Local jiu jitsu coach inspires lifestyle changes.
Matt Vernon coaches a young member of his martial arts academy, Primate Jiu Jitsu.
Matt Vernon was willing to risk everything to make his career dream come true. He gave up his apartment lease and a vehicle to secure the funding he needed to open Primate Jiu Jitsu martial arts academy in April 2015.
“For several months, he lived in the back of Primate Jiu Jitsu with an air mattress and his dog,” says Vernon’s wife, Kendall. “Matt would either use Uber to get from place to place, or he would catch a ride with friends since he didn’t have a car himself.”
Vernon had personal reasons to risk so much for his dreams. Brazilian jiu jitsu, a martial art and combat sport that focuses on grappling and ground fighting, had changed his life.
In 2007, Vernon was depressed and living an unhealthy lifestyle. At his lowest point, he says he smoked a pack of cigarettes a day and drank too much alcohol. But his biggest struggle was his lack of purpose in life.
A friend was training for an upcoming MMA fight and asked Vernon, who had a history of aggression and street fighting, to be his sparring partner. Vernon quickly realized the power of Brazilian jiu jitsu and fell in love with the sport.
Slowly but surely, Vernon says he gave up his unhealthy habits, including smoking and drinking alcohol and even soda. Now a coach with a black belt, he finds his purpose through helping others become stronger and healthier.
Primate Jiu Jitsu recently moved to a new 5,300-square-foot facility near Promenade Mall. Its 100 students and six instructors participate in classes and private lessons on shock-absorbent mats specially designed to absorb the impact of wrestling takedowns and judo throws. His clients learn the sport Vernon compares to “human chess” in a safe, clean environment.
“Seeing so many people change their lives motivates me to work even harder,” Vernon says. “The adults lose their bad habits, while the kids go from being shy to tough warriors who have discipline and confidence.”