Over the last few years, the Renzo Gracie Academy in Manhattan, New York gained some newfound notoriety and fame, thanks to John Danaher and his “death squad.” Comprised of elite black belts like Gordon Ryan, Garry Tonon, and Craig Jones, the team began winning one tournament after another, thanks to their almost foolproof leg lock system.
But after COVID-19 hit NYC hard over the last few months, some members of the team began rethinking their lives and careers. Late last week, Ryan announced his move out of the Big Apple and into Puerto Rico for the foreseeable future.
“COVID restrictions in NYC basically cut my training time in half and i already wasnt able to make my own schedule,” Ryan said in a lengthy Instagram post. “Here in PR, I will be able to make my own training schedule and do what I want, at least until COVID restrictions are over on the mainland.”
On Sunday, Danaher revealed through Instagram that he will be following Ryan and some of his other students to Puerto Rico, where he plans to “try a new philosophy teaching.”
New York: My life is probably a lot like yours. It’s been filled with moments of success followed by failure, of joy following sadness. Cycles of up and down, good and bad. Through all of that there was one constant in my life - New York City.
Whenever I traveled around the country and the globe there was always a special feeling of happiness when I returned and saw that unmistakable skyline. Washington may be America’s capital, but New York is the WORLD’S capital. It attracts the best and most driven people from around the globe into a concentrated mess of industry, innovation, eclecticism and evolution. It either builds you up or smashes you down.
This was reflected in the many incredible teachers and students I had here in New York over quarter of a century. I had many great teachers and many great friends, but in the end, New York was the greatest teacher and friend of them all. It taught me the power of motivation allied with diversity of inputs funneled into a common purpose toughened and refined by open competition.
The city has changed a lot in my time here - I’ve changed a lot too - but my changes aren’t complete yet - there are some projects ahead - and they won’t be done in New York City. No change is permanent, the future is always uncertain, plans can change in the face of changing circumstances and you can always come back from where you’re going, but for now it’s time to move on in order to move forward.
I will soon be moving with some of my students to Puerto Rico to try a new philosophy of teaching and refining our beloved art that I hope can widen our reach and contribute something significant to the continued growth of Jiu jitsu.
Danaher is also a mentor to former two-division champion Georges St-Pierre.