My name is Tim McAtee. At fifty-nine years of age I am in the best shape of my life. Here is my story…
After spending many years working out at various fitness centers, I was looking for something more exciting in my exercise routine. Five years ago I met Mario Roberto, who introduced me to Jiu-Jitsu – a specialized form of training in mixed martial arts (MMA). I soon realized that anyone, young or old, beginner or expert, could maximize their conditioning using MMA techniques. The Mario Roberto Jiu-Jitsu Academy was exactly what I needed to take me to the next level of fitness.
Recently, Mario’s gym has relocated to a state-of-the-art training facility. The new setting removes all limitations from the work-out experience. The expanded free weight selection and cardio machines complement the huge competition cage that is the centerpiece of the fitness floor. This first class Jiu-Jitsu training environment has provided me with the optimal opportunity to become stronger, more flexible and better able to defend myself than when I was thirty.
I recommend the MRJJA to anyone that is tired of the same old fitness center routine. If you want to become “fighting fit” (even if you choose not to fight), train with the MMA experts at the Mario Roberto Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
What does Brazilian Jiu-jitsu mean to me?
When I undertook to write this testimonial, I asked myself this question and spent the next few days considering the answer. In my life, Brazilian jiu-jitsu represents sacrifice, difficulty, frustration, and hours upon hours of effort. However, in the context of jiu-jitsu, all these things take on a positive connotation. Those things also mean reward, success, fun, victory and immense personal satisfaction.
Jiu-jitsu has this impact on my life because of the Mario Roberto Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
When I first showed up at the gym, I was an un-athletic, slightly doughy figure with little desire or courage for competition. In fact, I came to the gym on a whim, not entirely sure it was the thing for me. But after watching my first class, meeting Mario, his staff, and the other students, I was convinced, at the very least, that this was a place I wanted to be.
For the last two years, I’ve trained at the MRJJA and my experiences there have been among the best I’ve had. I remember the first time I learned to throw a punch, how my body felt after I sparred the first time (painful), the first time I was tapped out and the first time I tapped someone else out. All the time, I was learning. I remember the days when certain principles or techniques would begin to click and run together into the actual practice of what we call jiu-jitsu and the enormous satisfaction that brought with it. While I had never been involved in athletics before martial arts, I had found a sport and a gym that provided the individual accountability but collective support I was looking for.
This occurs, in part, because the actual in-class instruction is world-class. Mario Roberto, much too humble to say so himself, is an incredible athlete, an inspiring individual, and a born teacher. The care he has for his students and the interest he takes in their personal success is reason enough to want him as a teacher. But ask any long or short-term student of Mario’s and they’ll speak about him and his instruction with respect and admiration. As Mario’s student, I have not only become a better athlete and a knowledgeable practitioner of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but the determination, courage and work-ethic he has taught me extend to all parts of life.
Training under Mario has driven me to pursue a higher level of achievement in and out of the gym. Whether in jiu-jitsu competition, lifting weights, studying English at the University of Minnesota, or striving towards personal goals, I have a new level of confidence and drive that I found for the first time in that gym.
In addition, Mario’s students learn to emulate his enthusiasm and his attitude. Training with the other members of the gym is an opportunity for challenge, as well as fun. I always look forward to coming back to the gym, because I know my training partners there will push me to excel, but make sure I have a good time doing it. The atmosphere at the gym is invaluable with its second-to-none work ethic, determined attitude, and welcoming, encouraging participants.
In short, when anyone has asked me where they should go for jiu-jitsu or mixed martial arts training (and many have), I always tell them to go to Rochester and the MRJJA. I couldn’t imagine a better environment or better instruction. I sincerely hope that many more people will come to have jiu-jitsu mean to them what it means to me because of the MRJJA.
As a female entering a primarily male-dominated sport, I was a little nervous - well, more like terrified – walking into Mario’s gym for the first time. Naturally, that fear was only multiplied when for the first time I saw people rolling and throwing punches in MMA class, and flipping a giant tire as a warm up in the jiu jitsu session.
