During the spread of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from Brazil across the Unites States in the 1990s, as discussed in the Brief History of Bay Area Jiu-Jitsu under the leadership of the legendary Ralph Gracie, an important seed was planted in Mountain View, California of the Bay Area.
Mountain View Academy Athletes
The Mountain View academy — formerly located at 1495 W. El Camino in the city of Mountain View prior to moving to the current location in 2019 at 4607 Cherry Ave. in the city of San Jose — was founded in 1996, becoming the “Mother” academy of the Bay Area as one of the first Gracie owned gym in northern California. The dojo quickly gained a reputation for having one of the toughest mats in the United States, producing many BJJ stars such as BJ Penn who went on to become a UFC hall of famer, the charismatic Kurt Osiander, the arm-hunting BJJ and Judo phenomenon Dave Camarillo, founder of OnTheMat.com Alan “Gumby” Marques and the once-celebrated Cameron Earle, just to name a few. In addition to Ralph’s own expansion of dojos, an estimated 75% of all dojos in the Bay Area have some lineage back to the Mother academy.
BJ Penn was one of the most successful athletes outside of the academy. Within the academy, he was the best of an elite group of practitioners on the mats. This reflected in his promotions from white belt to blue belt in 6 months, and then from blue belt to purple belt in another 18 months. He received a black belt in Brazil shortly thereafter for a total duration of 3 years and 4 months from white belt to black belt. In MMA, BJ successfully won 2 UFC titles.
Hear his first hand account about a recent return to where he got serious about the martial art in the YouTube video above. Our current head instructor Justin Holder was there when he came in. Later, BJ posted on Instagram about his visit.
Legendary Ralph Gracie at Mountain View Academy
Ralph was integral in the everyday training of the students as well as training for his own MMA fights. There are many stories from the early days, including one about a spontaneous and intense battle between Ralph and Frank Shamrock that could have been broadcast on pay-per-view. This was a precursor to later formal fights between Frank and Rezo Gracie as well as Frank and Cesar Gracie. The Mother academy was home to thousands of students over the years, many hailing from Apple and Google, among other Silicon Valley hi-tech companies. Ralph went on to open several other academies in San Francisco, Berkley, Chino Hills, Dublin and Walnut Creek, and many more associate academies.
Once Ralph opened up other academies, and sharing time among them, other instructors began to take over more of the teaching responsibilities. One of the early head instructors was Sandro “Batata” Santiago. He ran the dojo for about 7 years from about 2000 to 2007. The next head instructor, William Diaz, carried the mantle from about 2008 to 2017. The final head instructor, Justin “Machine” Holder, ran the academy until its relocation in 2019.
Relocation from Mountain View to San Jose
After 23 years, due to “highest and best use” real estate development in the Mountain View area, the Mother dojo and all of its history was relocated to San Jose. All 5 Mountain View black belts relocated to the San Jose dojo bringing a combined 75 years of training experience in Mountain View to the Blossom Hill and the Almaden Valley neighborhoods of San Jose. The academy program now also focuses heavily on mentoring to junior BJJ athletes, being located next to John Muir Middle School, is close to Branham High School, and is an official corporate sponsor of Williams Elementary School in the Almaden Valley.