By: John Kubal, The Brookings Register

Think martial arts and you’re likely to think they’re Asian in origin. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is sort-of Asian in origin, but it’s a different martial art in its own right. And now it’s found a home in Brookings.

Cary Bingham, 37, recently opened No Illusions Martial Arts, a BJJ academy, in the 308 Collective at the corner of Sixth Street and Third Avenue.

“It’s submission wrestling, essentially. It’s like a first cousin to (Kodokan) judo, … (which is) taking somebody from a standing position and then throwing them to the ground,” Bingham explained.

“In Brazilian jiu-jitsu there’s much less emphasis on the throws or the takedowns and more emphasis on the mat work. So what happens when it hits the ground: control positions, joint locks and chokes.”

Bingham attended school in Volga and has lived in Brookings most of his life. He works as a machinist in Sioux Falls.

He got into the martial arts via judo about nine years ago; he did that for about five years before switching to jiu-jitsu, which he has been practicing for about four years.

“We had a lot of guys from Brookings driving to Sioux Falls to train,” said

Bingham has been training at Next Edge Academy in Sioux Falls under the tutelage of black-belt Bruce Hoyer.

That led Bingham to consider opening a facility in Brookings. He procured the needed mats and opened No Illusions.

“We really didn’t know how it was going to go,” he said. “And here we are a few months in and Brookings is ready for jiu-jitsu.”

No strikes training

Bingham noted that jiu-jitsu, like other martial arts, can involve hitting or striking; “but for the sport side of it, which is how we train, no strikes.”

“Some guys kind of take it as a point of pride to not beat someone into submission. So it’s to be able to just restrain somebody and hold them and either put them in a joint- or a choke-lock and then get away without anybody getting hurt,” he added.

“Even simpler than that is just being able to hold someone on the ground until help arrives or the authorities arrive.”

Bingham said the self-defense side of BJJ is not emphasized. “What I tell these guys is, just don’t fight. If somebody wants to fight, get away. Because you just don’t know if someone has a gun or a knife.”

He stresses to his students to use their BJJ skills only as a last resort. However, he added, “I’m pretty confident that these guys would be OK if they were forced to use it.”

Like other martial arts, BJJ has a “belt-system” for ranking skills and proficiency.

“It works a little differently than a traditional martial arts belts-system. It takes a long time to get a black belt in jiu-jitsu.

“It took my coach (Hoyer) almost 14 years to achieve black belt. I’ve been training about four years and I’m on a purple belt. It goes white, blue, purple, brown, black.”

Bingham said it usually takes about 10 years to attain black-belt status; but there have been exceptional cases where a devotee earns black belt in five to seven years.

“Those guys are training seven days a week, all day long. They still have to put in years to achieve black belt. It’s kind of like quality control for jiu-jitsu.

“You will never see an 8-year-old black belt. As a matter of fact, you can’t even achieve black belt before you’re 18. And that’s pretty rare for an 18-year-old kid to be a black belt.”

Bingham said simply being good at the techniques and skills of jiu-jitsu will not get you a black belt.

“You’re kind of expected to be a leader and have a level of maturity before you achieve black belt.”

A troublemaker

Bingham is upfront about what led to his opening a BJJ academy here.

“We’re not making any money here. I do it because before I found martial arts I struggled with addiction. I was kind of a troublemaker around Brookings,” he said, smiling. “I really didn’t have a direction in my life. I really wasn’t doing anything good in my life or with my life.”

Martial arts made him want to be healthier, but it wasn’t an overnight transformation.

“I found an organized way of thinking, a structure to the techniques and to the positions that are kind of mapped on to other areas of my life. … Through martial arts, I found a hobby, I found a community and I found a lens for looking at the rest of the world in the way of jiu-jitsu.

“It’s the first thing that ever exposed me to a growth mind-set. Jiu-jitsu showed me that anything you work at, you can become good at it. Talent means very little if somebody’s not willing to put in the work.”

No Illusions has 15 paying members. Bingham gives newcomers two free weeks to see if BJJ is right for them. Bingham expects it to keep growing.

While he welcomes newcomers on a trial basis, he added that he’d like “to have a core group of Brookings folks that are here all the time and to have an alternative to some of the other activities and some of the other martial arts.”

He offers BJJ on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with kickboxing on Thursday evening. Sundays are “open-mat” days for people wanting to improve their kickboxing, judo and jiu-jitsu.

One of Bingham’s students is Jessey Mook, 30, who lives and works in Brookings and says he’s always been athletic.

“I’ve always enjoyed sports in high school; every season was multiple sports. In college, every season was intramurals, working out and running. Once I became an official adult, intramurals, adult athletics, sports teams just don’t exist unless you’re a pro.”

While he enjoyed running, he gave that up because of injuries and boredom. He tried weightlifting; but when his lifting partner moved, he found he didn’t like lifting alone. He “needed people and a team.”

Some friends suggested jiu-jitsu and he liked it.

“I found the competiveness of a sport in this martial sport. I can compete; I can train. I can find friends in the community from different walks of life,” Mook explained.

Anyone interested in checking out BJJ is invited to stop by New Illusions and visit with Bingham; or give him a call at 605-651-1058 for more information.

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