETA). A slip-n-slide will be in full swing, along with the splash pad and water cavern play areas.
Aside from We’re Going to Disneyland, All the Rock Candy You Can Eat and, possibly, No School Today, you won’t find too many phrases that resonate with the children of Scottsdale more than Mighty Mud Mania.
Held annually at Chaparral Park in central Scottsdale (just East of Hayden, between Chaparral and Jackrabbit Rds), Mighty Mud Mania was originally conceived as an advertising ploy by the good people at Johnson’s Wax for their “Shout” spray pre-wash product. Encouraging kids to navigate an appropriately mud-laden obstacle course, the idea was to demonstrate how the detergent could remove even the toughest stains from the 300 free white shirts that were provided to the pioneering entrants.
The kids and the Scottsdale mud proved more than a match for the product’s stain-fighting prowess. The idea stuck, however, as the city adopted the concept as a fun diversion from the dog days of summer, and now multiple sponsors help pull the event together every year.
Celebrating its 35th incarnation this year, Mighty Mud Mania has grown from its gimmicky origins to a spectacle that draws as many as 10,000 participants. Now including mud pits for children of all ages, shaded sand boxes, a stage with entertainment and participation performances, water slides, concessions and hose-down area (courtesy of a hose down from the local Fire Department) in addition to the ubiquitous obstacle course/steeplechase/sanctioned insanity that started it all, the fun has morphed from the means to the ends. Entrance and participation is free, though donations and canned food drop-offs (collected by the Vista Del Camino Food Bank) are encouraged. With the crowds that attend the event nowadays, parking has become a bit of a challenge. As such, overflow parking is provided at Mohave Middle School, with buses on hand to transport those in attendance. Admission to the public pool at Chaparral park is also reduced to $1 between 11 AM and 3 PM on the day of the event.
Of course, having a relative that lives half a block from the park is also a perk. We were fortunate to be able to park in the Crestwood subdivision (directly East of the pedestrian entrance to Chaparral Park on Vista Dr), and walk our boys over for this year’s fun. One day, and one day only, it took place this past Saturday, June 19th, between 8:30 AM and 2 PM. Here is a pictorial recap of the filthy carnage that ensued. (click images to enlarge)
Mighty Mud Mania: just one more thing that makes Scottsdale Scottsdale.
Recognizing that one has a problem is the first step towards overcoming addiction. Recognizing that one harbors a chemical dependency on roasted caffeinated goodness … not so much. I am a full-blown, pull-my-hair-out-by-the-roots java junkie. I don’t need help, I just need a double espresso with a finish so smooth it could be mistaken for a shot of liquid chocolate pudding, with just the gentlest punch of bitterness to let me know it was there.
Navigating the streets of Scottsdale as I attend to the affairs of an artificially tireless Realtor, I often find my vehicle caught in the tractor beam of a certain coffee franchise. The telltale logo of the not to be mentioned chain exerting some jedi mind trick that compels me to add a cup of coffee to the itinerary, whether truly needed or not. We have all had our brains thoroughly washed. The convenience of a store on every corner and a known commodity effectively overriding the inherent appeal of a true coffee house: the attention to unique local roast, the vibe, a menu that goes beyond pre-packaged food choices.
We have willingly exchanged quality for convenience.
What if I were to tell locals to the South Scottsdale and North Tempe area that you can have both? Boasting a locale that has screamed for just such a new neighbor, recently opened Echo Coffee is the brainchild of Steve Belt, formerly of Realty Executives. Anyone who knows Steve will attest to the fact that he doesn’t do anything half-way. From the scrutiny of the individual beans to the roasting techniques utilized, he has managed to create several distinguishably unique brews (including the flagship “Titus” blend) that overwhelm any lingering desire of this self-professed coffee snob to return to the barren confines of the brand that rhymes with “Tarsucks.”
Echo Coffee is not my new favorite Scottsdale coffee shop for the product alone, but for the ultra modern atmosphere that buzzes with technology enthusiasts, professionals, students, etc. As techie as they come (hence the superb attention to minutia that makes the joint shine), Mr. Belt has crafted an environment that encourages a connoisseur to bring his/her laptop, tap into to the available Wi-Fi and comport the virtual dealings of the day.
