Chris Onzuka Bio

Chris-Onzuka-full-white.jpgChris Onzuka grew up in Pearl City and after graduating high school and the weak dreams of becoming a rock star faded, Chris and Mike figured that they had fast mouths and had better learn defend themselves properly, so they looked around and researched the different martial arts. During the early 90’s, Steven Seagal was the top action film start, the “Bruce Lee” of their era, so to speak. So they read everything they could get their hands on concerning Aikido and Morihei Ueshiba. It seemed like the perfect art. It didn’t rely on the on strength or size, which fit their statures. After checking out a couple of Aikido dojos and classes, the techniques and style taught there were nothing like Seagal’s Aikido, in fact not even close.

They were not disappointed for long as Mike brought home a Black Belt magazine with the title “Gracie Jiu-Jitsu vs. the World.” After devouring the article, shortly after, another magazine article came out about Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, where a man that was 5’7″, the same height as Chris and Mike, and 140lbs would take on anyone, anytime, anywhere under no rules. That is exactly what Chris and Mike was looking for, and even better was the fact that they already believed and learned that taking the fight to the ground was the best way to win a fight. At that time, one of the articles mentioned that one of the Gracie brothers actually lived in Hawaii and taught at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM). The very next day, Chris made 22 phone calls all over UHM and no one had even heard of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

Luckily a student in one of Chris’ classes in Honolulu Community College, who ironically was an Aikido black belt told him that he had a friend that trained with Relson at UH. He told Chris where and when they trained. This was in November 1991, when Chris and Mike stopped in to check out the class. The first class they checked out, Relson didn’t show up and the class was taught by assistant instructor Romolo Barros. They watched Relson teach the second and third classes and thought that this is what he does with Mike two times a day! Fight, take each other down and wrestle each other until one of the doors are knocked off the hinges. But these guys weren’t even throwing punches at each other! While watching the classes, it seemed like every single guy training there was eyeing them out and they couldn’t wait to jump in there and teach them why they should watch who they eye out.

Big mistake!!! After almost throwing up during the warm ups for the first week, Chris almost had his arm broken by a quick and vicious arm lock from a high ranking blue belt. Back then, Romolo was a brown belt, there were no purple belts and it was the wild, wild west. Everyone went after each other and it was every man for himself. The submissions were vicious and students were brutalized from the first minute until the class ended, every single day. Chris took his beatings 3 days a week from 6PM and often stayed until midnight trying to soak up every single thing he could about Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.

Chris completed in the first Gracie Jiu-Jitsu tournament held in Hawaii and possibly in the US in 1992. In the second tournament, he lost a close referee’s decision in the finals. He won the next tournament, shortly after receiving his purple belt from Relson. He was effectively promoted out of competition, as there were no purple belts competing after that tournament.

In November 1993, Chris and Mike along with a small group of Relson’s students flew up to Denver, Colorado to watch Royce win the first UFC. After that the popularity of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu exploded, even in Hawaii. The main class had 80 white belts, 40 blue belts and a 3 month waiting list! The need to expand classes was essential. In 1995, Chris, along with Mike, Sam Mahi and Scott Devine were the four instructors hand picked and trained by Relson Gracie to open the first affiliated Relson Gracie school in Hawaii. The four of them ran those classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and helped Relson with his Monday, Wednesday and Friday classes.

Chris came to a cross roads in his Jiu-Jitsu career. Train for himself or concentrate on teaching. He chose to devote his full attention to teaching and give the students 100% of his attention. He felt that he could be mediocre in both aspects or great in one. He felt that his life was affected in such a positive way by his Jiu-Jitsu mentors such as Sam Mahi, Scott Devine and Kofi Debrah that hopefully he could do the same for students that he came across.

In 1996, Chris earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance and Real Estate and a minor in Economics from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. During this time, Chris started refereeing at almost every Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) or submission grappling tournament in Hawaii and also served as a judge at almost every Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event in Hawaii. In 1999, he became a Contributing Editor for Full Contact Fighter, one of the most respected periodicals in the sport of MMA. was started in 2000 in order to give some much needed exposure, which was non-existent at the time, of martial arts and especially MMA in Hawaii.

In 1997, the first Relson Gracie team flew to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to compete in the World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships, Chris competed as a purple belt and experienced the beautiful city. He flew back in 2002 and 2003, competing in the brown belt divisions. In 2006, Chris and Mike took the plunge, moving out of the gymnastics academy that they started the school back in 1995 and leased their own location, changed the school’s name to the O2 Martial Arts Academy, expanded the classes and team of instructors and the rest is history.

After more than 18 years of training and 16 years of teaching, Chris earned his Black Belt from Relson Gracie on February 26, 2009.

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