If you want to learn self-defense or be a fighter, check out City of Champions – a quiet training gym for athletes from beginners to pros. Owner Dustin Thornton takes pride in making his place “beginner friendly” and has an able staff of coaches to guide a boy or girl, man or woman, toward their personal goals, whether it’s getting fit, losing weight, improving strength and conditioning or martial arts like Jiu Jitsu or Muay Thai.
Thornton, 37, has invested to make this gym into a pleasing and welcoming business, improving the lighting, equipment and restrooms, since opening in 2012. “We have a #1 rating on Yelp, which does a thorough background check on your business,” he says. “You can’t change any Yelp reviews at all, and all mine are A-1, five star ratings. We’re proud of that.” Comments include: “Neat place, clean floors, no messy equipment … dedicated instructors who inspire … it’s all business for a full hour.”The big challenge facing this business area, he believes, is “the lack of foot traffic. We need a coffee shop or café to attract people and get walkers to stop in.” Thornton knows what it takes to become successful. For over a dozen years, he’s dedicated himself to learning skills and honing his talents. “There aren’t any short cuts to a high level of functioning except old-fashioned hard work.”
Inspired in 2001 watching Royce Gracie, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Mixed Martial Arts champion on TV from his home in Pittsburgh, Thornton moved to San Diego in 2005 after his coach told him that the most concentrated Jiu Jitsu schools were in southern California and eventually settled in El Cerrito where he and wife Yoko and 9 month old baby Kiara now live. On weekdays he closes the gym between 2 and 4pm to spend time with his family, doing chores, and relax. Then he returns to work until 9pm or later.
Jiu Jitsu or Judo (a gentle art) involves a throw or takedown by using the joint locks or “chokes.” It does not use kicking or punching, but involves quick, but studied moves and fast reflexes. “Limbs don’t often get broken because the opponent will tap out to concede. This system was started in Japan. It allows a small person to defeat a larger person.”
City of Champions also stresses the mental side of conditioning. “If you have the desire, we can train you,” Thornton says. He quotes Napoleon Hill: “Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man, but sooner or later the one who wins is the one who thinks he can.”