The Star-Herald

Gracie Fighter Jiu Jitsu opens martial arts gym on Main Street

PRESQUE ISLE, MaineGracie Fighter Jiu-Jitsu opened a second gym in Aroostook County on Sept. 12 where the business offers beginner-level training classes to kids and adults.

Rob Mockler, a blue belt instructor of Gracie Fighter, contacted Economic and Development director Galen Wiebley to expand his gym to Presque Isle to offer beginner and adult classes at the 497 Main St. building. The Caribou gym offers Mixed Martial Arts for adults.

Sean Cervany opened the first Gracie Fighter Jiu-Jitsu gym in Caribou in 2020 — a risky venture during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years later, the jiu-jitsu gym survived the pandemic, and with steady membership and with places slowly opening back up, Gracie Fighter expanded into Presque Isle.

The gym in Presque Isle is actually owned by Cerveny’s blue belt students: Jordan Lyford, Rob Mockler and Justin Michaud. All three have participated in tournaments with one being in Boston for the National American Grapple Association

At least five adults between the ages of 19 and 45 have already signed up to train at the new gym.

The focus of the Gracie Fighter Jiu-Jitsu gyms is to train people in self-defense and to take part in jiu-jitsu competitions or MMA tournaments, according to Cerveny.

“In jiu-jitsu we don’t tell you that it works, we show you that it works,” Cerveny said. “You don’t rise to the occasion; you fall back on your training.”

Cerveny wants the Presque Isle location to focus on getting beginners interested in jiu-jitsu and classes will be added with demand to eventually mirror what Gracie Fighter offers at their gym in Caribou, including combat sambo and Mixed Martial Arts.

“The best part about bringing the kids to the [Presque Isle] location is the benefits for the kids. I know a lot of kids have anxiety and have a hard time expressing themselves and then when they come in and train it builds your belief in yourself,” Lyford said.

Cerveny has a black belt in jiu-jitsu and is an undefeated professional MMA fighter and boxer. 

“You 100 percent will not develop muscle memory if you only train on compliant opponents. Unless you’re training with 100 percent resistance, people don’t move the same way and you’re not prepared for that real intensity,” Cerveny said.

The ages for the kids jiu-jitsu programs, like a bully-proof class, are 5 years and older and the adult classes are 15 years and older. There is a maximum of 15 kids for a class in Presque Isle to make it possible to train them on techniques and get them ready for tournaments. The jiu-jitsu techniques include open guard, closed guard and takedowns.

“We’ve had people come in to train that have run 5 miles every single morning and when they spar live in the first minute, they are completely exhausted and need to catch their breath,” Mockler said.

After the grapple techniques are taught, a live sparring session puts what was learned in the class into practice against a fully resistant opponent. It’s a way to prove technical knowledge and ability to an instructor when a white belt is ready to become a blue belt, which takes around two years.

“People say there’s nothing to do in The County so we’re trying to give them something to do,” Michaud said.

He said he lost 100 pounds during his first six months of training in jiu-jitsu, along with a healthy diet. He is a blue belt and one of the owners and instructors of the Presque Isle gym.

There are five belt ranks in jiu-jitsu and they go in order from white, blue, purple, brown to finally black belt. Mockler said it is difficult to get a black belt in jiu-jitsu

Gracie Fighter also offers jiu jitsu training to officers from around The County. Jiu-jitsu is the only martial art that has prevailed against all other martial arts, according to Cerveny.

“When somebody trains here under our lineage we’re taking responsibility for them, and we’re taking responsibility for the fact that if someone tries to attack you — and your life depends on it — you’re going to be able to perform,” Cerveny said.

The jiu-jitsu that Cerveny studied under was from Cesar Gracie, one of the inventors of jiu-jitsu. The Gracie family introduced jiu-jitsu by having fighters from different martial arts come and challenge them to a fight. Cerveny said that sparring in martial arts you find out what works and what doesn’t work.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — November 18, 2022 — Instructor Jordan Lyford (right) oversees students trying their techniques during a live sparing at the Gracie Fighter Jiu-Jitsu gym in Presque Isle. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — November 18, 2022 — Instructor Justin Michaud (on top) shows students how to improve their jiu-jitsu techniques during a live sparing at Gracie Fighter Jiu-Jitsu gym in Presque Isle.  (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — November 18, 2022 — The adult class of the Gracie Fighter Jiu-Jitsu gym, which opened on Sept. 12 on 497 Main Street in Presque Isle with instructors Rob Mockler (front right), Justin Michaud (front center), Jordan Lyford (front left-center), and Sean Cervany (front left). (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

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