Caveirinha Jiu Jitsu Family Yucaipa (CJJF), a jiu jitsu academy, held one of its first planned competitions for the year 2020 in Yucaipa on Feb. 8. The academy is owned and under the instruction of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Professor Aaron Miller. Coach Heather VanderWeerd also is co-owner of the academy. Helping them run the tournament was Professor Amanda Miller who is a black belt. There are less than 300 female black belts in the world.
Miller said, “I came from a family of four with an older sister, two older brothers so I’m the baby … and had to push my way through to be better.”
He went on to say, “I treat every single kid like they are my own. We have 140 kids in our classes with a limit of 40 in each class.”
When asked about female black belts in this sport, “There are under 300 total female black belts in the world.” said Amanda.
“I was in sports all my life but completely stopped when I graduated with a bachelor’s in kinesiology and I had gained about 40 pounds in one year,” said Amanda.
She went on to say, “I have never in all my life been overweight. For me, that is one of the things that got me interested in wanting to do something active. I was living with my brother at the time and he was coming back all sweaty so I asked him ‘what are you doing?’ He was talking about it (jiu jitsu) and it sounded kind of interesting and he encouraged me to try it. There were a couple of girls in the boxing class so I started at Miller’s first gym in Hacienda Heights in 2010. I tried the first class and haven’t looked back since then.”
VanderWeerd started training at age 37. She met Miller at CJJF Corona gym where Miller had a Jiu Jitsu program at 6 a.m. and she had a friend that went. “I was interested in it but I wear many hats,” said VanderWeerd.
She continued saying, “This gave me that feeling of being able to work toward something and get rewarded for it. It is something I can do for myself. It turned into more than I ever expected.”
Professor Aaron Miller believes you should “Follow your heart, live your dreams, believe in the impossible. At times you will fall, at times you will fail, but each day is a new day and another chance to find yourself within yourself.”
CJJF is a world wide jiu jitsu organization which started in 1996. In 2013, the CJJF Yucaipa was opened and in August 2019 another location was opened in Corona.
“All martial arts are beneficial to all kids, that is just the bottom line. They learn self-discipline, self-respect but jiu jitsu stands out above any other martial arts because of the hands-on activity between one student and another. In most martial arts there is a lot of form, acadas, things they do on their own where they are not really practicing with another student,” said Miller.
Classes include Kids Fundamentals, Kids Advance, Adult Fundamentals, Adult Advance, Combat Jiu Jitsu and Women’s Self Defense. Classes are offered for kids ages 3 and up and boxing for kids 10 and up. Also offered besides the jiu jitsu is boxing and fitness classes for adults of all ages and levels. Free seminars for anti-bullying and self-defense are available.
Classes are structured around what the need of the student may be and depends on the students experience and skill level. All classes are limited as the Millers and VanderWeerd want each student to get the instruction needed to advance in each skill level, so they rely partially on the students with higher belts and experience to help assist with the newer students in the classes.
“What makes it an amazing community is the fact that the people that have been with me for seven years, since I opened up in Yucaipa, are now helping the next generation, either kids or adults, that are now trying jiu jitsu,” said Miller.
There were about 110 competitors ages 3 to 60, with their families attending this event. Starting with the small to the tall, the event opened with competition of the 3 to 5 year olds.
Kaizayah Irizarry who was 3 1/2 years old from Eastvale, came in second place in his division and with this being his very first interview he said what he liked best about Jiu Jitsu was the “fighting.” His parents April and Archie Irizarry enjoyed watching him compete.
It took 3 1/2 years for Kirby Wooldrige to become a blue belt. He is also one of the coaches who helps train those with less experience. His son has been involved in this sport for five years and they enjoy doing jiu jitsu as a family. “I come to Yucaipa as there are a lot of really good people here as we have nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, just a good group of people that come in here to train,” said Wooldridge.
He went on to say, “There are no egos here to have to deal with and that is really nice as some of the fighting gyms you have egos to deal with and we don’t have that ever. All types of people come here to train. This all starts with the kids. A lot of self-confidence is built here and that is a big thing for little kids.”
There were 180 competitors registered to compete. All brackets were based on weight, age, and belt rank. There were 38 brackets of competition in the tournament with 40 gold medals awarded, 40 silver medals awarded, and 30 bronze medals awarded.
“We have built a place where everyone, no matter who you are, has something to offer. A place that feels like you are home and you can release the pressures of the world with your fellow members. For myself and for many this is not just another gym, this is home away from home. I am blessed and honored that so many have come and joined me in living my dream. I only pray that as time passes that I can help them live theirs,” said Miller.
The next competition in Yucaipa is set for June 6. Sign up for a free week of classes just by texting CJJF to 484848, go online to cjjfsocal.com/free-trial/ and register for a free class or call 894-6578.