Mario reassured me that I wouldn’t be required to do any giant tire flipping, but I was still a little skeptical. However, after my first few days at the gym, it was clear to me that I was going to feel very comfortable there. While the opportunities for awkward situations in jiu jitsu are countless, I have never felt uncomfortable or unsafe at the MRJJA. Mario has always been very accommodating, making sure that I never feel out of place or unwelcome. He treats me like one of the boys, and doesn’t underestimate me while at the same time understanding my limitations.
Even on the most frustrating of days, after training in the gym’s laid back, low pressure environment, I have been able to walk out of there feeling accomplished and successful. Every time Mario tells us to “leave it all here” while we are rolling. I do just that, allowing me to feel relief from whatever it is that may have bothered me before entering the gym.
Each day Mario presents several new techniques, allowing each student to build quite the catalog of moves. While most techniques in jiu jitsu work for anyone of any size, as a female who had never lifted weights in her life (or done ten solid push ups, for that matter) I found certain moves more difficult than others. In these cases, Mario has kindly instructed me on ways that I can tailor or improve my execution of the technique so that I can implement them when I am rolling.
There has never been a class at the Mario Roberto Jiu Jitsu Academy that I was disappointed in. Every day at the gym brings new moves, new lessons and new success. MMA began as a hobby for me, one that I pursued because several people told me I couldn’t do it. I have never had anyone at Mario’s gym tell me that I can’t do anything! It’s because of that encouragement that MMA and jiu jitsu have become more than a hobby for me, and are now a significant part of my life.
My passion is traveling, and since I do it quite often alone I decided it would be wise to learn some basic self defense. I also needed it to be enjoyable and make me WANT to exercise. Even with my small stature I figured there had to be something out there that would fit my needs.
After coming up with two schools in the area that looked promising, I headed to the free intro class on the first one. I braced myself and pulled open the glass door that I would end up walking through hundreds of times in the future. What met my speculative gaze was a mass of sweaty males, all wearing some sort of workout/boxing gear. Thinking I was in the wrong place, I almost turned around until a kind older gentleman asked me if I was there for boxing or the jiu-jitsu class.
He directed me to the back of the gym, where guys were on the mats wearing gis. I realized I was the only female there… this should have made me run for the door right then. However, Mario introduced himself and talked about the class some. He told me I could get on the mat and join the class, or just watch. I am afraid to say I just watched. That night I also went to the other gym, and only got as far as the parking lot before heading home.
So then why am I on here, you ask? I went back a couple more times to test my comfortability with what I was getting myself into. Being a single Christian female with very strict standards, I wanted to be doubly sure this was the right place for me. That first night confirmed the gym was the right option, and I definitely thought Mario was a great instructor. I was impressed by his teaching skills and the respect and admiration the students showed to their instructor. The other two classes, I confess, were mostly to observe the other students. I’m only 5’4″ and 110 lbs, not wanting to break anything. Impressed and comfortable enough to take the intro class, I awakened my inner fighter and I knew I was already ready to start training.
The first six months taught me so much under Mario’s careful, attentive, and thorough coaching. Who knew a little girl like me could eventually throw a guy 80 lbs heavier? Mario was wonderful and looked out for me. Often being the only girl in class, I tried not to pull the “pink card” - however, I never had to worry. I can’t say enough how thankful I am for his constant protectiveness, caring about my personal interest in the class, and his exuberant spirit that made me want to push myself harder. I also found I actually enjoyed coming to class and made new friends that I learned to trust.
The changes in my body were noticeable as well. I could do so much more physically, and was amazed at my own strength. Growing up, I was always small for my age and fought for everything, so I was ecstatic when I was the stronger one! The warm up exercises were a killer workout to start with, and I found that I could hardly walk after my first week of class! I was so sore and my body was crying for me to quit, but I’m so glad I didn’t because of all the wonderful things I learned. I have a whole new appreciation for my body, and a stronger resolve that I CAN do things I never thought possible. This has also carried over into my personal life, in decisions and my personal character.
