2020: A year in the rear view... thank God!

With 2020 nearly over - thank God - we thought it would be interesting to people to do a year in review.  It's been a year of "Embrace the Crazy", "Manage the Distance" and "Manage the Damage" but if we dig a little deeper I think we can find blessings and things to be very grateful for.  Let's take a walk down memory lane...



January started great!  We brought on a co-instructor, Jay Rardin, to help with teaching and give us the ability to increase our offerings.  Jay started in Gracie Jiu Jitsu under Nico in Plattville WI.  He then worked with Kent at another WI sister school, Gracie Jiu Jitsu Appleton, where he got his Blue belt.  Jay always wanted to teach and when the opportunity came up he jumped on board.  We're so blessed to have him and his lovely wife Cassie on board with us!  I don't think Stevens Defense Academy would have survived if it were not for Jay!


February is when things began to get tough.  Nate and Tricia's youngest son, Elijah, became seriously ill and nearly died from Influenza A.  So serious was the prognosis that our priest rushed to the hospital to give Elijah Anointing of the Sick / Last Rites.  We spent 3 weeks at Children's Hospital in Milwaukee after Elijah was emergency air-lifted there.  One of those weeks Elijah was on a heart-lung bi-pass machine.  Stevens Defense Academy celebrated it's 1 year anniversary very quietly, with a minor mention, over a hospital dinner at Children's Hospital in Milwaukee. We are so very grateful to the doctors, nurses, chaplains and staff at both St. Vincent and Childrens Hospitals for their care of us.  3 weeks after being given a very poor prognosis and nearly dying - and after being warned that his heart / lungs would be adversely affected by this illness - Elijah was released doing BETTER than he had been before getting ill!  Some of his doctors have started to refer to him as the Miracle Kid.  We've called him the kids of a million prayers and we're not far off.  We're also so grateful to all of you who cared, prayed and helped us through this most difficult time in our life.  We're also so grateful for Jay who jumped right in and took over pretty much everything while we were gone.  A special thanks to the Cary's and Carlos - two of our Founding Members - who helped Jay and our little school through as well.


Elijah got released from the hospital March 16th... the day the state shut down.  On our drive home from the hospital, Nate, Tricia and Jay had to make the difficult decision to shut down our school for, what was supposed to be, two weeks.  When it became apparent that it would be for much longer than 2 weeks Jay and Nate began Zoom classes.  While not the same, it became an outlet for both the instructors and students to check in with each other, catchup and even do some Jiu Jitsu!  From the little 10x10 mats in their basements Nate and Jay became quite creative using stuffed snowpants / sweatshirts as training dummies and solo drills.  Most students checked in at least once but there were a few who were mainstays: the Cary's, Carson, Chris and his kids, Ernesto, Lexi, Jaslene, Westley, and a few others I'm sure I'm forgetting.  Thank you for all of those who checked in.  You kept the instructors going as much as we gave you something to do!


April saw Nate and Tricia create an Alphabet Jiu Jitsu exercise program.  This was where each letter of the alphabet stood for some jiu jitsu-based exercise.  Then we would pick a "phrase of the week" where we would do the exercise associated with each letter of the phrase.  This was a way to keep in shape, keep our jiu jitsu skills sharpened and have a little fun as well.  While it didn't last long it certainly was entertaining to see Tricia and Nate banter back and forth while doing these exercises. 

April also saw Jay welcome his first child, a daughter, into the world!  She is a little ray of light in an otherwise oppressive time.


As the weather warmed, the lockdowns continued.  We continued to offer Zoom classes and tried to keep in contact with people as well.  As things dragged on we prepared for possibly opening in June.


In June we finally re-opened!  We had a few changes: a new sign, painted bathrooms, new fixtures.  We were hoping for new mats but the deal on mats we found sold out before we were able to purchase them.   We had to re-open with solo drills and many other health conscience additions but we were open!  In the closure we, unfortunately, lost several students who were unable to continue due to loss of jobs or even moving states.  We are very grateful for the time they were here and contributed to our "Mat Family".  Know that you are missed and welcome back anytime!

