Kathy Ortiz and Chris Holmes, Owners of Agogi Academy of Combatives, were originally Jiu Jitsu training partners while living in Washington D.C. When Holmes moved to Citrus County to be closer to family, he noticed a lack of training options. When he shared his observation with Kathy, who works in the D.C. area as a high school librarian, the two of them brainstormed on a way to do something about it.
Kathy shared the story behind their entrepreneurial journey and how Jiu Jitsu and other martial arts can be an extremely positive and empowering aspect of one’s life. You get in better physical shape but it also gives you confidence in yourself and your social life.
“When Chris moved down, he was developing his career in corrections,” Kathy said. “After noticing something was missing, he initially talked about teaching people in his garage. The more we looked at it, the more we thought it made sense to jump in and find a space.”
The focus for Kathy and Chris was and continues to be more focused on lifestyle and less on sports and competition.
“We’ve built a space for everyone to feel comfortable,” she said. “We’re not training a stable of athletes to fight in a cage. We’re focused on lifestyle and the health benefits of Jiu Jitsu and martial arts. We do have students who compete for their own personal enrichment and do very well, but that’s not our main focus. ”
Ortiz continued, “Because nothing like this existed in the community before August 2015, we wanted to support the community in its different needs. We’re an extremely family friendly and positive place to train. However, we still provide top notch instruction. Chris and I were trained under Master Pedro Sauer, who received his training directly from the Gracie family. In terms of linage, this means our style of training is very close to the source.”
After opening their doors, Kathy and Chris worked through a handful of challenges including, getting to know everyone in the community, getting the word out and educating their customers on what Jiu Jitsu is and what it isn’t.
“A lot of people think Jiu Jitsu and other martial arts are only for an elite few,” Kathy said. “That’s not the case. Our students come from many different backgrounds and they all have different abilities. Our school is like a big family. We’re a very inclusive group.”
Kathy shared that what sets them apart from other academies is their family atmosphere, orientation towards self-defense and healthy lifestyles and the fact that they take the time to get to know their students.
“I love our students,” Kathy said. “It’s all about helping each other grow and learn. What’s great about Jiu Jitsu is that it’s a self-defense system that’s geared towards those that are weaker. You learn how to move strategically to accomplish your goals. It’s more about how to be intelligent and how to protect yourself. It’s very leverage oriented. It’s cool to have someone much smaller prevail over a stronger opponent by utilizing strategy and techniques. Whether it’s a kid with learning issues, a mom who wants to learn self-defense to empower herself or a teen figuring out who she is, we’re building confidence and self-esteem. We work to support each student’s individual goals and ensure that they achieve them.”
Kathy also shared some kind words about Chris, her business and training partner. “He was super helpful for me because Jiu Jitsu did not always come easily,” she said. “I had a lot of questions about how it worked in the beginning. He would always take his time and work with me. He’s an amazing teacher and he’s very good at adapting techniques for different people. A lot of this has to do with him having to adapt his own training and techniques because of a bad motorcycle accident in the early 2000s. He does a lot of adapting for our students.”
Looking ahead, Kathy and Chris want to continue to grow their academy. They’re expanding their training programs to include wrestling and Judo. Above all, Kathy stresses the importance of growing to be able to reach people that never thought they could do something like this. She and Chris want to serve the community and offer their training to all.
What advice does Kathy have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “We all have something we are so passionate about but you need more than that to succeed,” she said. “Figure out where you want to be. Identify your clients, your mission and who you want to reach out to. Write that down. Don’t just throw stuff against a wall and see what sticks. Figure out what makes your voice and service unique.”