With Brazilian Jiu Jitsu bigger and stronger meets its match

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Black belt John Sanders grapples with co-owner and Purple Belt Ashley Ferrara on Thursday inside their practice area at Unit E, 25 Old Dover Road in Rochester Looking on are Matt Woodbury, left and Jarod Legsdin. (Rochester Voice photos)

ROCHESTER - Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial art that enables a smaller person to use leverage, weight distribution and various holds to force a larger opponent into submission, and once you've seen Sanders Jiu Jitsu co-owner Ashley Ferrara at 140 pounds put a 240-pound man on his back "tapping out" you may become a believer, too.

"I've seen her do it," said a smiling John Sanders, co-owner and lead instructor at Sanders Jiu Jitsu, which opened on Old Dover Road earlier this year.

Sanders, a Black Belt 3rd degree who studied under two-time Jiu Jitsu world champion Rodgrigo Medeiros, was teaching the martial art in Concord for nine years till the pandemic devastated his business.

Tim Locke, bottom, works out with Erich Lutz, a Somersworth Police Officer, during their class at Sanders Jiu Jitsu on Thursday.

He has since moved to Rochester and now has built his clientele back to about 50 students, including firefighters, police officers and people from all walks of life ages five to 50.

"It's a great way to learn self-defense," he said. "And it's very safe. If you feel in danger or uncomfortable you just 'tap out,'" which means tapping your opponent twice in quick succession to let them know you give up.

On Thursday about a dozen students were on the wall-to-wall matting at Sanders Jiu Jitsu's classroom located in the Sherwin Williams plaza on Old Dover Road.

Among them were Evan Favorite, a lieutenant with the Milton Police Department; and Erich Lutz, a patrol officer with Somersworth Police, who both said the techniques learned within the discipline of Jiu Jitsu are invaluable when it comes to use-of-force aspects surrounding police work.

Favorite, who is the use of force instructor for Milton Police, said police officers in the past were "too attuned to going to their belts for a baton or taser" at the first show of resistance.

"I've watched encounters on film, and I just shake my head," he said. "If they go to their belts first, what's next?"

Favorite often travels to train police officers in other police department in the region, he said adding that officers who aren't trained in things like martial arts will sometimes use too much force.

He said he used his knowledge of Jiu Jitsu just recently, safely immobilizing a subject who was high on meth.

"And people high on meth are super strong," he added.

Lutz agreed that the techniques being practiced at Sanders Jiu Jitsu have helped him more than once.

"It helps you to be in control if you're dealing with a combative subject," he said. "It's safer for us and them."

Both agreed law enforcement agencies should be doing more to encourage their officers to get this type of training.

Meanwhile, Sanders said he's gearing up for new classes next month when they'll be having a special introductory class for adults 16 and older concentrating on self-defense.

For more information on Sanders Jiu Jitsu click here.

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