‘Brazilian jiu-jitsu saved my life’

Ira Daugherty

Photo By shannon rooney

Growing up on Kauai’s north shore, Ira Daugherty had a troubled childhood running with tough surfer boys. As a young adult, he discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), a type of martial art and combat sport focusing on grappling and ground fighting, founded in Brazil by the well-known Gracie family. Now 38, Daugherty lives in Paradise with his family. He runs the Paradise BJJ Club out of his garage and teaches at Stand Alone Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Chico. Currently a brown belt, he hopes to attain the highest rank of black belt soon. Contact Daugherty at 591-5298 for more information.

How did you get into BJJ?

I got into it from a negative aspect—I’m a product of juvenile detention facilities. I made my way to a maximum-security prison at 18 and was released at 23. About that time, the UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championships] started. I was privileged to meet a guy who was a purple belt at the time, under the Gracie family. I had already fought my whole life. I hesitated for a while, as I wanted to keep fighting with my hands, standing up. Then I realized there were people who knew a lot more than I did, so I got onto the path.

What’s it like being a teacher of BJJ?

I see the people who have done things in their lives I admire, so I’m trying to follow their example. I’m starting to get to the point where I’m seeing rewards in my life. I’ve competed and done well, and I’ve gotten the pats on my back to feel confident with who I am and what I’ve done. I’m passing that off to other people and seeing a lot of improvement in them. They’re developing a good skill set.

What has the martial art done for your life?

Brazilian jiu-jitsu has saved me many times, literally. The first book the Gracie family put out is Basic Techniques of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I’m not a very religious person, so that’s my Bible. It’s saved my life. Now there’s a new book—I call that the New Testament. I’m a brown belt under the best in the world. I’m lucky to have a lot of great people above me who have given me the ability to teach.

BJJ is better known elsewhere—why is it gaining interest here?

It’s the best self-defense system, hands down. You’re learning to use all your limbs and how to use levers and physics. In the way you learn how to train, which is very hands-on, you’re learning the anatomy of other people, how they move. If you train in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, you learn what it’s like to fight.