By Mark Hallum
While awaiting its official grand opening, Renzo Gracie Bayside has opened its doors to over 100 students following the near completion of space once occupied by a Bayside fitness staple, Bell Plaza Sports Club.
Gus Larrea and Mike Jaramillo are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructors with successful track records of their own who take a leading role in the academy, named for the famous martial artist partly responsible for driving the self-defense form into the mainstream.
But the school seems to have filled a gap left behind by the gym, which occupied the space prior to Renzo Gracie taking over at 45-58 Bell Blvd.
“When you join this school, I think it’s safe to say you’re not only entering into a new lifestyle, but you’re also becoming part of our family,” Larrea said. “We treat everybody who comes through our doors like family.”
Renzo Gracie Bayside is an affiliate brand, with schools throughout Queens and the rest of the country. The Bayside location was founded by Doug Pelinkovic, a life-long martial artist and an instructor for 17 years.
Pelinkovic is a three-time USA National Team Member and a four-time national champion in the sport.
“We’re still in the soft-opening stage,” Jaramillo said, explaining how the facility was still undergoing some minor renovations. “You won’t see the full push for a grand opening until later in September and then you’ll see us out there really trying to connect with the community by doing things such as working with the schools around us.”
Jaramillo, born and raised in Flushing, sees Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a distinct variation of the Japanese martial art developed in the last century, as something more than a means of self-defense.
It is an activity that is not only good for physical and mental well-being, but attractive to a broad array of personality types.
According to Jaramillo and Larrea, the grand opening will include fighters well-known in the realm of mixed martial arts and will spill into the street with food vendors and catering.
Renzo Gracie Bayside offers Brazilian Jui-Jitsu to adults and children as well as Muay Thai, a style of kickboxing..
Bell Plaza shocked members of the community when it unexpectedly closed in June 2016, but Larrea and Jaramillo are more than confident they can deliver on the gap left behind by the old facility with a twist on fitness that offers more than just getting in shape.
“I equate it to golf. Golf is a game you can never master. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the same way,” Jaramillo said. “You find that people who are really cerebral really take a liking to it. It’s a thinking man’s game under pressure.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall