Owensboro native Josh Hayden brought Brazilian jiu-jitsu to Owensboro in 2016 with the formation of Gracie Owensboro. Fast forward three years and the organization has quadrupled its membership and outgrown two locations.
When it was initially formed, Gracie had 30 members and operated out of a storage unit on Salem Drive. The organization now boasts more than 120 members and conducts business at 1601 Triplett Street, a location they share with Iron Edge gym.
Hayden left corporate America two years ago, and now, at the age of 30, he turned his passion for martial arts into a full-time job. He attributes his recent success to the family atmosphere and learning environment that they foster at Gracie. He also expressed his sincerest gratitude to their many dedicated members.
“I think our success is primarily because of our environment,” Hayden said. “We try to keep it conducive to learning for everybody. We always just try to get better.”
While other martial arts academies might embrace a “fighting/competitive” environment, Gracie places a stronger emphasis on self-discipline, building confidence, and simply getting better. All that being said, they also maintain their competitive mindsets when they enter competitions.
Hayden’s athletic career began in football, a career that started in pop-warner and ended at Ole Miss. As his football days came to an end, he was at a loss for what his next athletic endeavor would be, that is where Brazilian jiu-jitsu came into play.
“I really like the competition aspect, but my biggest thing is I feel like this gives everyone an opportunity for an outlet,” he said. “Owensboro is a sports town, everybody here is competitive, a lot of kids compete, but after high school what are you going to do.”
Gracie offers everything from basic fundamental classes to advanced classes centered around competitions. They cater to a diverse population that encompasses everyone from young children to U.S. Marshalls. Open seven days a week, they desire to accommodate as many people as they can.
Their Facebook and Google pages are overloaded with positive comments. Several parents claim that Gracie Owensboro changed their child’s life for the better, while advanced competitors state that this place allows you to reach your full potential.
Owensboro native, Misty Smith began sending her son, DeMarion Carbon, to Gracie Owensboro more than two years ago. He is diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and often struggled with being bullied at school. She leaned on Hayden and Gracie to encourage her son to overcome his fears and to attack life with a different mentality.
“This was the best decision that could have been made,” Smith said. “ He has become more confident and less socially awkward, but more importantly, he has learned to defend himself.”
Carbon is 14-years-old and is in eighth grade at Burns Middle School. Smith spoke many praises about Hayden and the other members of Gracie Owensboro.
“He is taught by amazing coaches, specifically, Josh Hayden, who took him under his wing,” she said. “He has been in a few competitions, most recently bringing home two gold medals.
In addition to Owensboro, Hayden also owns two Gracie locations in Tampa, Fl, and hopes to continue to grow their brand. They trace their Gracie lineage to New York, where Hayden earned his black belt under Tom DeBlass of Renzo Gracie.
For more information regarding Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Gracie Owensboro, visit their Facebook page or www.gracieowensboro.com. You can also reach them by phone at 813-442-0720.