While just about every confection you have been hooked on by the big guys is available at Echo Coffee, I am a black coffee kind of guy. I highly recommend chasing a shot of espresso with a cup of the Titus blend while nibbling on the absurdly delicious Mediterranean Tuna sandwich (an amazing tuna fish creation with cannellini beans, olive oil, vinegar and challots on foccia bread with no heart-attack inducing mayo). It’s an organic menu to boot, if you are into that sort of thing. Think locally and give an upstart a shot. My hunch is you won’t be tempted to return to the soulless purgatory of the coffee Borg anytime soon.
Echo Coffee is located at the NW corner of Thomas Rd and 68th St. in Scottsdale, AZ (85251). Let me know when you’re going and I’ll meet you for a cup!
Please visit Echo online for hours, directions and additional information.
One of the great things about the Phoenix metropolitan area is the abundance of unique weekend destinations for both food and fun. While I love all that my home city of Scottsdale has to offer during the week, I like to load the family into the car on the weekend and visit one of the many attractions that the rest of the Valley has to offer.
The Farm at South Mountain is one of my favorite spots to enjoy healthy breakfast fare which consists of fresh local produce, herbs, citrus and dairy. I wolf down the Southwestern breakfast burrito with a medley of fresh vegetables on most occasions. Located right next to the organic garden, the outdoor seating area commands instant relaxation. Even if your eldest child is actively trying to stab your youngest with a fork.
The 12 acre expanse of The Farm includes three separate restaurants. The Morning Glory is, predictably, a breakfast cafe. The Farm Kitchen is the original restaurant, and primarily serves lunch along with morning snacks. With park bench seating under the shady branches of a pecan tree grove, you’ll forget that you are in the desert while enjoying a made-from-scratch treat. The Quiessence Restaurant and Wine Bar is what you think it is: upscale dining. Phoenix Magazine tagged it as “the best restaurant in Phoenix” in January, 2007. Contemporary American farm cuisine is the moniker given to the menu. I don’t know what that means, but the organic, locally produced dishes are amazing.
Other attractions on The Farm include:
The Retreat: Straight from their website, The Retreat invites (by appointment) patrons to “Deeply relax and rejuvenate with massage. hot and cold stones, shiatsu, vibrational essences, facials, tea ceremonies, intuitive readings, healing sessions and more.”
The Artist Studio: Also according to their website, “The Artist Studio at The Farm is a new cultural/educational center working to promote creativity while connecting with deeper values in the natural environs of The Farm. Visit The Cottage, home to ever changing art mediums featuring the fine art of Artist’s in Residence. Relax and enjoy shopping for original gifts created by local artists. In The Studio we offer art classes, writing workshops, educational lectures, youth home school classes, field trips and staff retreats.”
The Doctor’s Office, likewise by appointment only, is home to a resident practitioner of naturopathic medicine.
Maya’s at The Farm is the organic garden which produces many of the fresh vegetables and herbs used by the three restaurants. Named for Maya Dailey, who tends the garden, Maya’s holds a farmer’s market every Saturday between 9 AM and 1 PM. In adjunct to the garden is a greenhouse and the chicken coup (my boys’ personal favorite). Watch those little fingers, though, as the chicken wire enclosure is electrified!
The Farm is a magical place to visit for special occasions as well as laconic Sunday mornings. I have been fortunate to enjoy birthdays, Easter brunch and just-because mornings within its friendly confines, and have never left in a bad mood.
Private parties and weddings are available for booking as well.
Whether you are new to the area, visiting for the season, or one who simply doesn’t often venture outside of your comfort zone in Scottsdale or Paradise Valley, I urge you to make a trip to this special place. The coffee is good, the mimosas are great, and the setting is out of this world!
Paul Slaybaugh with Realty Executives is your guide to Scottsdale Real Estate. A Scottsdale native, Paul has been selling homes in Scottsdale, Phoenix and Paradise Valley since 1999, and selling the virtues of Arizona living even longer. If you are looking to buy or sell in the greater Scottsdale area, or just wondering where to get a decent cup of coffee and an omelet, Paul’s your guy.