Our Story

Motivated by family and driven by community, the story of Gracie Jiu Jitsu Aurora is about providing a sanctuary for the practice of and transfer of the knowledge of Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
Once Upon a Time in Denver

“I first started teaching Gracie Jiu-Jitsu as a Soldier.”
– Prof. Tony Debelak, Head Instructor GJJA

Before he was Professor Tony, he was a father who recently moved back to Denver, Colorado after completing his military career who wanted a safe space for his children to learn self defense. Denver, home to the Ultimate Fighting Championship 1 – 4, was known for its rough-and-tumble Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms. They were more like shark tanks, and not a space conducive for actually learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in a safe and effective manner.

Tony Debelak training bjj with Ryron Gracie

Tony Debelak and Ryron Gracie demonstrate the back-mount position to a class in Torrence, California.

“Prior to my military career I had been learning Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. I was very interested in the Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) since it was a collaboration between the Gracie Academy and the US Army. I excelled at a unit competition at Fort Benning home of the Infantry. After winning I was asked if I wanted to go in the instructor program. While I enjoyed my recent success I realized I would not be fighting my fellow Soldiers and we all needed to be ready for Combat so the decision to pass the knowledge was easy."

– Prof. Tony Debelak, Head Instructor GJJA
Tony Debelak with Rener Gracie at Gracie HQ

Tony Debelak with Rener Gracie at Gracie HQ in Torrence, California.

Tony searched the Denver area for a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym that catered to kids. What he discovered was that at the time there were no BJJ schools with kids or adult programs in the entirety of the Denver metropolitan area that were focused on self-defense it was all a very sportive rough and tough mindset of mostly males in their 20s. What to do?

When you recognize a void in services, you are also recognizing an opportunity. Tony recognized that he would need to become Denver’s first BJJ gym that was safe for men, women and children of any age to train and grow. Safety is always the number one concern when you look for a place to train for you, your significant other or child. Through Tony’s years of training Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and US Army background he was already very familiar with the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu system. So he got in touch with Ryron and Rener and started down the path to becoming a certified Gracie Jiu-Jitsu instructor.

“I did not intend to open my own Jiu-Jitsu school when I moved back to Denver in 2013, my home town after my military career. Having trained around the world and doing Jiu-Jitsu for many years I got to see a lot of good and bad things. I met many good instructors and just as many bad ones. Anyone can learn Jiu-Jitsu but not everyone can teach it.”
– Prof. Tony Debelak, Head Instructor GJJA

Growth and Evolution

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Aurora is Always Improving

We now offer six programs, each designed to efficiently and effectively teach its target demographic. The skill set and required knowledge of an active duty law enforcement officer is fundamentally different than what a recent college graduate who has always had an interest in learning Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. With that being a reality, we have grown and evolved our services. GJJA now offers Gracie Survival TacticsWomen EmpoweredBullyproof (which has two sections based on age), Gracie Combatives, Wrestling, and the Master Cycle.

Gracie Jiu-Jitsu students prepare for competition

Coach Ben Rhoton and Coach Ethan Debelak prepare for competition under the tutelage of Professor Tony D.


Dedication to Life Long Learning

gracie jiu-jitsu black belt

It is often said that Jiu-Jitsu is a marathon, not a sprint. Approaching Gracie Jiu-Jitsu with a life long learner’s mind set will position you for excellence.

Professor Tony remains committed to his path as a life long learner. He invites you to join him on the journey.


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