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Guardian Project - Worldwide Youth Jiu-Jitsu Scholarships

Guardian Project - Worldwide Youth Jiu-Jitsu Scholarships

Many people around the world join BJJ gyms and academies to learn. There are many reasons why people want to learn BJJ: to pursue a career, enjoy it as a hobby, or make it a part of their daily routine. No matter the reason, learning BJJ will give you plenty of confidence, improve your health, and teach you self-discipline.

However, not everyone can afford to pay for BJJ classes. Luckily, there are plenty of programs which offer free BJJ training. The Guardian Project is one such BJJ program that provides BJJ training free of cost to younger practitioners.  

1. Guardian Project’s History

The Guardian Project was founded in 2015 by Ben Kovacs and Joel Lunenfeld. The Guardian Project was launched to support young students who could not afford to pay for BJJ education by providing full scholarships.

2. Guardian Project’s Mission

The Guardian Project’s mission is to help youngsters struggling financially establish BJJ careers.

The Guardian Project also inspires other BJJ academies worldwide to start supports projects for the younger BJJ generation to help give them a chance to train and achieve their dreams.

3. Headquarters

The Guardian Project’s headquarters is at 712 S Oceanshore Blvd, Flagler Beach, Florida, 32136, United States.

4. Guardian Project Academies

The Guardian Project has branched out to various countries to give more kids the opportunity to try out BJJ. Here is the list of cities where the Guardian Project has opened academies:

  1. Guardian Project, Baltimore
  2. Guardian Project, East Bay
  3. Guardian Project, Greenwich 
  4. Guardian Project, Los Angeles 
  5. Guardian Project, Peru
  6. Guardian Project, Mongolia

5. Ambassadors

The Guardian Project’s ambassadors include the following:

  1. Yuri Simoes (Three-Time ADCC Champion)
  2. Jocko Willink (Podcaster, Navy Seal, Black Belt, Author)
  3. Mason Fowler (Submission Underground Champion)
  4. Victor Hugo (Three-Time Black Belt World Champion)
  5. Matt Graham (Podcaster)
  6. Jake Shields (UFC Fighter)
  7. Ralph Gracie (Jiu-Jitsu/MMA Veteran)
  8. Sumiko Inaba (Bellator MMA Fighter)
  9. Nate Mendelsohn (Former 8th-Ranked IBJJF Middleweight Black Belt)
  10. Brian Stann UFC Fighter
  11. Alvin Yeh (Art of Movement)
  12. Ari Goldman (Jiu-Jitsu FLO)

6. Founders

6.1. Ben Kovacs

Ben Kovacs is currently still working with the Guardian Project to help with branding and spreading the organization’s influence. Kovacs started his jiu-jitsu training in 2006. He received his black belt in 2019 from Dave Clahan and Eduardo Fraga.

Due to the positive influence Jiu-Jitsu had on his life, Kovacs was inspired to start a non-profit organization that provided training to youths who wanted to train but could not afford the education. Kovacs met with Joel Lunenfeld when he joined Twitter. Lunenfeld has previously launched various entrepreneurial endeavors, so he helped Kovacs start a social project for BJJ students.

6.2. Joel Lunenfeld

Joel Lunenfeld, CEO of Global Brand Strategy, was suffering from a lot of stress because of his work. To relieve his stress, Lunenfeld took up boxing. When Lunenfeld found a chance to start a BJJ social project along with Ben Kovacs, he jumped at the chance.

Lunenfeld provides financial supporter for the Guardian Project and uses his marketing and business experience to help the organization remain successful.

6.3. Calder Powers

Calder Powers is a BJJ brown belt under Professor Eduardo. Powers started his BJJ training at the age of 18. Using what he learned in sports and studies, Powers achieved his Bachelor's in Sociology from UC Berkeley. He had a dream to join the Guardian Gym to continue his training.

In 2017, Powers joined Guardian Gym as a volunteer and started coaching youth. Over time, Powers was promoted to content creator and manager. Now, Powers serves as the executive director of Guardian Gym.

7. Head Instructors

7.1. Carlos Raba

Carlos Raba is the founder of the Baltimore branch of the Guardian Project. When Raba was 14 years old, he sought a physical activity to help him exercise and resolve his anger issues.

Raba first tried weight lifting but realized it was not the solution to his problem. Later, Raba joined Yamasaki Academy in Rockville. He quickly grew to love BJJ due to the tight-knit community. Now a member of the Guardian Project, Raba wants to share his positive experience with aspiring children.