The only regret I have is quitting after my first six months were up. Eventually, I went back a few months later for another year of training before I moved out of the country. Even now I miss being in those four concrete walls, rolling on the mats, while hearing the beating of the bags and watching greatness being born. Because, as my friend Dan said: “You can’t stay away; it just gets to you.”
Remarkable and forever ingrained! That is how I would describe my training experience with Mario Roberto. I lead a team of sofware engineers at IBM and own a small business. I can honestly say that a lot of what is to follow in this testimonial is why I am where I am today!
I moved to Rochester seven years ago, and have always been involved in some sort of martial art. I searched for a quality style in Rochester and didn’t find anything impressive or real. I tried a few classes here and there, but eventually just started pursuing other interests. However, some of us have an attraction to martial arts that doesn’t just go away. There is something that drives certain individuals to it: be it a personal dream to be a fighter, the pursuit of a hobby, a great exercise for mind and body, or something deeper trying to get out.
I remember walking into Mario’s gym and feeling a sense of “smallness” inside me, together with a low level fear, as if I didn’t belong in that kind of place. Thankfully, I at least had what it took to ignore that feeling and give the class a try. I’m a small guy by most standards; I’m 5’5″ and weigh about 150 pounds. Having to battle guys that outweigh me by 50-80 lbs was not a fun thought for me to entertain.
Mario listened to some of my concerns. I explained that I had back problems, and something I didn’t need to verbalize… Mario noticed immediately that my self-confidence was low. He simply said “Bert, we are a beginner-friendly gym, and I will look out for you”. He told me to take it easy on the beginning, but that I would start to notice changes both physically and mentally pretty soon. He didn’t tell me what they were, but he knew I would find out for myself. So I started training two times per week.
The training, on a purely physical level, was always new and challenging. So many different exercises, new moves to learn, new ways of moving the body – it was incredible. The warm-ups were a full workout in and of themselves. Mentally, I had to battle exhaustion, complicated moves, guys bigger and better than me, and my own lack of confidence.
As time went by, things started to change. I became physically stronger. My back pain began not to bother me as much. I can’t say that the pain was gone, but it was different. It was loosing its grip on me. I would see Mario and others training with injuries, pushing themselves, and this mentality started to take a hold in my psyche. I was developing mental strength on a much more noticeable scale than I had ever had. Mario has a remarkable ability to make a person want to push themselves, but not for him – for you. When you watch him train, you can’t help but want to do the same. He is constantly testing and pushing his limits, and he wants his students to test theirs as well.
From that point on my life outside the gym started to change. As I continued to train, I realized that even at 5’5″ I could prevent bigger guys from throwing me around and submitting me. This does wonders for self-confidence! It is not easy to go against a bigger guy and even harder to endure some of the positions and moves. I remember countless times feeling a panic-like sensation because my mind thought I was out of air or out of energy. In the beginning I found myself giving into this feeling. I would tap out. As time went on, Mario taught me to control my breathing and to expend only enough energy to get the job done.
With these skills and my new mental strength I found myself tapping out less and less whenever caught in those “panicky” situations. One of the best experiences is realizing that one has the ability to calm themselves under extreme stress. One has the ability to dig deep, and utterly refuse to give up. That, right there, changed how I approach life’s situations forever!
It is not all about the training though; Mario also became a good friend. I shared some of my self-confidence problems with Mario and asked him some questions. For example: are people born fighters, are people born with the ability to push themselves? Can one train toughness? Mario answered honestly that fighters are pretty much born to be fighters… but that you can train to be a better fighter; you can train to be tougher. And most importantly (for me), that you can train mental strength and the ability to push yourself beyond one’s perceived limits.