We are also extremely grateful for all of you who stuck with us through the closures.  I know Zoom classes and the like are not the quality you have come to expect but your continued support made it possible for us to remain open today!  Thank you!


In July Jay passed his Instructor Certification Process with the Gracies to become, officially, a Gracie Combatives Instructor!  Given our emergency situation, the Gracies gave Jay special permission to teach as long as he was going through the ICP process.  Jay totally crushed his tests and passed with flying colors!  Great Job Jay!


In August Tricia and Nate celebrated 20 years of marriage.  Interestingly we met at a small, family-owned, Martial Arts studio on East-Side Green Bay over summer break.  Nate's fond of saying Tricia was, then, and remains to this day his swift kick in the pants!  We are so grateful to God for our 20 years together, our family, and that we've been able to fulfill a life-long dream of having our own little school!  


September saw Tricia start a women's self-defense club while Tricia began training for her Instructorship in the Gracie's Women Empowered program.  This program is unique among women's self defense.  Not only does it utilize leverage to defeat a bigger, heavier, stronger attacker; it also addresses several things most women's self-defense programs don't: non-stranger attacks, scalability, each of the 4 phases of an attack on a woman, and healing from prior traumatic experiences.  No other women's self-defense program in the world covers what really works to defend a woman in an attack like the Gracie Women Empowered program!  

Tricia had gone through the program about 3 years prior but the entire program was updated and improved.  Tricia felt so strongly that this needs to get out to every woman that she dedicated a large part of the next several months, doing hours of practice a day, to get into the instructor program.


Oct saw the return of Gracie Game Day, Halloween style.  Kids dressed up for our day of fun, games and prizes!  We also met new friends and gained new "Mat Family" members!  Stay tuned for our next Gracie Game Day in January!  Bring a friend!


Due to many different factors we were unable to have a holiday gathering for our little school.  We hope to return to this next year or even in the spring.  We love to show our appreciation for our "Mat Family" and have a time where we can get to know each other off the mat as well!  If all goes well we will be able to get back to this soon!


Just before Christmas Tricia submitted her Instructor videos to enter Step 3 of the Instructor process for Women Empowered.  I have no doubt she will be invited into Step 3 and get her instructor certification at the ICP conference at the end of Jan!  But the hours she put in to have them submitted by Dec 23rd meant we had a low-key Christmas, which is ok.  We have so much to be grateful for: our health, the school is running well, you: our "Mat Family", and of course to God for all our blessings He gives us each and everyday. 


A brief look into the future: in 2021.  While nothing in the future is certain we hope to add more class offerings: 

2 Classes of Women Empowered a week:

Provided Tricia passes her Instructor Certification Process, which I'm confident she will easily do, she hopes to offer Women Empowered twice-a-week: possibly including a daytime class on Saturday.

Fit Jit fitness class:

Tricia has also expressed interest in adding Fit Jit, a fitness class mostly for women but also for everyone looking to gain fitness and health while improving their jiu jitsu.  Stay tuned for details!

Additional Instructors:

Stevens Defense Academy is looking for people(age 18+) interested in becoming Instructors / Assistant instructors in many of our programs.  For those individuals willing to commit to the quality standards of both SDA and the Gracies, we would be willing to give a partial scholarship for the cost of going through the Gracie ICP program.  Other benefits may include influence in SDA's future, possible instructor only class and possible financial benefits.  Let us know if you're interested!

A larger "Mat Family"

We look forward to meeting new people and spreading the benefits of Gracie Jiu Jitsu to as many people as possible.  If you know of anyone who may be interested please invite them!  If you know of a fair, seminar or event where it would be appropriate for us to have a booth at, please let us know!  If you know of some place where we could place flyers, cards or offers please let us know.  Anyone who let's us know, or helps us at any of those events will get rewards up to and including a year of classes for FREE!

Lastly, we are so grateful for our lives, our friends, our family and our innumerable blessings given to us by the Grace of God, through His Son, born in manger, 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.  May that peace, love and joy bless you this year and years to come!  Know that your life has meaning, purpose and value just for being you.  We hope we can help you realize your inherent value and that You Are Worth Defending! 

God Bless you!

Stevens Defense Academy LLC   

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