Black belts answer Windermere chief’s call

Police Chief Dave Ogden will lead Gracie Barra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts in a charity seminar raising funds for families affected by Tay-Sachs disease.

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  • | 5:10 a.m. February 4, 2016
Even more black belts than in this picture will join Windermere Police Chief Dave Ogden in a charitable endeavor hitting close to home.
Even more black belts than in this picture will join Windermere Police Chief Dave Ogden in a charitable endeavor hitting close to home.
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When Windermere Police Chief Dave Ogden — who operates a Clermont Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu dojo — asked his network of fellow BJJ black belts whether they could help him with a charitable seminar, he was unsure of what to expect in terms of turnout.

“I've been with this group for close to 20 years now," Ogden said of that network. "I have asked these guys to get together ... and it's pretty amazing, to be honest with you. Truly, if you go over all of Central Florida within several counties, there’s probably not more than 50 to 75 legitimate black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.”

But more than 20 BJJ black belts overwhelmed Ogden by agreeing to teach BJJ seminars this Saturday at Gracie Barra Orlando. They will raise funds for families affected by Tay-Sachs disease, a rare inherited disorder that progressively destroys brain and spinal neurons until death, as it did in Ogden’s son Kaleb for his barely four years of life — longer than most with Sandhoff disease, a severe form.

Money specifically will go to trips to SeaWorld and the Orlando Science Center for families affected by Tay-Sachs, who will converge on Orlando April 7 to 10 for the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association’s 38th Annual Family Conference.

“We want to take them just for a great weekend,” Ogden said. “We want to pay for it all. A lot of these families use this family conference once a year (as) their only vacation. … Honestly, for me, I just wanted to make it special for the kids who have to deal with this issue all year long, living with a terminally ill child.”

For the seminars, most participants already have dabbled in BJJ, but Ogden welcomes newcomers, too, especially given a multitude of instructors.

“In the adult seminar, what we'll probably do is break people up into experience levels, and for the upper belts, the more experienced people, they’ll essentially be getting some top-level one-on-one Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” Ogden said. “For the lower levels, we’re going to be able to break them off and independently work on some of their skills.”


Among the patriarchs of BJJ is Carlos Gracie, who with his family developed BJJ in the early 20th century as a softer, pragmatic judo adaptation focused on ground fighting.

“This helped a smaller individual overcome a bigger opponent,” Ogden said. “In the ‘90s, it was brought to the United States … Back then, you actually had competitions where people fought all day long — and beat everybody — by this unknown art called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, using the leverage and ground-fighting skills and manipulating that. Since that time, BJJ really has been the catalyst to launch the MMA events.”

Grappling has proved particularly useful and effective in Ogden’s main walk of life as a law-enforcement officer: He has created BJJ curricula to train officers from Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Windermere Police Department and many other organizations around Florida, he said.

His main instructor, Marcio Simas, is a sixth-degree black belt who spread BJJ around the area, and that network has meant the world to Ogden in answering this call.

There are plenty of other ways to help support those affected by Tay-Sachs and similar diseases, Ogden said, and his family has helped lead a local charge through Kaleb’s Cure.

For information on Tay-Sachs, visit


Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].


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