BY JACLYN ROSE –
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a martial art, combat sport, and a self defense system that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting. The idea behind the sport is that larger opponents have an advantage because they are taller, stronger and able to reach better. When one brings the fight to the ground, it allows an experienced grappler to offset the physical strength of his opponent and forces the competitors to use technique instead.
In the mid 1990s, Andy Threlkeld, a Mena native and 1993 graduate of Mena High School, began training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu after watching UFC1. “I watched this 170 pound Brazilian guy defeat all of the big guys and became interested. At first we just started grappling and then we heard of the Toon brothers who had some mats in Watson, Oklahoma. We would drive over to grapple with them a couple times a week. It was a lot of fun.” Threlkeld spent time at a school in Hot Springs, Arkansas before taking a break to complete college, get married and begin his family.
In 2006, Threlkeld began training again with local guys and later again in Hot Springs. Some time later, Victor Rowell, Pastor of The Crossing, the church where the Threlkelds are active members, contacted him and asked him to teach at their after school program. “I volunteered at the Crossing for some time until parents began asking me to offer private lessons for their students. I started formal classes as Ouachita Mountain Martial Arts out of The Crossing’s Maple Street Facility where I taught until 2012, when I got my own place,” explained Threlkeld.
Earlier this year, Ouachita Mountain Martial Arts moved to 1100 Highway 71 N, Suite C2 in the Atwoods Shopping Center, a nice, large facilty, that hosts classes every week night, as well as on Sundays after church. “On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, our Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes begin at 5 pm and go on throughout the evening,” Threlkeld explained. “On Monday and Friday, Robert Hamilton teaches kickboxing from 6 pm until 8:30 pm.” Ouachita Mountain Martial Arts can be reached by calling 479.243.5076.
Threlkeld married his wife, Mandy, a high school teacher, in 2002, and together they have two children: Emma, their nine year old daughter and Drew, their five year old son. To them Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is very much a family event. According to Threlkeld, “doing the business together has made my family so much closer. It has made my marriage stronger and it has made my family stronger. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu forces you to work out of tough positions and to adapt and adjust and fight through adversity. It teaches you to never give up and helps you to develop a toughness to push through. It teaches you to stand up but it also teaches humility and respect for other people. Not only that, but it helps build coordination for other sports and allows you to learn to anticipate your opponent’s next move.” Threlkeld grapples competitively in Oklahoma and Texas and has an impressive display of medals.
When Threlkeld is not grappling he enjoys the many outdoor activities Polk County has to offer. He also works during the day for the Arkansas Department of Health. “Growing up I always thought I wanted to live someplace else until I went some place else and I couldn’t wait to get home. I think this is the best place in the world,” Threlkeld stated.