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Lions Den Newsletter - Year end 2023 and what's coming for 2024.

Happy New Years Everyone!!!!! We want to start off by thanking our Lions Den family for sharing 2023 with us. We had a great time with everyone in our classes and many of the events we have had throughout the year. In this newsletter we are going to recap 2023 and also take a minute to tell you about what we have in the first few months of 2024. It has been an incredible year and we are going into 2024 stronger than any year prior. The picture above says it all. So many incredible members and each one is their own path here. We have seen many new promotions this year as well as many many victories in competition. That being said I think many of our largest accomplishments however have come off the mat with our members creating some pretty strong new friendships and overcoming many of their own obstacles and growing as individuals. I wish I had pictures to post of all of these things but below you can see some of the things we could get a snapshot of.

We started out 2023 with a bang. We took some of our MMA fighters down to the Driven gym in New Jersey a few times this year. This gym is run by James Meals and it is a Tom Deblass affiliate gym. If you haven't heard , so are we. In 2023 we expanded our affiliation with Matt Secor BJJ and are now also under the Tom Deblass association. James brings in many top ranked UFC fighters just as we do so we love going down there when the opportunity arises. On this day the guys got to meet and train with UFC legend Demetrious Johnson for 2 days and also got to spar with some great amateur and pro fighters from the NJ area.

In February we had 2 of our fighters in Competition in Barre VT. Caleb made quick work of street beefs triple champ Ed "sensation " Brown and took home the bantamweight title belt. Steve was also in action and took home a win versus a guy nicknamed "pain killa ". Forgive me it's been a long and eventful year.

We had a huge following from the Den with us at this event and we had a great time. Big congrats goes out to both of these guys on amazing fights.

In March we visited the Renzo Gracie main academy in NYC. We visit the worlds most famous Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school a few times a year and also have their instructors up to the Den every year. More on this later in the newsletter. Pictured here is coach Caleb working privately with one of our faves Robson Gracie.

March was a busy month and we also made our way back down to Driven gym in New Jersey to work with UFC legend Valentina Shevchenko and her longtime coach Pavel. We have had the opportunity to work with them on multiple occasions now and each one leaves us bringing back great tools for our students. Pictured here are Valentina , Coach Svingala , Caleb , Qasim, Brendan and Steve.

In March coach Steve went back down to Jersey with one of our longtime members in Brendan. They got to work with and learn from UFC legend Frankie Edgar.

In April we saw a ton of Promotions here at the Den. Professor Caleb received his Black belt and pictured below Juan was awarded his Blue belt with Craig , Gary and Rob receiving their purple belts. These are huge accomplishments by all 5 of these guys and we are super proud of them.

This was a great day of promotions. We do belt promotions for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 3 times per year. One of those 3 promotions we do at our affiliate schools (Matt Secor BJJ) headquarters in Glens Falls. Both schools promote their students at this event and its a lot of fun.

In April we also put on the largest Seminar featuring Female Combat athletes to date in our area. This event was 2 years in the works and we have been at the forefront of promoting and featuring Women's martial arts. We are one of the only schools to have been able to consistently hold Women's only BJJ classes through the years and we continue to due so. We have had some of the biggest stars in female MMA in over the past few years but this

event was the best one by far.

The event had 4 of the Worlds best female Martial Artists in over 3 days. Each of the ladies did a Women's only class, a kids only class and also a mixed gender adult class . They were busy. The lineup featured Bridget Grace pictured above with a kids class. She is the first ever female instructor at the World Famous Renzo Gracie gym. Talk about a pioneer in the sport.

In the 2nd picture we had Fatima Kline in teaching a mixed gender adult class. Fatima is a top star in the Invicta fighting event and we expect to see her in the UFC very soon. she is the main training partner of Erin Blanchard whom we hope to have in for a seminar in 2024 training out of MK Muay Thai in NJ.

In the 3rd picture we had Danielle Kelly whom is super popular on the Women's BJJ circuit these days . She recently won the BJJ women's championship for ONE CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHTING which is a pretty big deal. We loved being able to have stars like this in for our students to learn directly from. In our fourth picture here we had in April Parks who ran a phenomenal class. She is pictured here with a women's only class.

In May we hit the mats and competed in a Naga tournament. We are super proud of all of our Youth students many of whom have reached new experience levels in competition this year. We currently now have 6 students competing at the Expert level which is something you don't see anywhere with many others on the way. We love collecting and decorating the gym with these belts.

In May we were back down to the Driven gym in NJ to work with UFC Champion Brandon Moreno. Each time we get to work with these high level competitors we get to bring new tools home for our students . This was a fun one.

In May we also had Qasim Sanders making his MMA debut in Watertown NY. This was a super fun event and again we had a bunch of our Lions Den family here for the event. Qasim won his first fight with a Knockout 1 minute into this fight. He worked and prepared hard for this event and we were happy to see him reap the rewards of it all.