Deep down I have always known I would never be a professional fighter. However, that didn’t stop me from learning what the Academy’s classes had to offer. My goal was always to develop my self-confidence, and to see fear for what it is… a phantom!
As I became more comfortable asking questions, I would pick Mario’s brain for insights into his training methods. I asked things like: How do you push yourself when you just want to quit? Why do you track your training schedules and times so diligently? At any given time, Mario can tell you how many minutes he has trained in the last week, how many days he has been at the gym in the last 3 months, and how many reps of a certain exercise he was able to do - when most people would have forgotten that they even trained at all. He shared some “secrets” that I took to heart outside of the gym.
For example, one should have a power word, he explained. A word that you associate with power, with something that can’t be stopped. When you get in a pinch, when you want to give up, when you want to just throw it all away – you say your power word, over and over. In time, your personal power word gets associated in your mind with not stopping, with pushing and breaking barriers, with finishing what you started. Goal setting is another insight… he explained that setting goals, lots of little ones and big ones, is how a person succeeds in life. Goals are markers that keep your compass on track. The more careful and precise you make them, the more likely you are to reach them and your long term dreams. One goal at a time… with time and training, you can look back and find yourself closer and closer, having met other goals along the way.
The last “secret” I will mention is training with the mind. I never took this seriously until I started training at the gym, and learned that to reach levels beyond one’s limits you have to train the mind to “see” it. The mind gets there first, and then the body will follow. The other way around might work for a while, but eventually it will let you down. Visualization is key – I can’t explain it any clearer than that.
I started to understand these pieces of the puzzle and set out to add them to my being. I started to use them in my training and in my life outside of the gym. And as I said in my opening remark, my experience with Mario’s Jiu-Jitsu has been remarkable and forever ingrained!
Please visit Bert’s RUFF BREAK Pet Service here.
Jay Fohr is a white belt at the Mario Roberto Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
When I started attending classes at the MRJJA I did not know how lucky Rochester was to have Mario Roberto teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu here. After I started talking to different people who attended other martial arts schools, I realized that Mario’s ”check your ego at the door” policy was a rare thing. It also came to my attention that having beginners being taught by a BJJ black belt isn’t the norm.
Over the past two years I have had to deal with injuries and health problems (non-martial arts related) that did not allow me to progress as fast as I wanted to. Regardless, Mario has always been helpful in showing me what adjustments or techniques might work better for me. He has also taken a personal interest in trying to get me in better shape. After two years at the gym I consider Mario a friend as well as a teacher.
Mario is always ready to answer anybody’s questions and will give them honest feedback on how they are doing.
As for doing business with Mario, I’ve been his customer/student for over two years and I can’t say I know a more honest guy. If the banks were closed and I needed someone to hold $1000 for me, I would give it to Mario and not lose a minute of sleep over it.
I would suggest to anyone in the area who is thinking of taking a martial art class to take advantage of the free introductory class and check out our Academy. If you’re looking for a gym where guys just congratulate each other on how tough they look in their new Affliction shirts, this probably isn’t the school for you. However, if you actually want to learn martial arts from a qualified instructor, whether it is for self-defense, BJJ or MMA, then the MRJJA might be the right choice.
Ryan Rhodes is one of our blue belts at the Mario Roberto Jiu-Jitsu Academy. Here is what he has to say about training at our school:
I’ve trained in a variety of martial arts over the past 15 years, from aikido, to tae-kwon-do to hapkido, and although all those disciplines had their benefits, none have come even close to my experience training in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) under black belt instructor Mario Roberto.
When it comes to real-world, live action, hand-to-hand grappling combat, I can’t imagine a better venue for learning the art of self-defense, combined with a stellar cardiovascular work-out, than that provided by the Mario Roberto Jiu-Jitsu Association (MRJJA).
