The owner of Fight for Fit Gym in the heart of the Cape Town (CBD) says his aim is to teach his clients more than being fit but valuable life lessons as well. Jacques Portelli (37) believes Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), a self-defence system that focuses on ground fighting or grappling, can help people cope with life’s challenges. Portelli says he has always had a passion for martial arts and started training Judo when he was 8 years old. He competed in several local and national competitions. However, in 2011 Portelli was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a congenital disorder (one present at birth) of blood vessels in the brain. After he was diagnosed and waiting to undergo surgery, he was forced to take a break from his passion. He underwent brain surgery and was out of the game for six months.He says: “It was terrible for me to not be able to partake or teach people Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I had opened a gym in Camps Bay at the time and business was not going well, because I could not train anymore.”He started working as a security guard at a night club and did other work to earn an income. But he was not happy, he missed being on the mat. In 2015 Portelli returned to the gym, which has since been opened at Tulbagh Centre in the CBD. He started doing light BJJ training. When asked what it is about BJJ that has him so hooked he simply says: “It is focused on ground fighting and takedowns are part of the syllabus. You use joint locks and chokeholds to defeat an opponent bigger and stronger than you. Proven over and over to be one of the most effective forms of martial arts.” Portelli is now back at the gym full time. He says BJJ helped him cope and come to terms with his medical condition. “It taught me patience and that sometimes in life, just like in BJJ, you fall down, but getting back up is what is most important,” says Portelli. He says BJJ is a stress reliever as well and added that most of his clients come to the gym either before or after a hectic work day. He added that both children and parents have signed up. The father of twin girls says: “The practice of BJJ teaches students self-defence, confidence, fitness, conditioning, stamina, and self-awareness. “Most importantly it teaches you to cope with failure and persevere through tough situations.” He says they don’t only offer BJJ classes but also fitness classes that concentrate on using your own body weight to lessen injuries. “I like using BJJ movements in fitness classes. The only form of weights we use are kettlebells and that’s to build core strength, power and balance while also sculpting, toning.”His wife Kirsty says due to a traumatic experience she used to suffer from anxiety but according to her this has subsided after she started with BJJ. “Living in South Africa, women always walk around with anxiety if walking alone. But I’ve learnt even if I can’t beat a man up, I at least have the skills to defend myself.”Portelli’s advice to a client is always: “It’s important to know that if things didn’t go your way, you can try again and not give up on your efforts to achieve your goals.”V For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 083 757 5825.