In May we also had our annual Lions Den Picnic at the Schodack Island state Park. This was a great day spent with friends. Pete and Ryan supplied us with great music for the day and Mandy did a great job with the cooking. We had a face painter at the event for the kids as well as a ballon artist. We cannot wait for the next one!!!

Get ready for a lot of photo's from this event, we couldn't resist. Events like this exemplify exactly what we want the Den to be. We are much more than a place to do Martial Arts. We are all about family. Can you believe our next Picnic is already only 4 months away? This year has flown by.

In June we were again back down in Jersey at the Driven gym and this time some of the guys got to work with UFC Star Max Halloway . Pictured here are Professors Svingala and Caleb, , Steve and Neil. Another fun one!!!

June and July were also busy months for competition. We hit 2 more Naga's in those months and 1 of them was our home tournament at the Albany Armory. We took home 1'st place as a team again for the 5'th year in a row. Another awesome job by our Coaches , Students and Parents.

Every August some of us head down to the Jersey shore for the largest Naga competition held annually each year!! This is totally voluntary but it's a great time. We spend a couple of days on the beach and the tournament itself is held at the Convention center right on the boardwalk. The kids had another great showing this year competing against the best.

In August it was time for more promotions!!! We had a ton of kids get promoted last summer as well as a bunch of our adults. Each promotion is a great time finished off with a Pot Luck lunch which the best food. We always love seeing the pictures after each one of these events as everyone has such a great time!!!

In September we had a special Promotion for our association . Dijah was the first female promoted to Black belt in our area ever! She has worked extremely hard for her promotion and we are proud of her.

In September we also had Qasim getting back in the cage but this time it was locally. He won his 2nd fight of the year and this time it was via triangle choke. We will touch on his next fight later in this newsletter.

In September we also brought our coaches and assistant coaches back down to the Main Renzo Gracie Academy in NYC. We go down a couple of times each year for continuing ed with our coaches. No matter what the belt or level its always good to expand our knowledge for our students. Pictured to the right is Coach Yamil with Renzo Gracie and below we have Steve one of our Muay Thai coaches with one of Renzo's Muay Thai coach. While at the academy we also spent a couple hours privately working with Robson Gracie.

In October we visited The Wolds Famous Gleason's gym and worked privately with World Champion Boxer Heather Hardy. We are planning a field trip for 2024 where we will be bringing our Muay Thai students down to the gym to work with with some of their coaches for the day. At the end of the month we had our annual Halloween Party which is always a blast. Some of the food items brought this year were a work of art such as the Graveyard pudding dish and the Skull meatballs filled with brains. Awesome job everyone!! Pics below

In November we had UFC LEGEND Josh Barnett here for a special seminar. It is always good to be able to learn directly from a legend in the sport and this one did not disappoint. Josh showed a variety of techniques that many of our students have added to their arsenal already. We also had some students compete at a local Fuji Tournament in November. Pictured below is Nick from our adult class who went undefeated in his first tournament. Congrats everyone!!

In December we had our annual Kids Christmas party/ parents night out. Glad some of the parents got to take advantage of this and get some shopping and wrapping done. The kids had Pizza , Hot cocoa and decorated Christmas cookies along with decorations for the tree.

We wrapped the year up with one last BJJ belt promotion at the end of the year. Take a quick look at some of the awesome pictures from this great event.

Moving forward into 2024 we have a few great events coming up. In 2 weeks we will be bringing around 60 of our students to compete at the NAGA BJJ tournament held at the Albany Armory. We are very excited to see these students in action. If you are a members and not competing , we urge you to come down and check the event out, its a great time!

On February 9'th we have 3 of our MMA fighters competing at the Cage Wars event held at the Rivers Casino in Schenectady. Caleb , Qasim and Woody will all be in action and we will have many at this event. We will have tickets for sale at the Den beginning this friday.

We will have a busy month in March. On March 1'st we will have our youth BJJ Belt promotions here at the Den and then on March 3'rd adults will have their own promotion taking place at Matt Secor BJJ. We are expecting plenty of promotions and are already looking forward to these.

On the weekend of March 22-23 we will have a special seminar with 2 of the Main Renzo Gracie Academies instructors from NYC. Fabio Coelho will be making his first trip to our academy and we are excited to have him. We have had the pleasure of working with him before and he has some incredible stuff. Fabio was born in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais in Brazil. He started doing Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 14 with Vinicius Magalhães aka Draculino. Fabio achieved the rank of 3rd degree black belt under Renzo Gracie. He has been teaching at the Renzo Gracie Academy for over 8 years. He will be accompanied by another instructor from the academy and they will be here teaching for the 2 days.

Well , there you have it. A full year of excitement we have shared together and some big plans already for 2024. We again want to thank all of our wonderful members we call our Den family. We can only hope 2024 is as much fun here as 2023 was. THANK YOU

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