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Route 66 Jiu Jitsu brings MMA to Williams
Route 66 Jiu Jitsu offers diverse community for Williams adults, youth and children

Harper Pope and Matthias Soria are instructed in the art of Jiu Jitsu during a class at Route 66 Jiu Jitsu. The program was started by Larry Diehl, a black belt, who recently moved to the Williams area. (Loretta James/WGCN)

Harper Pope and Matthias Soria are instructed in the art of Jiu Jitsu during a class at Route 66 Jiu Jitsu. The program was started by Larry Diehl, a black belt, who recently moved to the Williams area. (Loretta James/WGCN)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — When Larry Diehl talks about Jiu Jitsu there is confidence, humility and intentionality. For him, Jiu Jitsu is a lifestyle and his passion comes from two places, his heart and his experience.

The word “jiu jitsu” derives from the Japanese, “Jū” meaning “gentle” and “Jutsu” meaning “art”; essentially, Jiu Jitsu is the “gentle art.” At least that’s what it translates to. When it comes to participating, Jiu Jitsu can be extremely strenuous and sweaty, it is, after-all, a full-contact event.

But physical benefits are not the only reason Diehl is passionate about Jiu Jitsu. He believes it has benefits that go beyond just physical stamina.

“This is great for mental health, spiritual health and physical, it’s a trifecta,” he said.

Which is why he decided to bring this unique art form to Williams — to create a new community where one hasn’t previously been, a place where participants can learn and practice with like-minded individuals.

Diehl is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, with more than 12 years of training. Born and raised in Arizona, he worked in security forces in the U.S. Air Force. His exemplary performance earned him a position as a technical instructor in advanced tactics and weaponry for the Department of Defense. After he completed his time in the military, Diehl pursued his life-long passion for art, opening a commercial art studio. He also earned his black belt.

Prompted by his son, who expressed interest in Jiu Jitsu, Diehl began training and has never looked back. He was trained at ATOS Jiu Jitsu and Legion MMA in Phoenix, going on to earn the Nogi World Championship Title and Pan American Championship Title, along with multiple state championship titles.

After retiring recently from the coaching staff at Legion MMA in Phoenix, he moved to Williams with his wife, Teresa, and their youngest daughter, Rosie.

Not too long into retirement Diehl decided he wanted to continue practicing his art form and began searching for local training partners.

“I was seeking someone to train with, to come to my house and train with a legit black belt,” he said. “I was expecting a blue belt, purple belt, but there was nobody. Nobody has those type of credentials here.”

Instead, he was approached by multiple people asking if he would consider teaching classes. He said he would, if he could find a space.

It was important to Diehl that the space be available at least four days a week in order to have a dedicated time for students.

“I need consistency. I need the same block every day. And I need four straight days. I was told a lot of people wouldn't do this… but when you do Jiu Jitsu you find yourself addicted to Jiu Jitsu,” Diehl said.

After talking to Results Fitness owner, Cameron Maebe, it was agreed that Diehl could rent the gym's studio for classes.

Within the first 30 days, 30 people had signed up for classes.

“My goal was, if I could get 1% of the population, based on the (Williams) population of 3,200, we could afford to have this open,” Diehl said.

He also wanted to make sure everyone felt welcome no matter their age or gender.

This wasn’t difficult to accomplish, with active participation from male and female students and several classes dedicated to youth.

In January, the studio held its first promotion ceremony.

“Jiu Jitsu is so much more than just another season youth sport or watered down commercial art,” Diehl said at the event. “I truly love my life path and am fully committed to my students, each and every one of them.”

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ or Jiu Jitsu) is predominantly a ground-based martial art, using the principals of leverage, angles, pressure and timing, as well as knowledge of human anatomy to control or submit another human being. Jiu Jitsu approaches self-defense first by creating distance and avoidance. When distance or avoidance are not an option then Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teaches to manage the closed space.

In June, students will attend the Grappling Industries Round Robin Tournament in Scottsdale for their first competition.

Currently, the studio is shared with several other classes, but Diehl said he hopes to purchase the space and eventually commit it entirely to MMA.

Route 66 Jiu Jitsu offers five classes Monday through Thursday. They have classes for all age groups and offer a free one-week trial for those interested in learning more about Jiu Jitsu. More information is available at route66jiujitsu.com and on their social media pages.

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