Ross, the current U.S. super heavyweight champion in the brown belt division, was introduced to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2002, when local black belt Chris Smith encouraged him to take a class.
Once Ross started, he said, he couldn’t stop.
A decade later, he has achieved his black belt, owns his own successful academy, and is training to compete in the U.S. Open as a black belt for the first time in October.
“Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is known to have the hardest [black] belt to achieve in martial arts,” said Ross. “It took me just under 10 years to do it, and not giving up is the hardest thing for any big goal.”
Santa Cruz Mountain Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is Ross’s third academy, and he describes himself and his students as scholastic wrestlers.
He said he is both a professional Jiu-Jitsu fighter and instructor who fights to win; something he said is proven by the success of his business.
After joining Alliance Jiu-Jitsu and receiving his brown belt from Idaho black belt Mitch Coats, Ross said he spent three years in Brazil training with fifth-degree black belt Alexandre Paiva, who awarded Ross with his black belt this year.
He said he is now the third North American to have a black belt under Master Paiva.
“I have an idea of where I am going, where I have been, and a real clear understanding of the basics and the road map of this journey that I am on,” said Ross.
It takes 10 years of dedication to any goal to obtain a basic understanding of what that goal entails, Ross said.
There is no test for a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, he said, adding that the requirements involve ultimate skill level, comprehension, and personal qualities, which are all quantified in years and time spent with the instructor.
“This is an intellectual sport,” Ross said, “designed for one person to figure out a strategy to beat another person who is more physically imposing and dominant than them.”
Ross has taught Jiu-Jitsu for seven years and currently has about 70 students.
He said he formulates his training based on the individual’s goal. Some train to compete, while others want to get fit or just have fun.
“My business is based on the people who have work, families, and lives who want a healthy social outlet,” Ross said.
Santa Cruz is rich with Jiu-Jitsu culture, said Ross, who has many local Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mentors including Garth Taylor and Claudio Franca.
Those involved in the Jiu-Jitsu community never leave, and support each other in a comfortable and safe environment, he said.
“Jiu-Jitsu is really a cultivated community, we work really hard on our Jujitsu,” said Ross. “Keeping it alive and keeping it good and keeping it strong, here in Santa Cruz particularly.”