September 26

One Year In

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I would like to start by thanking everyone that has made this year such an amazing experience. You all have made Haven what it is today, and I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my friends, family, and amazing students. I love how invested everyone is in seeing the gym grow and become a better place. It truly means the world to my family and I. 

As some of you know, getting Haven off the ground was a rollercoaster. It was post Covid, and we had been looking in many CNY communities to open a school. While there were a lot of vacant lots, most were either not affordable or not the correct size. Most of you know that I have a very risk averse personality and was sweating bullets when we finally landed our spot in Baldwinsville. The location was triple the size I was initially planning for and jumping into that much overhead was entirely out of my comfort zone. Even though I was stressing, everyone around me was confident that we would not only need a spot this large, but would fill it in the near future. Today, I am SO glad that I listened. We crushed the first year beyond my wildest dreams. 

Initially, we had our core group of about 50. Today, we have grown to over 300 members. I believe that our referral program has been the greatest membership generator. We have initiated 79 memberships through the referral program! Since many of the 79 are family memberships, I can safely say that about half of our members have come from referrals. As of today, Haven Jiu Jitsu has given $7,900 back to members for bringing in their family and friends.

Through Haven’s partnership with Thin Line Martial Arts (TLMA) we have been able to sponsor our law enforcement members. We have raised almost $1,000 in LEO sponsorship through TLMA alone. In addition, we get to help share the vast advantages that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) has for law enforcement and the community that they serve.

Adopt a Cop was also another organization that we have partnered with in the last year. Adopt A Cop sponsored three Law Enforcement memberships this year. Another fantastic way to help get law enforcement on the mats and training jiu jitsu. 

Another great organization which Haven has worked with this year is The Ronin Foundation. The Ronin Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that which sponsors BJJ training for active-duty military members in an effort to combat suicide, depression, alcoholism, PTSD, and other mental health concerns. Haven hosted Brandon Ashby for a seminar which raised over $700 for this amazing organization. Haven is honored to continue to help this cause as we go into our second year of business.

Arguably the biggest accomplishment this year, and one of the things I am most proud of, is the (first of its kind) peer reviewed study showing the efficacy of consistent training for law enforcement using jiu jitsu. The Syracuse Police Department took a leap of faith and was the first department to join the study. Two and a half years of hard work paid off. Our preliminary data shows that not only are officers leaving the academy with more confidence but are also less likely to get hurt. We will follow the officers for the next six years, in hopes to show reduced use of force, lower incidence of injury to officers and suspects, and better community relations. Syracuse Police Department believes in the Haven Jiu Jitsu program so much that they signed a long-term contract to continue the study. We continue to add more departments to this groundbreaking study. I want to thank Jerry Unger, Don Patti, Shawn Bergman and the other members of our team for the dedication and vision to make this possible. This historic study will be saving countless lives in our community, with the hope of saving lives everywhere.

Haven’s competition team…All I can say is WOW! Our team won every major tournament in New York this year. Leading in points for AGF in Rochester, Grappling Industries in Saratoga, Buffalo, and Syracuse. As a team, we took second in Boston Grappling industries – even before the school was officially open and were training out of a mattress store! During the year that we have been open, our team has also managed to take bronze and silver at Pans (purple belt), and as well as silver at Master Worlds (blue belt). Not to mention the various IBJJF tournaments that individuals have won.  These are amazing accomplishments for a gym that has all home-grown competitors. It also solidifies our spot as the major competition school in Central New York.

Haven has also expanded and started taking affiliates. We are incredibly proud of our three affiliates across New York State. Our affiliate in Geneva, Finger Lakes Martial Arts Center, is owned and operated by Jerry Martin. Ironworks Gym in Binghamton, New York is owned and operated by the Dickie White. Lastly, Auburn Elite Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & MMA is owned and operated by Zac Maneri. New affiliations are on the horizon as we continue to expand the Haven Jiu Jitsu lineage. We are proud to be the first IBJJF approved affiliation in Syracuse, New York that is not under a parent affiliation.

Central New York is my home and the place that I have chosen to raise my family and grow my business. Doing my part by building community relations through jiu jitsu is something that is close to my heart. In addition to the numerous fundraising events we have held and/or participated in, a group of us from Haven have started a not-for-profit, Haven Jiu Jitsu Initiative. Special thanks to Jason Iorio, Jeff Reisner, Josh Gillette, and John Foley for your dedication to this cause. We will be using our resources to help under privileged kids in the City of Syracuse build relations with our local law enforcement. The Haven Jiu Jitsu Initiative will include children and local police learning jiu jitsu together once per month.

Growing this business with all of you has been a dream come true. I am excited to see what the future holds and how much good the Haven team can continue to bring to Central New York in new and innovative ways.


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