Okay, stop laughing! The gyms in San Diego have been yapping about this news for almost a month. Everyone and their brother knew of the major shakeup involving Undisputed North Park and Downtown, the new UFC Gyms and The Arena.
When word got out that Baret Yoshida had been hired as the head BJJ Coach at The Arena, it was like a thunderclap. You could draw a comparison with the years when the Yankees were always buying up all the blue chip ball players to insure their lasting dynasty.
Not unlike 1919, when the Yanks bought Babe Ruth from the Red Sox. Ruth went on to play 15 seasons with the Yankees, reaching uncharted territory offensively and leading his team to seven AL pennants and four World Series titles. The move by the Red Sox was arguably the worst in the history of professional sports.
For years now, The Arena Fight Teams have been dominating the local competition and now they’ve added perhaps the best BJJ coach within a hundred miles.
Simply put, Baret “The Finisher” Yoshida is the coaches’ coach. The gentleman he replaced, the ultra popular Jason Bukich, received his Black Belt from Yoshida. Under Yoshida’s tutelage, many of San Diego’s best mixed martial artists and teachers have climbed the ranks from that white belt holding up their pants to the coveted Black belt.
How did this man become such a legend? Born on the 26th of April, 1975 on the island of Honolulu, Hawaii, Yoshida started training in 1994 at the Relson Gracie academy, one of the oldest, most established Jiu Jitsu academies in the region until he earned his purple belt.
He switched camps in 1999 and moved to the Inoue brother’s gym, led by Egan and Enson “Yamato Damashii” Inoue. Even though he had already earned big wins on the international stage, it was his participation in the 1999 ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) that put his name up in the bright lights.
After fighting in the trials and making his way to the finals as an alternate, the younger, less experienced Yoshida gave a tremendous accounting of himself when facing one of the most dominant fighters of the day, the much taller Royler Gracie. Even though he lost the match, he gained a legion of fans, and was invited back to the tournament in the following years. In ensuing tournaments, Yoshida solidified his name as one of the best No Gi competitors, medalling on three occasions in what is considered one of the toughest submission grappling tournaments in the world. During this same period he tested the waters in MMA.
After a long list of achievements, including a silver medal at the world’s most challenging No Gi competition, Egan Inoue awarded Yoshida his black belt in 2001.
In assessing Yoshida’s renown in the sport, you must also consider the relationship he maintains with his students. While the 39 year-old master continues to thrive on competing and thus improving his own techniques, you’ll often find him right there on the mat with his students. His preparation, education and drills never stop and thus, he gets even better.
Over a fight career that spans two decades, it appears there’s no end in sight. Yoshida has competed against some of the very best, Royler Gracie, Leo Vieira, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, Jeff Glover and Mazakazu Imanari the 10th dan leg lock master, just to name a few.
What impresses people most about Yoshida and for that matter the other coaches at The Arena is their dedication. With everyone working so hard, you end up with the best getting to train with the best.
Comments from people who have either competed against, trained with or worked with Yoshida:
Anthony DJakrite Nillaga: “Before there were the likes of Mike Liera Jr., Keenan Cornelius or any other phenom on the No Gi scene, there was this Hawaii born American who came on the scene tearing up the tough divisions of Brazilian black belts and monopolizing the ADCC (Abu Dahbi Combat Club Submission World Championships).”
Presser for the 2014 World Jiu-Jitsu Expo: “Under our roster of attractions we proudly boast a Super fight of Black belts Baret Yoshida and Samir Chantre in a 15-minute clash in a Gi match under full IBJJF rules.
“Brazilian Chantre is a black belt under Alan Moraes currently training with two-time world champion Caio Terra in San Jose, California and the Hawaiian bred Baret Yoshida is a former MMA champion and a black belt under Egan Inoue. Like the Gracie family, Baret quickly gained recognition and prestige by beating bigger men, men who were not only more muscular but often outweighed him by 30 to 40 pounds.”
Parallel drawn: “As in academics, or the place where you went to play your college football, your lineage of who coached you is important.
“For example a football player who boasts, “Oh yeah! In college, I played under Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama and then spent six years in the Pros under Chuck Noll in Pittsburgh.
“Who you studied with to get that blue, brown or possibly black belt is as important as where someone went to get college – Platt College or Harvard.
“The list of outstanding fighters, who proudly proclaim Baret Yoshida as the man who taught them, has become a who’s who of BJJ.”
Current competitor: “The structure of fighting keeps changing but the basic elements are still there. You want and need to keep making these adjustments to advance on to the major organizations. With your competition getting better, guys keep returning to seek advice from the Masters like Baret.”
Play by play color commentator: “He is one of the best in Jiu-Jitsu when it comes to the guard.”
Your author: “Not that you go looking for any Yoshida bashing, but plain and simple there was none to be found. Of the many people I spoke with, not one uttered a disparaging word. They all held him in high esteem to the point where you’d call it reverence.
“The one thing you notice about his classes is how he involves everyone. It doesn’t matter how big his class is, his eyes are everywhere. Yes, he has that friendly smile but you know he’s dead serious about every nuance. It’s his goal that everyone leaves the class learning something new or a better way of doing something. For someone who moves so fast in competition, he really knows how to slow it down for his students, whether they are advanced or a newbie.
The students in his class appear relaxed, not exhausted, and more importantly remain injury free. It’s been proven people learn faster when they are relaxed. By getting his students to forget about winning or losing, he gets them to put their focus on learning and developing.”
Comment from a former student, now UFC fighter: “The superiority of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in self defense situations and professional fights is evident.”
Nic Gregoriades, another well respected Black Belt, wraps up our commentary in regards to Jiu Jitsu: “Jiu Jitsu is just like life. It is the journey; the journey never ends. You will never get to the point where you say, ‘Cool, my Jiu Jitsu is complete. You know, I have mastered Jiu Jitsu. There is nothing more I can learn.’ I think there is not a single Jiu Jitsu Black Belt who hasn’t learned that is not the case.”