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It is not a hidden fact that our youngest son Trey was diagnosed with cancer in December of 2010.  At that time, amongst many other emotions and decisions, we realized that Joe and Bella needed to have their own activities/outside focuses to ensure that they knew that their lives mattered.  They needed to know that they weren’t going to get swallowed up in Trey’s battle.  I never wanted them to end up on some Psychiatrists couch saying, “Once my brother got cancer my life ceased to exist.”

On our way back and forth to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh we always drove past “Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu” academy in Lawrenceville.  “Jiu Jitsu!” I thought.  What a great thing for Joe to get involved with!  Granted, I absolutely loved MMA (mixed martial arts) and knew a good bit about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but beyond that it seemed like the perfect fit for Joe.  You see BJJ is known as the chess of the martial arts.  It is a finite number of moves combined in an infinite number of ways.  We had already done most of “The Sports” and Joe had not really taken to, well, any of them.  I wasn’t intrigued by traditional striking martial arts and was quite sure that Joe was not the wrestling type.  Further, if Joe were to ever be in a fight in school to be able to restrain his opponent without striking would hopefully minimize any discipline that might come his way.

I was quite sure that the price would be way too high for our budget but I darkened the door one Saturday morning to watch a kids class.  I was shocked at how affordable it was and comforted by the structure and guidelines set forth by those teaching.  Less than a week later Joe was taking his first class.  It has been over 5 years and he is till going strong.

I write all of this to say, with tears in my eyes, I cannot imagine his life without the great folks of Stout Training Pittsburgh (name evolution, still an Renzo Gracie Academy, same great people).  The early days with Seth, Lance, and Heather.  Flash forward to the Strip District days, first above Pamela’s with Jarrett and Mike.  Now at their completely state of the art location above Costume World there are guys like Andy, Mark, Sage, AJ and others…nothing has changed.  There has been a complete and utter commitment to being there for Joe.  There were days he wanted to go, many others he just wasn’t feeling it.  However he keeps going.  He keeps growing.

I say all of that…to say this.  It comes from the top down.  The Gracie family is legendary.  I am honored to have my son taught by those who have learned from them.  One man though deserves most of the credit.  Warren Stout.  He knew.  He knew from the beginning our story.  He could see Joe, a scrawny kid at the age of 7 who was staring the potential death of his baby brother right in the eye.  He could see how Joe loved Trey when Trey would come to class to watch his big brother.  He watched Joe grow…and grow.  He has been a consistent constant in an ever changing world for a kid whose life was at times, in turmoil.  Warren always made sure that Joe was ok.  I very much have no idea if and/or what Warren ever told his staff about Joe, about us.  However, they all…always have been excellent not only in their instruction, but their love.

Then, there they were.  Warren, Mike, and Jarrett standing in line to see us at Trey’s viewing.  They took extra time to check in with Joe.  It’s not about Jiu Jitsu, it’s not about good business, it’s about excellent relationships.  It’s about loyalty, respect, honor, commitment.  The folks at Stout Training Pittsburgh lead by Warren Stout have been that and so much more to my family.  I am indebted to all of them.  For they have loved my son.

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