In the Spring of 1990, what started out as a hobby for Todd Tanaka and his three friends would soon change his life forever. Meeting Relson Gracie would set Todd on a path of compassion, discipline, and perseverance. Values that would later shape and guide his life in the twenty years to follow.
Jared Zygowicz, Jon Matsumoto, & Todd in Relson's Garage 1995
Jared Zygowicz, Jon Matsumoto, & Todd in Relson's Garage 1995
Todd trained relentlessly, he became the ﬁrst person in the United States to compete in a Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu tournament. Todd began to realize that Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was more than a hobby, it was more than a martial art...to him it became a way of life.
The 1st US Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament / Honolulu, HI December 1992
Todd Tanaka vs Chris Johnson
Hawaii State Jiu-Jitsu Championships 1994 Todd vs Andre Pinto, Royce Gracie referee
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has given Todd so much and it was time for him to give back. Todd showed an interest in teaching so Relson sent him to attended the Gracie Academy Instructor Program under Rorion, Royce, and the legendary Helio Gracie. Upon returning from the instructor program, Todd helped open the Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy Hawaii in Kaimuki.
Gracie Academy Torrance, CA 1996
(back row left to right) Scott DeVine, Nathan Zigler, Royce Gracie, Todd, Blake, Mark
(front row left to right) Danny, Rob Khan, John Burke, John Crouch
Helio Gracie, Todd, & Royce Gracie
Grand Opening of Relson's Academy Kaimuki in Hawaii 1996
Royce, Helio, Todd, Rorion, & Relson
Team HK started as a private group class at Relson's Kaimuki Academy with Todd's friends Daniel Chu & Brent Maeda. It quickly grew to a group of over 10.
Brent Maeda, Todd Tanaka, & Daniel Chu
Wanting to expand his knowlege of grappling, Todd also started taking up Judo in 1996 at the Hawaii Kai Shobukan branch under Franklin Ramos. Shortly afterward Todd moved in with the Ramos family & got private classes from Franklin & his 2 sons Brad & Stuart.
In 1997 Todd was introduced to the martial art Muay Thai through his student Dwayne Padello. Over the years Dwayne taught Todd his art in exchange for Jiu-Jitsu classes.
Throughout the next couple of years, Todd would work behind the Academies front counter & assist Relson & Scott Devine with teaching classes. He would later become the Assistant Manager of the academy.
In 1999 Relson decided to move his Kaimuki Academy to Town on Queen Street. While the new Academy was being built Todd taught the classes for Relson at the University of Hawaii in Studio 4 & taught the kid's class in Hawaii Kai at the Koko Head District Park rec-center. After helping the opening of the Queen Street academy, Todd eventually became the Academy's General Manager.
All of these experiences would serve Todd well later.
March 18, 2002 marked the opening of his Team HK Jiu-Jitsu (Team Hiroi Kokoro) Dojo in University Square on the cross streets of South King & University avenue. This also marked the beginning of the biggest challenges and changes in Toddʼs life. Team HK Jiu-Jitsu saw a rapid growth over the course of the next year. Todd also progressed as he was promoted to the rank of Brown Belt. In late 2003, Todd and his friends partnered up opened the restaurant En Fuego Grill and Poké in Kapolei. As the wild success of the restaurant collided with the success of his academy, Todd found himself at a crossroad.
He chose to remain on the path of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
July 22nd, 2009 became another benchmark for Todd and the Jiu-Jitsu community in Hawaii. Todd became the 10th Black Belt promoted out of Hawaii by Relson & First person by Relson & in the State of Hawaii to complete the arduous journey of achieving the rank of black belt starting as a kid.
Todd's belts over the years
Todd's Black Belt ceremony July 22, 2009
Becoming a black belt did not leave Todd complacent, just the opposite. He would continue his journey as both an educator and as a competitor. In January of 2010 he opened a second branch of Team HK Jiu-Jitsu in Kaimuki, then 4 months later another in Maryland.
Even with a grueling schedule of teaching and competing, Todd still commits his time to give back. He has given seminars on womenʼs self-defense, volunteers teaching homeless kids at the Next Step Shelter for The Hata foundation, and other pro bono work in the community.
*Side note: Team HK Jiu-Jitsu has a diverse collective of students such as artists, teachers ,high school and college students, accountants, businessmen, police, lawyers, security and club owners, doctors, other marital artists.
Todd's Jiu-Jitsu Resume
1990 - Started Jiu-Jitsu
1990 - Promoted to Yellow Belt
1991 - Promoted to Orange Belt
1992 - Promoted to Blue Belt
1998 - Promoted to Purple Belt
2003 - Promoted to Brown Belt
2009 - Promoted to Black Belt
1996 - Instructor Course at Gracie Academy Torrance, CA.
1996 - Began assisting Relson at the Gracie Academy in Kaimuki.
1999 - Taught Relson's children's classes at Koko Head Job Corp. in Hawaii Kai.
1999 - Taught Relson's adult classes at the University of Hawaii.
2014 - Gracie University Certified Instructor
2nd Place Teen Open - 1992 Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu International Tournament
Competitor Adult Blue Belt - 1994 Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu State Championships
2nd Place Adult Blue Belt - 1995 Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu State Championships
Competitor Adult Purple Belt - 2000 Arnold/Gracie World Championships Columbus, OH
3rd Place Adult Purple Belt - 2003 Pan American Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships Santa Barbara, CA
Competitor Adult Brown Belt - 2009 Brazilian World Jiu-Jitsu Championships Long Beach, CA
Competitor Adult Black Belt - 2011 Brazilian World Jiu-Jitsu Championships Long Beach, CA
Assistant or Tournament Director for Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Hawaii In-school Tournaments 1996-2001
Assistant or Tournament Director for Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Hawaii State Championships 1996-2001
Assistant or Tournament Director for Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Hawaii International Tournaments 1996-2001
Assistant Tournament Director for Arnold Schwarzenegger/Gracie World Championships Columbus, OH 2000
Assistant Tournament Director for Relson Gracie International Open Columbus, OH 2000
Other hobbies of Todd included video editing, building websites, social networking, watching movies, & hanging out with friends.
Helio Gracie > Relson Gracie > Todd Tanaka