PHOTO: From left, Maria, Marcelo, Gabe, Renata and John pose for a photo inside the current RMA Jiu Jitsu Academy location at 6444 Nolensville Pike on Thursday, April 18, 2019 in Nashville, TN.
By RACHAEL LONG / Photos by Rachael Long
The Ribeiro family moved to the United States nearly 13 years ago from Brazil with one goal in mind: to bring Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to America.
In the early years, the family lived in Florida, then Texas. In 2011, the now Nolensville residents settled on the Nashville area to open their first studio: RMA Jiu Jitsu Academy.
Thanks to the area’s rapid growth, the Ribeiros now say they need more space.
On June 22 — construction timeline permitting — the family will have its Grand Opening for a second location at 7180 Nolensville Road in the Hillside Center, right next door to where the historic Morton-Brittain home once sat.
“We were looking for a small, great community where we could raise the kids with great school systems, and we found Nolensville,” Renata Ribeiro said.
The Ribeiros are offering specials for the new location’s opening, including the first month free for those registered before June 3 and half-off membership pricing. Town of Nolensville police officers and volunteer firefighters will receive six months of free membership.
Those interested in starting as soon as possible can do so at the Academy’s current location at 6444 Nolensville Pike in Nashville.
The Academy is named after its owner, professor and fourth degree black belt Marcelo Ribeiro who began studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the age of 12 — and teaching it since the age of 16. Marcelo says his interest in Jiu-Jitsu really began earlier than that, as he was practicing the sport at age six.
And though he’s spent his life growing and learning the sport, Marcelo says in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the black belt is not the highest level of recognition a fighter can obtain. He’s a fourth degree black belt — a distinction he has had for nearly 20 years — and each level has its own teaching and age requirements.
Unlike other martial arts, there is no black belt for kids in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. A fighter must be at least 19 years old to qualify for black belt status.
But it’s not just Marcelo who has found a passion in the martial art. His wife Renata and three children John, Gabe and Maria all practice Jiu Jitsu as well. John, 17, is a junior instructor at RMA with hopes of participating in the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) World Championship this summer.
John’s younger brother Gabe is also a junior instructor at the academy. The youngest, Maria, takes classes at the academy. All three kids attend different schools within the Williamson County schools system in Nolensville.
“It becomes a lifestyle,” Renata said. “It’s the way you eat, it’s the respect with your peers, with your parents. I think it’s something bigger than just a sport that you sign up for.”
The new location in Nolensville is meant to better serve the community, as Renata says many Nolensville residents already are members at its current location in Nashville. The current location also serves Brentwood, Smyrna and Antioch, Renata says.
“In this location, we have about 150 Nolensville families, so not only would we love to be close to our community but also making it better for our students as well,” Renata said.
The new location is much larger than Nashville location and will feature a bar-top area for parents or guardians to work or lounge while they wait.
Marcelo says unlike other sports, Jiu-Jitsu focuses on how to defend oneself in real-life situations.
“Jiu-Jitsu is different than other martial arts,” Marcelo said. “We are very focused on the self defense, the anti-bullying classes for the kids. We have a lot of women who train in the self-defense classes.”
At RMA Jiu Jitsu Academy, the Ribeiros say one of the most important classes they focus on is the “rape safe” classes for women and teenagers. In many cases, Renata said, predators don’t carry a weapon; they can simply overpower a victim using physical strength.
“If you’re technical enough to get out of that situation, it can save your life,” Renata said.
The class teaches techniques and quick reaction-based movements for situations in which the person may have been inappropriately touched or approached by a stranger.
Renata says a class for teenagers is also mixed with adults in an effort to bring families together. Those families who have participated already say the class has given them something in common, something to talk about, she said.
“They will share a passion together,” Renata said, smiling as her three children lounged together in the Nashville-location.
Among several other types of classes, Renata says the Nolensville academy will also offer daytime classes for children who are home-schooled.
For more information on classes, contact the Ribeiros at (615) 819-2124 or by email at [email protected].