7.2. Aaron Zaballos

Aaron Zaballos is a legendary BJJ champion and coach who won various major BJJ championships. He is a Gi and No-Gi World Champion, Pan American Champion, two-time American National Champion, and three-time U.S. Open Champion. Zaballos is a certified coach from California Interscholastic Federation. He is also the founder of ZMATA. Zaballos also now runs the Guardian Project in East Bay.

7.3. Stevie Martin

Steven “Stevie” Martin, a black belt in judo, started his martial arts training about 30 years ago. He traveled around the world to compete in judo and wrestling competitions. Martin was honored to be a 2002 NCAA All-American Wrestler and a former member of the U.S. Olympic Training Center Judo Team. He also served as a police officer and was a K9 Handler and Defensive Tactics instructor. Now, Martin is co-founder of the Guardian Project in East Bay.

7.4. Jeff Morris

Jeff Morris was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he found BJJ. After training and coaching for years, Morris became a BJJ legend. However, because Morris could not afford to learn sports during his childhood, he wanted to give this chance to every child facing financial problems. To fulfill his desire, Morris opened the Guardian Project in Greenwich.

7.5. Dominick Haider

Dominick Hiader is a black belt under Professor Shawn William. He started his jiu-jitsu journey to defend himself from bullies. Hiader’s grandmother wanted to enroll him in martial arts class but could not afford it. Luckily, a coach at a local gym gave Hiader a scholarship and allowed him to train without having to pay any fees.

Haider started his coaching career at Renzo Gracie Academy. In 2021, he founded Omni Jiu-Jitsu Academy. Haider wanted to do something for poor BJJ students who could not afford to continue their academics. So, he founded Guardian Project in Los Angeles to help such students.

7.6. Eduardo Sanchez

Eduardo Rene Sanchez is a black belt under Ricco Rodriguez. He was undefeated in MMA and was invited to fight in ADCC Championships. In the ADCC Championship, Sanchez met with Robert Drysdale. Later, he also trained with Drysdale in his affiliate academy. Sanchez is the founder of the Guardian Project in Maui.    

7.7. Salvatore Sanguinetti

Salvatore Sanguinetti is the founder of the Guardian Project in Peru. Born in Peru, Sanguinetti started judo and BJJ training in 2000. Now, he is a 2nd-degree black belt. Sanguinetti traveled to various countries to train, teach, and compete in BJJ competitions. He also started a social project called Drala Project to help train kids in jiu-jitsu.

7.8. David Clahan

David Clahan is a 4th-degree BJJ black belt. He received his black belt under Ralph Gracie. Both spent a lot of time in Mongolia and develop a close relationship with the BJJ community there. Clahan was given the honor of being the head referee of the Mongolia Jiu-Jitsu Federation. He is now the vice president of the Federation. Clahan also became the founder of Ralph Gracie-Mongolia and Ralph Gracie-Berkeley.

8. Who is Considered Eligible for Guardian Project Scholarship?

The Guardian Project has an application form that a parent or guardian has to fill out according to the rules. After filling out the application form, they will be told whether their child is eligible for a scholarship or not.

Mostly, kids between the ages of 14-17 are considered eligible for Guardian Project scholarships. However, the Guardian Project also accepts application forms for students as young as six years old. Students from ages 6 to 17 receive training free of charge.

9. How Can You Donate to Guadian Project?

On the official Guardian Project website, you can donate to students through Paypal or Venmo. Donations to the Guardian Project are tax-deductible. The Guardian Project can also be assisted by working for them voluntarily as a coach.

10. FAQS

10.1. Who is the founder of the Guardian Project?

Answer: The Guardian Project was founded by Ben Kovacs and Joel Lunenfeld in 2015. They are still working for the marketing and branding department to help earn donations and spread their project to other parts of the world.

10.2. How many countries is the Guardian Project located?

Answer: The Guardian Project has opened gyms in almost six countries. Most recently they opened their gym in the United States and Mongolia.

10.3. Which age groups does the Guardian Project cater to?

Answer: The Guardian Project trains children ages 6 to 17 free of charge. They are eligible for 100% scholarship. However, the Guardian Project prioritizes students between the ages 14 to 17.

10.4. How can you assist the Guardian Project?

Answer: You can help the Guardian Project by donating money or working at the gym voluntarily.

11. Final Words

The Guardian Project is a non-profit organization that is working to help give children a chance to make successful BJJ careers. The Guardian Project works on a system that adults who run the gyms help sponsor the children who come to train. Furthermore, people can also give donations through their website.

The Guardian Project is spreading its influence to various countries day by day. As of now, the Guardian Project has spread to six countries where children between the ages 6 to 17 are getting free BJJ training. The Guardian Project provides hope that in the future, every child who wants to learn BJJ will be able to without any financial barriers getting in the way.   

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