Learning the art of self-defense goes far beyond moves like joint-locks and chokeholds, according to Veronica Ogas, co-founder of a new, free Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu program in Hesperia sponsored by the Hesperia Police Activities League. 
Ogas, who helps out in the class with with her husband and teacher Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Brian, said the sport instills in its athletes self-discipline, respect for others and a strong and focused mind. She said acquiring these attributes lays the foundation for future success in every area of one’s life.
“I wish I had known about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu years ago when I was a teenager,” said Ogas, whose husband is a San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Hesperia Station deputy. “It’s a very strategic sport, so you have to learn to use your mind along with your physical capabilities.
“My husband and I enjoy teaching it to kids because it gives them skills that they will never lose.”
Ogas said Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes will focus on traditional techniques and principles, such as chokes and joint manipulations. Additionally, the classes will encompass an additional component of mixed martial arts training. 
Students meet from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays at the HPAL Center, 17508 Hercules St. in Hesperia
“The MMA component is designed to teach students a fusion of striking, kicking and grappling techniques with submissions as recognized in UFC and professional MMA arenas,” Ogas said. “Still, we mainly focus on the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and see the MMA side of it as added training for kids who might want to pursue that in future.”
Hesperia resident Daniel Sartori, 16, said he will definitely rely on his training when he begins pursuing a career as a law enforcement officer after graduation. The Sultana High School student began taking the classes about five months ago and is working on earning his blue belt, which is the second level of the Jiu-Jitsu ranking system. There are eight belts in all.
“When I started taking the classes five months ago, I thought it was a one-time thing. But now, it’s become a big part of my life,” Sartori said. “I have learned so much in the class, especially self-discipline and the importance of respecting others, which will really help me in my future career.”
According to Ogas, the maximum number of students that the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes can accommodate is 25. Currently, there are eight spots left and they will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to students ages 7 through 17.
“We require that the kids make a commitment to their education and personal responsibility in order to be accepted into the classes,” said Ogas. “There also is a code of conduct they will be asked to follow. If any student fails to do so, they will be dropped from the program.”
HPAL is a non-profit cooperative effort between coaches, volunteers and the deputies of the Sheriff’s Department, Ogas said. These individuals work together to build relationships and mentor the youth of Hesperia, teaching them to make the choices that will have a positive impact on their futures.
“It is critical for our youth to understand that the choices they make today affect their future,” Ogas said. “Our youth are tomorrow’s leaders.”
Registration for the Jiu-Jitsu classes can be done by emailing vogas@mail.com or by showing up on the training days at the HPAL Center 15 minutes prior to the start of the class. All students must have their parent’s permission to participate.
For more information, email Brian Ogas at bogas@sbcsd.org.