As a fourth-degree black belt in Brazilian jiujitsu, Dave Ogden always has been a passionate martial artist.
It’s fitting, then, that the Windermere police chief also plays an integral part in establishing a free Brazilian jiujitsu program for children in east Winter Garden.
The newly launched program has a home at the West Orange Dream Center, which is sponsored by Family Church. At the church’s east Winter Garden campus, Dr. Charles Cooper serves as the pastor. He also spearheads many of the Dream Center’s programs.
Ogden and Cooper met through the IronMen of God ministry. While talking with Cooper one day, Ogden and others asked what he needed at the Dream Center.
“He said, ‘I need mentors. I need men who are willing to come into the community who bring some expertise to come alongside some of these young guys,’” Ogden said. “He said, ‘I need Christian men to come in here who are willing to be mentors, willing to be leaders and are willing just to kind of share some of their specialties with the kids and with the young men in the community to get them on the right track.’”
Ogden and other volunteers partnered with his old martial-arts school, Gracie Barra Clermont, to bring the program to life. Together, all involved have raised several thousand dollars to fund the program and required equipment, such as gis.
“Brazilian jiujitsu is probably the most premier martial art now in the world,” Ogden said. “With the advent of UFC coming through, everyone wants to be part of the Brazilian jiujitsu grappling phase. Everybody engages in this, and it’s really good for kids. It does all the traditional things of martial arts. It promotes health and wellness, character building and development, and all those kinds of things. But the nice thing for me, as well, is that it really does it from a Christian perspective.”
Ogden and the team teach children all the fundamentals of jiujitsu and how to defend themselves using it. That consists mainly of body mechanics and understanding of positioning and leverage. There are some parts of the sport that require learning to strike and kick, but the main emphasis is on self defense and overcoming your opponent using leverage and skill.
In the last 10 to 15 minutes of class, Ogden shares a message on characteristics such as integrity and character using biblical stories and a Christian perspective.
The program had a soft launch in October, and, currently, the class takes place one Saturday each month. Ogden hopes to increase that to weekly classes.
“We’re still molding what the program is going to look like,” he said. “One of the things we talk about to the kids, as well, is … it’s about hard work and struggles and difficulties. Jiujitsu and grappling especially — there’s no tougher spot than wrestling and grappling and things of that nature. You will not work harder, get more exhausted, feel more pain or learn more about determination and heart than in those kind of sports, bar none.
“What that is is a reflection of how life really is sometimes,” he said. “There’s so many great life skills we get to teach them. We’re really blessed to be able to do it because we enjoy it.”
The overall goal is to make a difference in the children’s lives through teaching life skills and hard lessons while simultaneously being there to mentor them and participate in a sport they love. So far, about a dozen children participate in the class, Ogden said, and he would like it to evolve into a competitive program for them.
“These kids love it,” he said. “We sit down in there, and they’re attentive, they appreciate what we’re doing, they’ve got a smile on their face. … It’s about jiujitsu, and we do believe jiujitsu can bring a lot of great balance and empowerment to their lives, no doubt about it.
“It brings in everything I’m really passionate about,” he said. “I really get an opportunity to leverage the things that I have a passion for — being a believer, being a martial artist and helping out the community. There’s nothing better that you can do than pull those three things together and make a difference in somebody’s life.”