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Eric and Ashlee Robinson can be found most evenings teaching Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the Beeston Hill Health and Wellness Center. This martial art and combat sport focuses on grappling or ground fighting. It is founded on the concept that a smaller, physically weaker person can successfully defend themselves against a bigger, physically stronger person using technique and leverage applying joint locks and choke holds to defeat the opponent.

The program began in November 2018 as St. Croix’s first and only Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school. Eric and Ashlee moved to St. Croix from Texas in May 2017 looking for a fresh start. Hurricane Maria nearly drove them to leave but they decided to ride out the storm and the aftermath. Ashlee says St. Croix taught her what it means to be a part of a community. “We are fortunate to support it and be supported by it.

Eric was introduced to Jiu-Jitsu in 2006 and started training regularly in 2008. He began teaching some friends shortly after. “I was always physical throughout my childhood, and had become a little lazy in my early 20s. Jiu-Jitsu offered a good outlet.” Ashlee started training in Muay Thai kickboxing in 2013, and resisted Jiu-Jitsu due to the physical closeness of the sport. I finally tried a class in 2015 to support a new gym, and I instantly loved it. I wish I had given it a shot when I started kickboxing.

Adult classes are year-round Monday – Thursday at 6pm and Saturday at 10am. Kids’ classes run during the school year September – June; Tuesday-Thursday at 5pm. The couple host a couple of camps during the summer for children and are also available for private lessons.

 Both Eric and Ashlee say it is normal to be intimidated by the sport, but to give it one class. “There is respect and equality on the mats.” Ashlee says Jiu-Jitsu gives her physical ammunition should she ever need it in real life situations. She enjoys assisting Eric with the kids’ class and is a huge supporter of women and young girls that want to start training. Eric says the best part is inspiring kids from his class to train and compete.

When Eric and Ashlee are not working, training jiu-jitsu or at the beach they are hanging out with friends or experiencing food from local restaurants. They both can agree they would not be where they are today had they not met such wonderful people whom they call their island friends and family.