While parents often bring their children to Mark Hidalgo’s Sakura Judo Jiu Jitsu center in Pacific Beach (in the La Jolla vicinity) to learn how to defend themselves, Hildago thinks that his training is more about preparing them for all the future sports they’ll play.
“Here, kids learn how to do somersaults, handstands, forward rolls and cartwheels,” Hidalgo said. “If a kid plays hockey and gets hit, this training teaches him how to fall and protect himself.”
Hidalgo stresses that his students are here to move forward for their mutual care and benefit, and to help each other, not hurt each other.
“Parents watch their kids compete, and there is always a loser who submits, but both kids stand up, shake hands and smile, and the parents say, ‘wow’ because they see it’s about sportsmanship, not about hurting people,” Hidalgo said. “Applying this training to our lives leads to a higher-level professional life.”
That humble attitude illustrates Hidalgo’s approach to training. To him, martial arts are a way of life. He said he finds it aesthetically pleasing to see a smaller person go lighter and extend less energy while his opponent uses his size, strength and speed to overwhelm him.
“Boxing is so outdated and Judo and Jiu Jitsu are a much more graceful, elegant philosophical way to train,” Hidalgo said.
Jiu Jitsu (from Brazil) focuses on grappling and submission; there is no striking and no punching or kicking. Judo (from Japan) centers on throwing an opponent.
Hidalgo’s classes are open to male and females of all ages. He is training two adults in their 40s, but the majority of his students are children.
“I’m good with kids and I’m patient,” Hidalgo said. “I (especially) enjoy working with timid kids and troubled youth.”
Hidalgo, who opened his Pacific Beach training center in September, began studying martial arts at age 5. He studied karate, taekwondo, aikido and kung fu before he fell in love with Jiu Jitsu at 13. By age 16, he began learning Judo. He received his black belt in 2004 and has trained in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Hidalgo’s logo features a Sakura, a Japanese cherry blossom, which is a delicate white flower with a red center associated with Japanese samurai warriors. The Sakura symbolizes Hidalgo’s approach to martial arts: “You should be gentle and soft from the outside and have a fire inside,” Hidalgo said.
Sakura Judo Jiu Jitsu
center's classes are Monday-Friday with four practices per day: Morning, afternoon and evening. Saturday has one class for adults, one for children.