Mankind’s most basic sport competition — pitting mano-a-mano, one against another in a ring of fire to determine the champion — has evolved and moved seemingly overnight into what is familiarly known as MMA to take over and reign as the number one fight game in the world.
It is indeed a mix and blend — including its ancient predecessor boxing — of all the fighting and self-defense traditions that makes up MMA.
Judo, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, karate, kung fu, kempo — all of the martial arts — go into the mixing bowl that has spawned this exciting, and highly popular, fighting sport of the new millennium.
Along with the global transcendence of MMA has come a rapidly growing number of schools, businesses and combinations thereof that offer training courses in all of the fighting disciplines.
Some mentor the traditional values and techniques guided by the integrity of the masters, some teach to earn a living and many are a combination and blending of the two. Yin and Yang — the balance of the universe.
Immediately as you enter the Academy of Diverse Grappling (ADG) at Old Lahaina Center next to Nagasako Food Mart, the aura of the traditional martial arts dojo embraces you.
The mat expanse fills the room, while the historic photographs of some of Japan’s master martial artists and inscriptions of their mantras, along with a meditation bowl, recreate the spirit of the traditional dojo.
But mixed with this long ago ambiance is the electronic age wide screen television used here for instant training review, the bright padded wall mat embossed with the school logo and the glaring light emanating from the fluorescent fixtures.
Part of the mission statement of ADG reads, “New concepts combined with old values and traditions.”
The school — the life-dream project of one Chris Nardi and his wife, the former Satoko Hanahara — opened three weeks ago in the heart of the Lahaina business district.
“Like our foldout reads, we want to offer specialized professional instruction of the grappling arts with a diverse martial arts curriculum that combines new concepts with old values and traditions,” said Nardi, jiu-jitsu yondan (fourth-degree black belt) and ADG founder.
The school will offer instruction in judo, jiu-jitsu, tai chi, yoga, wrestling, submission grappling and Gracie Jiu-jitsu Self Defense, along with corrective flexibility classes. All of the programs are endorsed by official sanctioning authorities.
All instructors and coaches have completed advanced training and certification with the American Red Cross for CPR, defibrillators and first aid.
High on Nardi Sensei’s focus list is a life values program that is woven into all of the keiki classes at MDG.
“Each of our instructors and coaches briefly discuss and review certain fundamental life values each week, including respect, confidence, discipline, etc. Our philosophy is that we believe hierarchy and respect for authority is extremely important in all areas of our lives, and that kids who learn this early on — to have a healthy respect for order, organization and authority — will be able to adapt well in school, sports and all areas of their lives,” he explained.
Nardi grew up in New York and began practicing jiu-jitsu at age nine at a traditional school there. A few years later, he was in Japan and continuing his path in Jiu-Jitsu.
The decade-long climb to his current Yondan ranking saw Nardi losing a three-match challenge to one Taka Watanabe, who hailed from the Gracie Japan Jiu-Jitsu Dojo — now Axis Jiu-Jitsu — which soon turned into a lifelong friendship and immersion into Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
Nardi later earned a degree in criminal justice from Upstate College New York with a minor in exercise science, which led to an interest in exercise orthopedic sport medicine.
As Nardi puts it, “I married into a grappling family.”
Indeed, Satoko Nardi’s father and brother, Tsutomu and Daisuke Hanahara, respectively, are both judo and wrestling champions honored by the Japanese government as the only father/son duo to win Olympic titles.
“I have always wanted to market the (martial arts) concepts to everyone — it has been my lifelong dream,” he said.
Nardi will teach the jiu-jitsu and Gracie Self Defense classes, and his staff includes LJ Vista and Herb Kogasaka for judo, Conrad Bolor for wrestling and Corey Williams for tai chi.
Gi and non-gi classes for children and adults are taught throughout the day Mondays through Saturdays.
The mauka half of the MDG space in the building is being transformed into a treatment center, where Nardi will use his educated therapy skills.
“It is a post rehabilitation facility to primarily work with those discharged from physical therapy previously, yet still displaying residual functional deficits or who are receiving chiropractic care,” he explained. Again, a blending of avenues to better overall health.
The Yin and Yang — the balance of the universe, the natural blending of all things. This is manifested in the marriage of Chris and Satoko and the life of their children, Lala and Souta, as well as the emergence of the Academy of Diverse Grappling. The deepest blending of East and West across the universe.
For more information on ADG, call 661-1200.
“To search for the old is to understand the new. The old, the new, this is a matter of time. In all things man must have a clear mind. The Way: Who will pass it on straight and well?” (Poem by Shotokan Karate-Do Master Funakoski, Gichin.)
The staff at the Academy of Diverse Grappling will offer instruction in judo, jiu-jitsu, tai chi, yoga, wrestling, submission grappling and Gracie Jiu-jitsu Self Defense.