Robert Henricksen got into martial arts because he liked to fight.
Yet, he found out there is so much more to learn than fighting when you study a martial art.
“It’s humbling,” the co-owner of Monarch Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy, 847 Brookfield Ave., said of Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “It builds accountability, and it also builds a team. The life application, you can learn about yourself. You learn your limitations. It gives you clarity of who you are.”
Henricksen, whose first name is pronounced “row-bear,” and his wife, Intifada, opened Monarch at the Masury location on Jan. 4 after being in Hermitage since 2015. The new building gives them more flexibility than the old site, and is more convenient for many of their students.
“We actually have more Ohio students than we have Pennsylvania students,” said Henricksen, who lives in Sharpsville.
Monarch offers classes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, kick boxing, fitness kick boxing, kids’ programs, strength and conditioning, battle ropes and feeling fit. There is something for all ages and interests, the Henricksens said.
“When they’re young, I try to teach them more than the technical aspects of jiu-jitsu,” Henricksen said. “I teach them how to learn, how to stay focused, how to discipline their mind to be able to engage and learn.”
“It’s really cool to watch them grow,” said Intifada Henricksen, who teaches some of the classes and runs the business. “The parents will be like, ‘My kid isn’t paying attention. This is embarrassing.’ We’re like, ‘It’s a process.’ Once they see that process, they’re amazed.”
Henricksen grew up in Juneau, Alaska. “There’s not much to do in Alaska but fight and get in trouble,” he said, and he detected he had “some ability” in fighting.
“When I finally decided to get out of Alaska, I wanted to do something constructive with fighting,” he said, but realized as he started training that he knew nothing about fighting.
“I was an undisciplined tough guy, basically was all it boiled down to,” Henricksen said. “I went on this journey of trying to discipline myself.”
While training in judo, he fought a man trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu who “murdered me; absolutely crushed me. He was, like, half my size. It was a humbling experience, but it also was something that made me go, ‘I gotta do that. That’s what I have to learn, right there.’”
Henricksen had bounced from Texas to Ohio to New Mexico and back to Ohio, starting his training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu in 2004-05 in Youngstown. He later trained with and affiliated his business with Lucas Lepri, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu superstar.
“I wanted to affiliate with somebody who was competitive, but also somebody who was a good person, who wasn’t just arrogant,” said Henricksen, who still competes and has a few MMA fights under his black belt.
Brazilian jiu-jitsu is like a “physical chess match,” Henricksen said. “I enjoy the technical aspects of it. I enjoy the strategy of it, the physicality and how it applies to life.”
Now that Monarch has moved into its new home, the Henricksens want to make a positive impact on the community.
“Jiu-jitsu’s really personal accountability and being accountable,” Henricksen said. “I want to teach the kids about taking care of your community and being responsible to not just yourself and your own house but the community around you. We want to organize a cleanup in the spring and get the kids to go around and clean up the neighborhood, pick up some garbage.”