SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -

For the first time ever, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is spring boarding across the nation, starting in Santa Cruz.

Sunday, a fierce match-up between two black belts tangled up like a pretzel in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu All-Star Tournament and you can barely here a pin drop.

BJJ master Claudio Franca, who holds a fifth degree black belt is trying to raise the decibel level of popularity with his favorite sport.

"It used to be just in Northern California, but this year we start the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tour," Franca said.

After bringing the martial art from his hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Santa Cruz in the mid 90s, this year Franca is taking athletes on tour to Texas, Florida and Connecticut. The first stop on the tour is in San Diego in August.

"Jiu Jitsu is my life, it's my sport and I want to grow jiu jitsu around the United States," Franca said.

And maybe even worldwide. One of Franca's pupils is a 47-year-old 3rd degree black belt named John Frankl. Originally from Santa Cruz, Frankl's day job is a university professor in Korea.

"I was the first person to bring jujitsu to Korea," Frankl said.

While studying for his disertation, Frankl said he started a jiu jitsu club to help him train, but then it became so much more.

"My students are running about 13 schools now," he said.

Unlike mixed martial arts, jiu jitsu is deliberate, focusing more on strategic tactics and submissions rather than knock outs which aren't allowed.


In order for this sport to grow in popularity, Frankl said more participants need to be on the mat.

"Organically grow the population of people that do jujitsu and they become spectators because they are educated, they understand the game, they understand all the positions," Frankl said.