Central Alberta Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu opening own studio in Blackfalds

Drew Weatherhead of Central Alberta Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stands in what will be their new, dedicated space in Blackfalds, located off Hwy 2A south of the Blackfalds Esso on Minto St. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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Blackfalds is just days away from having a dedicated martial arts and yoga studio.

On Friday, Feb. 1, Central Alberta Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will move into its own space just off Hwy 2A where Sammy’s Restaurant was located, and officially kick many hours of set up and tear down at the Abbey Centre to the curb.

Aside from having a space to call home, it’s perhaps that part that both owner and instructor Drew Weatherhead and his students alike can’t wait for.

“I’m so looking forward to not having to set up and tear down every class,” he said. “Even my students are asking: ‘how soon before we can stop setting up and tearing down?’ I said: ‘It’s coming.’”

For about the past seven months, he’s been running classes out of the Abbey Centre, but it quickly became clear the community needed more than just four classes a week, and that there was definitely appetite to expand programming. So four months ago, he began looking for a space to turn into a studio.

Struggling to find a spot that had decent visibility and was affordable, he finally discovered the Sammy’s Restaurant space, located south of the Blackfalds Esso at 5112 Minto St., was available.

“This came on really quick,” he said. “I was looking for a location in Blackfalds and there’s just not a lot going on…I jumped on it the moment I saw it and signed the lease three days after.”

As of Tuesday, Weatherhead said renovations had been going for 18 straight 10-14 hour days in effort to get it ready for Friday.

“We’ve had to do a lot – we sprayed the roof, which took awhile and masked and painted the walls. We actually had to lay cement and level out places where there were dips,” he said. “I’m looking forward to using this space for what we actually want it for instead of just building.”

When renovations are completed, the space will have an open concept. An office, bathroom and change rooms will be tucked at the back, while the main area will feature a large mat covering most of the floor, providing ample room for the various disciplines to be taught. A walkway will skirt the edge of the mat, and there will be a small lobby area as well.

The area won’t be 100 per cent complete by Friday, but it will be usable. He plans to continue improvements throughout February and host an official grand opening in March.

The bigger changes, perhaps, will come in Central Alberta Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s ability to expand programming to six days a week, and multiple classes a night.

Jiu-Jitsu, he says, is essentially everything people would see in MMA or UFC that doesn’t include strikes – grappling from takedowns, chokes, arm locks, submissions and the like. While it’s a growing sport, thanks to MMA and UFC, it is still one that is fairly niche, so they’re adding judo and taekwondo, as well as yoga.

“It’s not something I have my fingers on the pulse with, but talking with instructors, they said we just lost a place in Lacombe, we’re losing one in Red Deer and there’s nothing in Blackfalds, so I had four instructors hit me up right away,” he said.

The hope is the student base will grow to 100 over the next year with more classes available, as well as bringing jiu-jitsu tournaments to town that attract competitors from all over Canada.

“We’re actually building quite a reputation for Blackfalds, believe it or not, when it comes to Jiu-Jitsu,” he said.  “This will be a nice sort of touch point between Lacombe and Red Deer as well. It feels like a young community – there’s a lot of young families that are putting their kids in and getting themselves in to be active.”

For more information, visit Central Alberta Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on Facebook @CentralAlbertaBJJ or the website at www.centralalbertabjj.com.