MEET THE TEAM!
At Gracie Jiu Jitsu Carlsbad, our highly trained and skilled professionals are ready to get you started on your Martial Arts journey! We are all passionate about what we do and would love to help you reach your goals. Whether you’re looking to get into the best shape of your life, learn how to protect yourself or train for competition, we have what it takes to get you there!
Nick Stefan – Owner/Instructor
An Early Start
Professor Nick’s first experience with martial arts was at the age of 10, when he started taking Tae Kwon Do classes. Nick then started training in Muay Thai and Kenpo Karate at the age of 15. While studying boxing at El Camino College, Nick was introduced to Gracie Jiu Jitsu.
Shortly after falling in love with the Art, Nick signed up at Rickson Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy in West Los Angeles. At Rickson’s academy, Nick would watch Royler Gracie get ready for his Pride FC fights.
Deeper Into the Art
Nick found the Machado brothers Jiu Jitsu Academy in Redondo Beach, and after a few years of traveling all the way to Los Angeles, he decided to join and learn under the Machado Brothers, who at the time had the number one competition team in the USA. The Machado brothers studied under the Gracies and came to the US with them.
In 2006 Nick was presented with his Black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from Rigan Machado in the presence of John, Roger, Jean Jaques, and Carlos Machado.
Finding a New Jiu Jitsu Family
Nick later re-met Master Royler Gracie and decided to compete and train directly under him and the Gracie Humaita Flag. Royler recently promoted Nick to his 4th Degree Black belt.
Nick takes pride in representing the Gracie Humaita family and strives to be the best instructor to every student who comes into the Academy.
Staci Stefan – Owner/Instructor
Staci started her martial arts journey as an amateur boxer 20 years ago. It wasn’t until a few years after the opening of their first location did Staci fall in love with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. She immediately started competing and had great success and victories in tournaments, until injury, surgeries, and two more babies prevented further competition. After taking an 8 year competition layoff, Staci recently started competing again and is enjoying the thrill and challenge that competition brings.
Now training 10 years, she is currently a Brown belt under her husband Nick and loves to give back to the sport that has given her so much by focusing on teaching others the wonderful Art. Staci’s passion is empowering women and children through self defense and jiu jitsu (Little Ninjas are her favorite!) and loves running the family business alongside her husband and their 4 beautiful children.
Charles Gardner – Instructor (San Marcos location)
Professor Charlie Gardner started his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training in Colorado under Amal Easton. In 2009, Charlie moved to Carlsbad, CA and started training under Nick Stefan at Gracie Jiu Jitsu Carlsbad as a Blue belt. He now runs the San Marcos location.
Charlie, now a Black belt and Gracie Jiu Jitsu Instructor, has fought in MMA and Muay Thai bouts and in Jiu Jitsu tournaments with great success.
Charlie teaches Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai classes at our Gracie Jiu Jitsu gym in San Marcos.
David Ruiz – Instructor
Professor Dave Ruiz holds the rank of 4th degree Black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Rigan Machado. However, Dave started his training at the Gracie Academy in Torrance, CA under Royce Gracie. Dave trained with the original source of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Grand Master Helio Gracie. Helio visited and taught at the Academy often and Dave got to benefit from his legendary teachings. Not just in the ways jiu jitsu is applied but how it is lived, breathed, and thought about on a daily basis.
Dave competed through all the ranks doing very well in competition, and most importantly Dave can teach Gracie Self Defense the way Grand Master Helio passed it down to his sons and grandsons. Come take one of Dave’s classes and learn jiu jitsu the way it was meant to be taught!
Steve Kozola – Muay Thai Instructor
While Steve was young he earned his black belt in Tae Kwon Do. This sparked his life long interest in becoming a martial artist. He started with amateur mixed martial arts fighting while attending Northern Illinois University and studying Kinesiology. Upon graduation Steve moved from Illinois to Southern California in pursuit of his dream of going pro in MMA. He now has over 10 professional MMA fights and is a Bellator Veteran. He is also a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Brown belt. His enthusiasm and hard work has made him one of the best Muay Thai instructors in the business!
Bob Gilstrap – Muay Thai Instructor
Ian Cole – Kids/Adults Jiu Jitsu Instructor
Steven Loree – Kids/Adults Black Belt Jiu Jitsu Instructor
Manny Gomez – Black Belt Instructor
Jeff Kudo – Black Belt Instructor
Tim Mallon – Black Belt Instructor
Julien Blanc – Black Belt Instructor
Chang Huang – Black Belt Instructor