If you compete in the Northern Ohio Region, you know that one of the very toughest teams is Team East Coast out of North Canton Ohio. They have a tremendous amount of talent in their room. Team East Coast is led by Chad Kuhn and I had an opportunity to chat with him about his tremendous team.
It should be noted that Chad’s team was established in an area with plenty of karate and some MMA but very little jiu jitsu, the closest schools being in Akron (20 minutes away or more.) Chad shared these thoughts about what it was like to establish his school in our original regional profile piece “It wasn’t easy but not as bad as you might think, We were very fortunate that the owner of the gym and life long Martial artist Steve Hindman was very open minded and knew jiu-jitsu was needed to be a well rounded school. He himself went out to California in the late 90’s to train with the Machado’s. He was also very involved in the local mma scene, we never had a lot of fighters but the ones we had won and that also holds true today. We started doing various local bjj tournaments and started doing pretty well, word of mouth helped get more students. Social media wasn’t what it is today. I would say around 2008 we started attracting some high school wrestlers mainly from Hoover high school that wanted to start training. Currently I would say we have between 30-40 active bjj students and average about 20 per class. We offer 3 classes per week and open mat on Sundays.”
Chad is also a lifelong martial artist he started Karate at the age of 7 and has been a practitioner ever since. He is however not an active competitor, but more of a leader “I competed on and off at white belt and once at purple, I have always enjoyed teaching more than competing. I have been fortunate in the students we have, a lot of young wrestlers that were eager to learn and accept putting on the gi, realizing that it will make them better. Also I have been around a lot of good instructors whether it is traditional martial arts or BJJ. Steve Hindman (owner of the gym, sadly past away earlier this year) Dave Miller (former student of Craig Cramer from the old Gracie days) Charles Allen (Gracie Barra Black Belt under Marcio Simas) and currently Mark Vives (New Breed Training Center.)” Chad embodies the consummate team leader constantly elevating his students.
Unlike some of the other team leaders/gym owners profile thus far, Chad didn’t have the direct supervision of someone already indoctrinated in the sport, but rather grew with his local competition “In the stark county area there was really only one other gym doing any type of jiu jitsu and that was Victory Martial Arts and they were MMA based so I don’t believe the competition between gyms hurt much. We were also good friends with Terry Blackwell who runs that gym and we cross train with them a lot at our gym and as well as us going to their gym. To my knowledge we were the first BJJ gi program in stark county. So I guess our struggle was more of letting people know that we offered a gi program.”
“Around 2007 /2008 is when I believe we started to make our mark. That’s when we started getting the wrestlers from North Canton Hoover. After they graduated they wanted to continue training and competing. Big thanks to guys like Alex Poinar and Dom Garrini they started telling their friends to come train. And thanks to that we got a lot of great competitors. Shannon White, Tyler Feller, Sam Maj along with Dom and Alex.” To put things into perspective, Chad has several home grown IBJJF gold medalists at his school, and their roster grows stronger every day. Most recently, the team promoted one of their strongest competitors and instructors, Shannon White, to brown belt.
An overarching theme throughout these profiles thus far is that competing schools elevate each other. Chad was fortunate enough to have a strong student base available to him. Team East Coast is made up of fervent, talented competitors and Chad’s success is apparent through theirs.