story By Emilie McGrath photos by David Cook
When the work and school day ends for Crystal, Jonathan, Mia and Jonathan Fowler Jr., family time begins. Since October 2017, family play with a purpose takes place at Barra Jiu-Jitsu gym in Gainesville.
The Gracie Barra gym in Gainesville is owned and operated by Jose and Jessica Alvarez, under head instructor Fabio Costa, a fourth degree black belt. Jose first discovered and fell in love with the art of Jiu-Jitsu while recovering from an injury while in the ROTC. Fueled by the passion to enhance his training and to build a safer community for families in Gainesville, the Alvarez couple invested their life savings to open the school.
Embodying the theme of Gracie Barra Jiu-JItsu, which is “Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone”, Jose stated, “Jiu-Jitsu blurs cultural lines. When you step onto the mat, we are all equal and we are all a family, coming together to make ourselves, our families, and our communities better. Anyone can do Jiu-Jitsu, regardless of fitness level, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.”
Echoing Jose’s sentiments, Fowler commented, “We initially joined the gym as a family to have something to do together other than sitting in front of the TV. Jiu-Jitsu has become so much more for us. There is a true comradery and friendship here.”
Jiu-Jitsu, a form of martial arts, translates to mean “the gentle art.” It is one of the most rapidly growing arts in the world, because it requires both functionality and fitness. The essence of the art is rooted in its origins of self-defense. The values instilled in the art of Jiu-Jitsu can be applied in any of our day-to-day goals, whether we seek greater fitness, flexibility, self-defense, or self-esteem.
For Jonathan Fowler, father and law enforcement officer, participating in the sport has been beneficial in both of these roles in his life. “We started Jiu-Jitsu to get in better shape and meet our fitness goals. However, learning the art of Jiu-Jitsu has tremendously increased my confidence as a police officer. It has given me another tool to use to de-escalate situations using minimal force.”
The Gracie Barra model of Jiu-Jitsu has further revolutionized this “gentle art.” The first family of Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu, headed by Master Carlos Gracie Senior, forged the art into a way of life, leading Carlos Gracie, Jr. to create Gracie Barra. The Gracie
family has shared this art with the world and has extended an open invitation to all who seek a more gentle and humble path for their family, not just on the Jiu-Jitsu mats, but in every arena of life. The training model focuses on promoting the family unit while simultaneously instilling core values such as respect, discipline, cooperation, and teamwork. There are currently over 700 Gracie Barra schools throughout the world, drawing together people from all cultures to share this passion.
Crystal Fowler, a high school art teacher, mother and wife, stated, “It has been so encouraging to see my children’s (Mia, 8, Jonathan Jr., 6) confidence soar by taking the kid’s classes. It teaches them how strong they are and what they are capable of achieving. Even more importantly, it gives us a common goal as a family. We can practice with each other, making one another better, and therefore our family bond stronger. It teaches us how to face challenges as a family and how beneficial it is to learn to navigate life together though learning this art.”
For the Fowler family, participating in Jiu-Jitsu is much more than a hobby. It is a refuge, a carved out time to be together. It is a place where family and community precedes self, yet where individual confidence is gained to empower one another. In the words of head instructor Fabio Costa, “We are stronger when we are connected and when each of us works towards maintaining our individual integrity.”
Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu gym
821 Dawsonville Hwy Suite 200, Gainesville, GA 30501
706-531-4356 • https://graciebarra.com/gainesville-ga/