My first exposure to martial arts happened back in New Jersey when I was 12 years old. As luck would have it our next door neighbor and family friend was also a high level Black Belt in a traditional style of Japanese Karate called Shotokan, and offered to begin teaching me as a birthday gift. As I became more involved in training I was introduced to her instructor, a Japan National Champion and highly respected Instructor named Katsuya Kisaka. It was under his instruction that I became immersed in my training and found myself constantly working to sharpen and refine my understanding of the art. After 6 years of non-stop training I was fortunate enough to earn my Black Belt (Shodan) at the young age of 18; an accomplishment I attribute mostly to the time and attention some of the senior ranking black belts at the school.
In 2002 I moved to Philadelphia to pursue a degree in Psychology at Temple University. I continued to practice often though very informally between working full time and going to college. My brother Josh (who had found some old tapes of the early UFC events starring Royce Gracie) came across Balance Studios and brought me with him to try a free Gracie Jiu Jitsu class. I immediately fell in love with the simplicity, the ease and the effectiveness of the techniques and came back the next week to join as a member. Rick and Phil Migliarese (both Black Belts under the legendary Relson Gracie) took us in as family as we began a work/study program, basically allowing us to clean and help out around the school in exchange for reduced tuition. I was (and continue to be) extremely fortunate to spend countless hours learning and training with both of them in addition to the other amazing instructors who took the time to help me at the time.
After earning the rank of Blue Belt I decided to compete in my first tournament and had such a good experience that I decided to make Gracie Jiu Jitsu a part of my life as a career path. Before long I was competing actively in many of the local (and not so local) BJJ & grappling tournaments trying to gain as much experience as possible because part of me already knew I had found my calling. I also began assistant teaching as part of Balance’s Instructors Program and spending almost all my free time on the mats training, drilling and exploring techniques as well as being introduced to other arts such as Muay Thai, Boxing, Wrestling and Yoga.
In 2009 my now wife and I decided to make the move to San Diego, CA where I was fortunate enough to enroll at The University of Jiu Jitsu under the instruction of World Champion brothers Saulo and Xande Ribeiro. While there I trained and competed actively with some of the best competitive grapplers in the US and continued to absorb as much knowledge and experience as I could before returning home to Philadelphia in 2010. Soon after we came back I began working as Program Director and Instructor at Balance and was promoted to Brown Belt shortly thereafter. During this time I had also taken up Judo under Ray Huxen at his school Osagame in order to supplement my knowledge of the standing grappling techniques that are such an integral part of Gracie Jiu Jitsu as a complete self defense system. Training both arts side by side has been an invaluable experience to me and continues to inform the way I teach and train now.
After almost a decade I was awarded my Black Belt in Gracie/brazilian Jiu Jitsu by Phil Migliarese in October of 2012. It was also at this time that my wife Christine began her journey into Gracie Jiu Jitsu which has only brought us closer together and has reaffirmed my ambition of opening my own martial arts school with her support. Although I’ve competed actively in tournaments, my main focus has always been the practical self defense aspect of Jiu Jitsu. It is what first attracted me to the art and what continues to inspire me as an instructor and a student. After my most recent promotion to 1st Degree Black Belt and after graduating from the Balance Studios Instructors Program under my instructors I now feel ready to embark on a new challenge of operating my own school: FrameWork Jiu Jitsu.