Team Combat Athletix emphasizes jiu-jitsu growth

By Nick Blank nick@claytodayonline.com
Posted 9/7/22

ORANGE PARK – James Smiley’s jiu-jitsu gym has many different types of training and techniques, balancing discipline and fun for a variety of students.

This month marks about four years of …

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Team Combat Athletix emphasizes jiu-jitsu growth

Posted

ORANGE PARK – James Smiley’s jiu-jitsu gym has many different types of training and techniques, balancing discipline and fun for a variety of students.

This month marks about four years of Smiley's Wells Road gym, although his organization, Team Combat Athletix, started in 2007 on Peoria Road.

Gear and space are not in short supply. A portion of blue mats is for sparring or groundwork. There’s a middle section of gray mats with hanging punching bags. Flags decorate the ceiling and the gym belongs to numerous associations founded by martial arts leaders in the field.

Smiley teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, mixed martial arts, boxing, Muay Thai and other martial arts. The fields are a bit different but can be used in competition, for self-defense, for an older person to pick up a new skill or to give a restless child something to do.

He had just finished giving a private lesson to a small group, mostly footwork and boxing. About an hour earlier, he worked on jiu-jitsu with a younger class. He said 70 to 80 people enter the gym’s doors every day.

Smiley notes that discipline instilled by martial arts is hard to replicate.

“Consistency takes discipline,” Smiley says. “Motivation comes and goes, but discipline is what gets you out of bed every morning. You know training is going to make you stronger, get you in better shape and it makes you more capable.”

The martial arts teach goal setting and respect, he said. Students have cards tracking thier progress and know exactly when they get stripes on their belts. Students, who can be as young as 3, have to bow before removing footwear and entering the mats.

“It teaches them to keep a schedule. They know how the uniform is supposed to be,” he said. “They have fun. They have games at the end but if they don’t listen, they don’t play the games. If you want to play, you’ve got to work first.”

Smiley said he wanted to be a karate teacher from a young age, joking he saw himself as a wizened old master stroking his beard like what he saw in the movies. He hails from Georgia and landed in the area after serving in the U.S. Navy.

He has noted the growth tin the sport. Florida is a hotbed of jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts, with several high-profile gyms in Central and South Florida. Jacksonville hosted two UFC pay-per-views during the COVID-19 pandemic, events usually reserved for Las Vegas or New York.

MMA organizations like the UFC have increased visibility of the grappling arts that feature in MMA like jiu-jitsu, Smiley added. And that exposure can bolster Clay County martial arts schools.

“It’s driven people to schools like mine because they want to see what people on TV are doing. It used to be used in Kung Fu because you see Bruce Lee, you see Chuck Norris,” Smiley said. “But with Bruce Lee, you can’t just learn ( the martial art) Wing Chun. Now, there are jiu-jitsu schools everywhere. The more exposure we get, all of it will be high quality.”

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