Rather than the structured and regimented orthodoxy of most martial arts schools, within the MRJJA there’s an informal camaraderie amongst both students and instructor that makes for a very relaxed learning environment, despite the intensive workouts. Whether someone is a white belt, blue belt, black belt or no belt, everyone encourages and advises everyone else, with the ultimate goal of improving themselves and, by extension, the school.
A black belt instructor in BJJ is a rare commodity by itself; to have a black belt BJJ instructor in this part of the midwest is nothing short of amazing. Since joining the MRJJA in 2005, I’ve enjoyed improved focus and far less stress. In fact, my blood pressure has gone from bordering on high to a level 120/80 (although I learned that while having cauliflower ear drained as a result of training, but I think the trade-off has been quite worth it).
Mario is a dedicated BJJ and mixed martial arts (MMA) instructor who is genuinely interested both in his training and the training and improvement of his students. The skill and expertise he brings to his school is readily apparent in the students, whether they’re professional fighters or enthusiastic hobbyists. Within a few months of training, students are typically well aware of the BJJ basics and on their way to learning their own personal fighting preferences and grappling style.
Please visit Ryan’s excellent blog here.
Dr. Ryan Johnson is one of our purple belts at the Mario Roberto Jiu-Jitsu Academy. Here is what he has to say about training at our school:
I came to Rochester, MN, as a physician to complete a medical residency in anesthesiology. Since I was 8 years old, I have been involved in martial arts, training in a variety of disciplines for many years (with multiple rankings and a black belt), and I began looking for a martial arts school at which to train. I have always found the martial arts to be a great outlet for the stress and anxiety that comes with a difficult profession, and feel it helps me to better focus and have more energy in all aspects of my life, from work to personal endeavors.
I visited each training facility in the area I could find, with none offering exactly for that which I was looking. I then called a school in Minneapolis (over an hour away), and they recommended Mario Roberto’s academy. As it turns out, people frequently travel long distances to train with Mario, and he was only a few blocks away from where I worked! Interestingly, Mario was also a medical doctor from Brazil, but stopped practicing medicine to devote his life to his passion of training and teaching the martial arts.
Since my first visit to Mario Roberto Jiu jitsu Academy, I knew that I had found my home. Mario Roberto is by far the most technical and knowledgeable fighter with which I have trained. He has been a black belt in Brazilian Jiu jitsu for many years (a rare find in the Midwest). He has competed at the top level and won against well known fighters. He has also trained competitors who have done well in tournaments ranging from local competitions, to PRIDE, to the UFC. He has never been content, however, to rest on his laurels and is constantly improving both is own abilities and that of those around him. His devotion to his student’s progression in the martial arts and life in general is unmatched; it is his number one priority inside and outside the gym.
In spite of his accomplishments and ability, Mario is both humble and unassuming, qualities which are refreshing and admirable but have not helped with the marketing of his Jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts academy. In spite of this, his classes have grown substantially by word of mouth and the high recommendations of those who know him (and multiple schools from other states have joined his association to add his knowledge to their training programs).
Class size itself is perfect for a good mix of competition with training partners and individual attention from Mario. The atmosphere is one of support and collegiality, with everyone working to improve their own skills and those of their friends at the gym. Everyone is helpful, friendly, and no large egos can be found. The technique and skill at the academy is superior to any location I have seen, sometimes going unrecognized by the humility of Mario and his students. The atmosphere is informal, but the respect among students and instructor is genuine. If you are interested in dramatically increasing your martial arts skills and self-defense abilities while getting in good physical condition, this is THE place to train.
Unfortunately, I no longer train with Mario as I have finished residency and moved a long distance away (this was my biggest regret about completing my medical training). However, Mario’s influence on me in the last three years has been remarkable and long-lasting, much improving my technical abilities, my conditioning, and my overall physical and mental health. Each time I am close to Rochester, I never miss an opportunity to train with Mario if only for a few days. He is no longer only my Jiu jitsu instructor, but my friend as well.